Depth, experience, work ethic have Bulldogs set to contend for district title

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Members of the MFL MarMac football team include (front, left to right) Cole Allert, Drew Earles, Taylor Herzmann, Austin Schlee, Karter Decker, Corbin McElwaine, Hunter Meyer, Jonah Wille, Tyler Zuercher; (second row) Koda Warrington, Braxton Halvorson, Ryan Wilson, Brady Welsh, Carter Streicher, Aidan Meyer, Keith Anderson, Dalton Krause, Tristen Koehn, Bryce Radloff; (third row) Auston Lind, Brock Hackett, Kade Humble, Wes Corlett, Quinn McGeough, Zach Driscoll, Wyatt Powell, Kade McElwaine, Carver Blietz-Bentien, Clayton Henkes; (fourth row) Hunter Christofferson, Dylan Jones, Caleb Zuercher, Justice Knox, Dayne Kohrs, Will Howes, Eli Hanson, Cayl Anderson, Averey Thornton, Izayah Streicher, Kyler Nuehring; (fifth row) Anthony Bunting, Aiden Schoulte, Brayden Gordon, Bryce Diehl, Austin Schaller, Ty Echard, Elias Hatt, Cyrus Johnson, Kyle Tilson, Carter Stoddard, Carsten Pester, Brandon Christofferson; (back) Stanley Friedlein, manager Abe Hanson, assistant coaches Luke Arenz, Brandon Burke, Paul Gordon, Jake Wilke and Nelson Converse, head coach Dan Anderson, assistant coach Ryan Pomerening and managers Cayden Pester, Micheal Balster and Audrey Ruff. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

A combination of strong numbers and depth, experience, hard work and athletic ability has the MFL MarMac football team poised for another run to the playoff quarterfinals this season.

 

The Bulldog roster includes 53 players—the most head coach Dan Anderson has seen in his 23 years teaching and coaching with the district.

 

“As far as I can recall, we’ve never had numbers above upper 40s. There are 19 incoming freshmen, which is awesome that they want to be involved in the program. There’s strong numbers in every class. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. We’ve got a lot of depth. It’s huge,” he said. “In 1A, it’s trending the other way in a lot of schools.”

 

Anderson stressed the team, as a whole, is bigger, faster and stronger than it’s ever been. That will go a long way in erasing doubt that MFL MarMac won’t be as successful after graduating its star rushing tandem of Cullen McShane and Gabe McGeough.

 

“We lost some really key parts, but there are some guys who were waiting who relish that role of being the underdog,” Anderson said. “We’re not ranked, according to the ones I’ve read. It’s fueled by the doubters. We’ve got some guys who can carry the ball and score touchdowns still.”

 

Junior Wyatt Powell will take over at running back. At 6’1” tall and 212 pounds, he’s a couple inches shorter, but thicker, than McShane, according to Anderson.

 

“That’s a big running back for high school football,” he said.

 

Joining Powell in the backfield will be fellow junior Carver Blietz-Bentien, who’s moved from quarterback to fullback. He’s six-foot tall, 190 pounds, and provides another physical option for MFL MarMac.

 

“We believe we’ve got two great backs. And let’s not forget about [senior Karter] Decker. He’s sitting out there at wing back, one of the fastest kids in the state of Iowa. He runs our counters and reverses and also goes out for quite a few play action passes,” Anderson said. 

 

Handing off to them will be a new quarterback in sophomore Zach Driscoll, who Anderson described as cool under pressure.

 

“He’s got a good arm, he’s very accurate and super smart. Doesn’t get rattled,” he said.

 

In addition to the rushing weapons, Driscoll will throw to receivers Brandon Christofferson and Elias Hatt, both juniors.

 

“Our receivers are both big. Pick your poison,” Anderson said. “Then, Kade McElwaine at tight end. I think we’re going to be solid everywhere.” 

 

With this combination of receiving and rushing options at their disposal, the Bulldogs have spent more time throwing the ball this preseason.

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you see the ball in the air more this year. More balanced overall,” Anderson noted. “It depends on the team we’re playing, a lot of factors.”

 

Protecting this group will be a physical and experienced offensive line that includes junior Bryce Diehl at quick tackle, senior and captain Hunter Meyer next to him and senior Taylor Herzmann at center.

 

“[Senior] Corbin McElwaine, who played center last year, we’ve bumped him out to right guard. Then Austin Schoulte, a sophomore who started on the O-line as a freshman. Kade McElwaine was an all-district tight end,” Anderson detailed. “We’ve got some big, physical guys up front and quite a bit of experience. And we’ve got solid guys right behind them. Our assistant coaches have done a good job developing our players.”

 

MFL MarMac is also loaded with defensive talent, including all-district nose guard Tristen Koehn. Although not large, Anderson called the junior a “pitbull” and one of the toughest guys on the team.

 

Inside linebacker spots will be filled by Blietz-Bentien and Kade McElwaine. Senior Drew Earles has also looked good in practice and will step into the role some with sophomores Brock Hackett and Quinn McGeough. 

 

Powell will retake his position as first team all-district outside linebacker, while senior Austin Schlee, a three-year starter and all-district player himself, will be on the other side. Behind them are sophomore Brayden Gordon and junior Cyrus Johnson. 

 

Senior Cole Allert will play strong safety and Decker and Christofferson will split time at free safety. Junior Bryce Radloff, one of the best tacklers on the team and an all-district performer, is at corner, and Hatt will be opposite him. 

 

According to Anderson, the only question mark is the defensive line.

 

“Not that we don’t have guys, but no one has really stepped ahead. We’ve got about eight defensive linemen who could fill in those other two spots at our defensive end spots,” he explained. “We’ve got Diehl, Corbin, Meyer, Ty Echard who’s a freshman, Austin Schaller, Averey Thornton, Schoulte too. There are a lot of guys to rotate in there. They are all solid players, and these first two games will all get reps. Hopefully, two will separate themselves and be our full-time starters.”

 

On special teams, MFL MarMac will rely on Christofferson, or even Schlee, to replace McShane as punter. Senior Jonah Wille returns as kicker.

 

“He really worked hard in the off season,” Anderson said of Wille. “He’s very accurate, kicking 35-, 37-yarders pretty consistently. He’s a good kickoff guy too.”

 

While injuries remain the biggest unknown looking ahead, Anderson is confident the Bulldogs can weather any setbacks.

 

“As of right now, our two deep is about as solid as it’s ever been. We’ve got quality backups at every position. There’s not a huge drop-off,” he said. “Some of our really good athletes that other years would be playing every special team, offense, defense, they’d have to be in excellent physical condition. This year, we still condition, but we spend more time with drills and working on their skills to be better at their positions. So some kids can focus on one side of the ball.” 

 

Anderson hopes that focus will show in Class 1A - District 4, where he believes the Bulldogs will again contend for the top spot with Beckman Catholic and Waterloo Columbus.

 

“The district hasn’t changed,” he said. “Our district is one of the best in the state. There’s only two districts in 1A that sent two teams to the quarterfinals last year: district four—us—and district seven. We beat some of the big dogs.”

 

MFL MarMac will begin district play Sept. 16, against Columbus Catholic, after a three-game non-district slate against New Hampton, Clayton Ridge and Osage. 

 

Both New Hampton, where the Bulldogs travel to start the season on Aug. 26, and Osage are 2A schools who will provide a challenge.

 

“If we get through them healthy, it will just make us better for district play,” Anderson said.

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