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Mahnomen hoping for repeat title run

Row 1: Jose Desjarlas, John Francis, Nick Otto, Jake Pavek, Ty Swiers, Zach Polaschek, Mitch Kochmann, Luke Littlewolf, Avery Fairbanks, Aaren Vipond, Jason Schoenborn, Levi Liebl. Row 2: Justin Bjerk, Bobby Bjorge, Trevor Krebsbach, Bryce Penner, Garret Hoffner, Darin Geray, Austin Reitan, H.B., Patrick Thompson, Blake Kahlbaugh, Jon Triplett, Axel Beckman, Kole Lefebvre. Row 3: Preston Walz, Luke Warnsholz, Jacob Refshaw, Anthony Sanchez, Kurtis Francis, Tristan Bjerke, Nathan Hanson, Jon Hoffner, Tomm...

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

Mahnomen Schedule

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

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.