A touch of the pigskin: Screaming Eagles' chemistry hits home field May 8 in Frazee
Continuity will be a bonding factor for strong chemistry for the Lakes Area Screaming Eagles, as they enter their third year of play.
There are 21 players returning for their third year on the Screaming Eagles' roster, which has given the team some familiarity as they look for their first Northern Power Football League championship.
"The continuity is big," said Lakes Area owner and starting quarterback Jason McCloskey. "We are all ready to go for the season to start."
The third season will kick-off for the Screaming Eagles May 1, at Menomonie, Wisc., while they will host their first game on the Frazee High School football field May 8, versus the Duluth-Superior Shoremen.
The Screaming Eagles, which finished with a 5-4 record, will be keying on depth this year, after losing early leads late in games -- including a 41-27 loss to Rochester in the first round of NPFL playoffs.
"What hurt us the most was depth last year," McCloskey said. "Our front line got tired and we couldn't stop the rush late in games. Good teams would wear us out.
"We are very talented and athletic, but we need depth."
The Eagles do lose an important cog to their rushing attack, with the team's leading rusher the last two years Dave Moll not being able to play this year.
Instead, the keys to the rushing game will be handed to Kyler Wegner of Frazee, who has been Lakes Area's second-leading rusher the past two seasons.
The Eagles will switch to more of a zone type of blocking, with a very experienced offensive line -- sans leader D.J. Stone, who retired. The trenches will be established by three-year returners Joe Hass at right tackle, center Anthony Ritterman, left tackle Mark Racine and newcomer Jim Jacobson of Frazee.
McCloskey will once again return under center after leading the league in passing last year with a rating of 81.404 and posting 1,591 yards through the air and a 20-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"I was thinking of retiring (playing) after last year, but there isn't a reason for me to hang them up, yet," McCloskey said.
But backups Ed Perault and Tarrel Flanigan of New York Mills will gain some snaps, as well.
The Eagles will play out of a single-back formation for the majority of games, with Wegner gaining the start, while Josh Derby of Hope, N.D., and Rodney Springs seeing action as backups. Depth will be added from a pair of high school running back phenoms in Eagles veterans Billy Quistorf and Jake Lindsey.
Quistorf rushed for 2,100 yards for the Osakis Silver Streaks when he was in high school, while Lindsey is Wisconsin's all-time leading rusher. Quistorf has been Lakes Area's starting linebacker the last two years, while Lindsey has been a mainstay at safety.
The Screaming Eagles' QB will have his top two targets back in Bert Smith (Moorhead) and James Singer (Chicago, Ill.). Smith led the Eagles with 29 receptions for 478 yards and Smith went for 22 catches for 442.
The defensive line will also be intact, with Matt Scherzick (5-10, 310 pounds) of DL at defensive tackle. The defensive end positions will generate tons of pressure and pinch the rushers inward with Gemenie Strehlow back from Iraq and his tour of duty, along with Casey Gibson -- who was in the Detroit Lion's training camp last year.
At linebacker, Quistorf is back in the fold, along with Hector Rosa Vega and Jacob Ledding of Underwood. Lindsey returns at the free safety slot, where he nabbed eight interceptions in 2009, with Brandon Hall of Wadena-Deer Creek holding down a cornerback position, along with returner Rob Peterson. Todd White has also been working on his kicking/punting game over the offseason and should provide stability on special teams, McCloskey included.
The Eagles will also play two teams from the Semipro Football League in Minnesota Rhinos (St. Cloud State University) and Brainerd.
Home game start times will change from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Frazee High School football field this year.
Season tickets -- which include four home games and all playoff tilts -- are $15 for adults. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for 17-and-under.