Area football teams are coming into season fit and optimistic
Barnum Bombers (7-3) Athletic success is starting to become a real tradition in Barnum. While the girls athletics stole most of the headlines last year, the Bombers' 7-3 football team might have gotten lost in the shuffle. Coach Kevin Haley's tea...
Barnum Bombers (7-3)
Athletic success is starting to become a real tradition in Barnum. While the girls athletics stole most of the headlines last year, the Bombers' 7-3 football team might have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Coach Kevin Haley's team reached the section semifinals with a very young team. In fact, the team is so young that the 2011 edition of the Bombers will still have only six seniors out of the 44 players out for the team in grades 9-12.
"You could say we had contribution from our under-underclass," Haley joked. "We had a number of freshmen who had significant varsity playing time last year."
This year's captains are senior running back Josh Hogan and lineman Andrew Youngren. They lead a team short on age and size but long on speed and heart.
"Josh and Andrew are good football players," Haley said. "They are captains for a reason. They work relentlessly every off-season, hitting the weight room hard."
The Bombers won't overwhelm opponents with physical strength but they have a number of solid players.
"Some of our freshmen are already 170-180 pounds and our entire underclass has been working very hard," Haley said.
Haley is happy about his team's physical conditioning.
"We're doing well. The practices are crisp and in our first week we are probably where we would usually be 10 days into practice," Haley said.
Look for the Bombers to play a speed game this season. They have no other choice, according to Haley.
"We have to," he said. "Our biggest player will probably be Andrew (Youngren) at about 210 pounds. Yet I am surprised at the shape we are in, and the physical conditioning we have."
Schedule-wise, Barnum was one of the few teams unaffected by Nashwauk-Keewatin's merger with Greenway in football and their subsequent move to the Sea-Range Conference.
"We weren't scheduled to play them," Haley said. "With Onamia leaving the Polar League too, that leaves our side (the Class A division) with only eight teams. So we all cross over with a game against a Class AA team."
That means Barnum's opening game is against Class AA Rush City Sept. 3.
Haley told his Bombers they had better be prepared to carry their work ethic into the season.
"The kids will have to earn everything they get," he said. "We are practicing in that mentality too. We are going to be in good shape and I hope we're never outworked."
The team's other seniors are tight ends Justin Newman and Kyle Jordan, running back Hector Chavez and defensive back Caleb Vogt.
As for opposition, Haley looks for Sandstone East Central to be a tough team as the defending section champion with challenges from Cook County, Chisholm, Mesabi East and possibly Carlton.
"It's going to be a competitive section," he said.
Esko Eskomos (3-6)
The rebuilding continues under coach Bill Hudspith at Esko this fall, but the Eskomos will be one year better.
There are 67 players out for this year's team, which delights Hudspith and adds obvious depth to the team.
"We have large numbers in the seventh through 10th grades coming up too," he said. "The players are in good shape as well."
This year's captains are linebacker Mark Savage, running back Jake Anderson and lineman Tyler Thibert.
Key to Esko's success, though, will be the play of junior quarterback Max Reinertsen. The signal caller attended a quarterback camp at Boston College during the summer and came back ready for the start of the season.
"Max is very fast and really improved throwing the ball," Hudspith said. "He's smart and now he's a student of the game. He will score for us and he'll be a leader. The biggest thing about him is that he understands the offense and even changing plays if he needs to. The physical skills are good, and so are his mental skills. He's growing up a bit."
Last year, Reinertsen had Cody Townsend and R.J. Jubie as top receivers. This year, he'll have more depth to throw to.
"Last year we had some real explosive individuals," Hudspith said. "This year we have six or seven players who can all get open. So if we run three guys deep on a pattern we can substitute three more on the next play and have fresh legs out there. Last year teams could double up on our top receivers but this year they might not be able to do that on every play."
Young offensive and defensive lines will guard the trenches for Esko.
"It looks good, though," Hudspith said. "We're going to show some new looks on offense and on defense and use our conditioning. I'm told we had about 45 kids in the gym three times a week doing the work."
Hudspith will have 10 seniors on his roster this season.
"That's a few less than is ideal, but it's a good group of kids," he said. "We have (former Duluth Marshall coach) Scott Arneson with us this year and we're going to have some fun."
Esko opens its season against Cook County at home Sept. 3 but had an open date for homecoming Oct. 1 when Nashwauk-Keewatin pulled out of the league.
So, Hudspith picked up Twin Cities scoring machine St. Croix Lutheran for homecoming and it should be quite a ballgame.
The Crusaders scored a stupendous 564 points in 11 games last season, breaking 80 twice and averaging 51 points per contest. Both their losses were to Minneapolis DeLaSalle, the second-ranked team in Minnesota Class A.
"That should be a fun game," Hudspith said with his typical talent for under-
In the Class AA side of the Polar League, Hudspith is wary of state finalist Moose Lake-Willow River, against which his team ends the regular season Oct. 20.
"They are solid again," Hudspith said. "They have the target on their backs because of the run they have had. Rush City (Oct.14 in Esko) has a powerful team. Lots of people are solid this year."
Carlton Bulldogs (2-6)
The Bulldogs have a new coach this season in Dennis Korman of Cloquet [see accompanying story on page B2]. He replaces Scott Battaglia.
Carlton knocked off Ely and Chisholm last season for their victories before injuries and numbers depleted the roster.
Korman, who played his college football for the legendary John Gagliardi at St. John's in Collegeville, Minn., said getting to know his squad is his first priority.
Captains for this year's Bulldogs are Wyatt Goodman and Chaise Jokinen.
Thirty players are on the pre-season roster and Korman is waiting on a few others.
"They seem enthusiastic, and they want to play football," Korman said. "They look like they have some speed as well."
Korman is building a staff that includes former Cloquet quarterback Ryan Lindstrom to run the offense, linemen and linebacker coach John George, who had experience in the old World Football League, general assistant coach Ken Fox and former Fond du Lac head coach Kevin DuPuis working with receivers.
Lindstrom is installing the same type of pro-set offense favored by Cloquet's Tom Lenarz.
"We're going to throw some wrinkles in it, of course," Korman said. "But mainly, we are going to get our system down and run it simply. We will have a reasonable number of plays and we're going to learn to run them well."
Defensively, the Bulldogs are expected to show a four-man or five-man front. "I don't think we're going to be especially big," Korman added. "We're going to be fairly fast, though."
Korman would like to have enough players to run a junior varsity program as well, but hopes to pair-and-share with Cloquet if that is not possible.
The Bulldogs open their season at home against Hinckley-Finlayson Sept. 3. The team has home games against Ogilvie (Sept. 24), Cook County (Oct. 1) and Barnum (Oct. 20).