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Indians gear up for another state run

Conditioning is a big part of the early football season.1 / 9
Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. ends practice with some advice to his players.2 / 9
Mahnomen senior lefty quarterback Jacob Pavek is set to return as one of the top signal-callers in the area.3 / 9
First Row: Bryce Pennor, Preston Walz, Darin Geray, Austin Reitan, Jake Hedstrom, Nick Otto, Jake Pavek, Jason Schoenborn, Garret Hoffner. Second Row: Anthony Sanchez, Shawn Neisen, Michael Larson, Mike Bisek, David Olson, Bob Bjorge, Kal Handyside, Kole Lefebvre, Luke Warnsholz, Kurtis Francis, Nathan Hanson, John Francis, Jim Triplott. Third Row: Gene Snetsinger, Phillip Thompson, Cole Bellanger, Jacob Retshau, Kody Lefebvre, Ben Podlake, Levi Liebl, Gabe Large, Jake Worms, Jon Hoffner, Trevor Haugo...4 / 9
Assistant Coach Bob Larson5 / 9
Assistant Coach Ed Snetsinger6 / 9
Assistant Coach Steve McMullen7 / 9
Assistant Coach Todd Johnson8 / 9
Head Coach John Clark Jr.9 / 9

So how do you top a season where you miss winning the Class 1A state championship by just one game?

You get better.

That's exactly what the Mahnomen Indians might be after a dominating 2011 season where they put up mind-boggling stats on their way to the state championship game against Dawson-Boyd.

Although the Blackjacks stymied a perfect season by the Indians, topping Mahnomen 35-20 inside the Metrodome, the residual effect from last year is still hanging around for the runners-up.

For one, they bring back senior quarterback Jacob Pavek, who led the team in scoring with 23 rushing touchdowns and was second in rushing with 948 yards for an average per carry of 8.0 yards.

But Pavek isn't the only reason many are picking the Indians as the odds on favorite to win the state title.

They just have a lot returning in the right places.

"We are coming into the season with an attitude that we expect to be a very good team, but we still need to keep our wits about us," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. "We can't be looking to the end, we need to play each and every game. That's where we as a coaching staff are challenging the players."

The numbers don't lie of what the Indians accomplished last year.

The defense was impenetrable, while the offense dominated opposing defenses by rolling right over them on a consistent basis.

Expect more of the same from the 2012 Indian crew, which returns its bulk of linemen.

The offensive line returns four starters, including the majority being three-year starters.

Junior Cal Handyside returns on the line, along with two-year starters in seniors Nick Otto at left tackle, Jake Hedstrom at right guard and sophomore Levi Liebl.

"We should have more of the same from those four," Clark said.

A hole which needs to be filled by the departure of last year senior Avery Fairbanks, who collected a team-high 1,233 yards and 17 touchdowns (not including state playoffs).

Three running backs will be seeing time in juniors Bob Bjorge, Austin Reitan and Trevor Haugo.

"They all have varsity experience and I'm pretty excited about their athleticism," Clark said.

But the offense will evolve around Pavek, who is getting looks from some colleges in the area.

His football knowledge is high after being a two-year starter already and his ability to read defenses is undeniably key.

"Jacob is smart and he realizes he will be a marked man this year," Clark said. "He is good at taking what the defenses give him."

This year's offense will be a little more diverse than a year ago, with potentially more explosive plays being made.

But the Indian's bread and butter of piling on the rushing yardage will still be the focal point each and every week.

Going up top through the air is also a possibility, with senior wideout Jason Schoenborn and the two wings of Garret Hoffner and Bryce Penner (both seniors) making plays downfield.

Even though reaching the heights of last year's offense will be tough, since it's the highest-scoring unit in Mahnomen's history, the 2012 team could be just as productive.

"These kids are expecting more of the same," Clark included.

Defensively, Mahnomen could also be just as dominant.

The defensive line is almost intact with Hedstrom, Handyside, Liebl and Pavek back.

At middle linebacker, Otto returns, with a bevy of players competing in the secondary.

"We need some spots to be filled, yet, but I think we have good players to fill them," the Mahnomen coach said. "I think this could be a tough team to score on."

If the Indians do play up to their potential, their biggest obstacle could be themselves.

"We just can't look ahead, we need to play it game by game," Clark said.

Indians Schedule

8/31 7:00 PM Pillager  (6A)

9/7 7:00 PM @ Frazee  (8AA)  

9/14 7:00 PM @ Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (99A) 

9/21 7:00 PM Warren-Alvarado-Oslo  (8A)

9/28 7:00 PM Fosston  (8A)

10/5 7:00 PM @ Lake Park-Audubon  

10/12 7:00 PM @ Fertile-Beltrami  (8A)  

10/17 7:00 PM Red Lake County Rebels (8A)

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