Mahnomen hoping for repeat title run
There will be a new Section 8-1A champion this coming season and it's not because the defending champs Mahnomen isn't up to the task of repeating.
Far from it, in fact, but the Indians will be vying for another section championship this year, after being moved to the tough and rugged Section 6-1A.
"It's going to be a very tough section to get out of," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. "But the expectations at Mahnomen are always elevated because of the tradition."
That tradition was added on last year, when the Indians made their 19th state tournament, before losing to Barnesville in the quarterfinals.
Now, the Indians will have to get past the likes of traditional football powers of Pillager, West Central, Browerville, Ottertail Central and Lake Park-Audubon -- which all reside in Section 6-1A.
Mahnomen will have to reload, though, after losing the bulk of their offense with running back Alex LaVoy graduating with his 1,731 rushing yards. He also was the anchor on defense at linebacker.
But as per the usual, the Indians have those bullets to reload for another potential state run.
"We're going to have to experiment a little to see what we're best at, but I think we'll be more versatile this year," Clark said. "We will be able to spread it around and throw a little more."
Mahnomen has two solid options at quarterback to replace departed Dylan Stevens.
Junior Jacob Pavek is a lanky lefty, who has some good zip on his ball and junior Garret Hoffner possesses the running ability.
A third option at QB is sophomore Trevor Haugo, who Clark describes as "a tremendous athlete, who's raw, by talented."
LaVoy's yards from last year will probably be split up a little, between senior fullback Avery Fairbanks and wingbacks senior Mitch Kochmann, Hoffner and sophomore Tristan Bjerke.
"Avery doesn't have blazing speed, but he is tough and does the dirty work," Clark said. "Our wings have good quickness and decent speed. It will be a chain-moving type of offense."
Senior Lucas Littlewolf will return as one of the area's top tight ends, along with Haugo.
Targets will include senior Zach Polaschek, junior Jason Schoenborn and Patrick Porter.
"They all have sure hands," Clark said of his receiving corp.
The unit which drove the Indians down the field last year will need to be replaced, with only one offensive lineman back in sophomore Kal Handyside.
There will be some switching going on to fill the offensive line with solid athletes in senior Aaron Vipond, who moves from RB to guard and senior Lucas Littlewolf.
At tackle, Handyside will see time, along with junior Jake Hedstrom and junior Nick Otto will fill the center position.
"We'll mix it up a little on the line, yet, but we will not be able to go out and just pound like we did last year," Clark said. "We have athletes on the line who are able to pull, along with some boot action."
Much like last season, the defense will be key for the Indians and there shouldn't be much of a dropoff, despite losing their leader in LaVoy.
The defense will employ a tough and athletic look, which follows the tradition of Mahnomen football.
"We have enough experience back, too, so we should be pretty decent on that side of the ball," Clark said.
Hedstrom will anchor the line at tackle, along with Handyside at the other inside position.
The end positions will be filled by Littlewolf and Pavek, who both started last year.
Otto will be Mahnomen's starting middle linebacker, with Fairbanks and Vipond on the outside, along with Bjerk.
Hoffner is the lone returner in the defensive backfield, with Haugo and Polaschek providing some athleticism at the cornerback and safety positions.
"The defensive backfield is a work in progress," Clark said.
# Name Pos Grade
2 Bronson Winkler WR 12
5 Lucas Littlewolf OL 12
9 Garret Hoffner QB 11
10 Jacob Pavek QB 11
11 Jason Schoenborn WR 11
12 Mitch Kochmann RB 12
14 Bryce Penner RB 11
20 Kole LeFevre WR 10
22 Tristan Bjerke RB 10
23 Chad Guinn TE 11
24 Avery Fairbanks RB 12
25 Trevor Haugo QB 10
28 Darin Geray TE 11
30 Austin Reitan RB 10
32 Marty Hoseth RB 10
42 Bob Bjorge RB 10
44 Aaron Vipond RB 12
46 Jacob Hedstrom OG 11
50 Emil Hanks RB 10
53 Kory Bellanger OL 12
54 Kal Handyside OL 10
56 Nick Otto OL 11
57 John Francis OL 10
58 Dalton Benson OT 12
59 Jon Triplett WR 11
60 Darrin Littlewolf OL 10
63 Peter Refshaw OT 11
64 Trevor Krebsbach OL 10
67 Cole Bellanger OL 10
68 Preston Walz OL 10
75 Justin Bjerk OL 10
77 Austin Wang OL 10
80 Patrick Porter WR 10
83 Zach Polaschek WR 12
88 Nathan Hanson TE 10
9/2 7:00 PM @ Pillager
9/9 7:00 PM Frazee
9/16 7:00 PM Walker-Hackensack
9/23 7:00 PM @ Warren-Alvarado-Oslo
9/30 7:00 PM @ Fosston
10/7 7:00 PM Lake Park-Audubon
10/14 4:30 PM Fertile-Beltrami
10/19 7:00 PM @ Red Lake County Rebels