As MFL MarMac moves to Class A, player health is key to success

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Members of the MFL MarMac football team include (front, left to right) Hunter Goltz, Jack Vorwald, Andrew Heins, Aidan Grove, Kashton Mathis, Collin Henkels, Kaden Stocker, Marlene Franzen; (second row) Kale Miene, Trevor Jones, Jacob Trudo, Tyler Wille, Gavin Hertrampf, Spencer Larson, Jackson Landt, Zach Howe, Logan Engelhardt; (third row) manager Ben Miene, Chauncy Drahn, Logan Klenk, Kutter Anderson, Cayden Ball, Max Havlicek, Cedrick Drahn, Gabe McGeough, Cullen McShane, Ethan Stubbs; (back) assistant coach Luke Arenz, head coach Dan Anderson, Jamarr Tanniehill, Michael Egan, Zach Trudo, Garret Keehner, Dylan Corlett, Riley Wille, Shane Bowen and assistant coaches Brandon Burke and Kyle Kirkestue. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac will make its debut in Class A football this week. The move from Class 1A to the smallest class of 11-man football was precipitated by the district’s enrollment decline, and it will present both challenges and opportunities, said head coach Dan Anderson.

Anderson, who’s coached in some capacity at MFL MarMac nearly every year since 2000, including 2005-2008 as head football coach, is back at the helm this year. 

“My kids are older and I have more time. I’ve always had the itch to get back to high school,” said Anderson, who recently coached youth football. “I love the younger kids, but I missed more of the strategy that comes with high school football. I felt it was time for me to step back in.”

Anderson’s assistants include former MFL MarMac players Kyle Kirkestue (third year) and Brandon Burke (second year), as well as former college player Luke Arenz (first year).

 MFL MarMac’s roster features 33 players, many of whom Anderson coached when they were younger.

“I know what I’ve got to work with, I know their personalities and how to motivate them,” he stated. “Football is not just ‘Xs’ and ‘Os,’ but understanding people.”

With a smaller roster, and only one player deep at some positions, Anderson said the most important factor this season will be staying healthy. The team’s starters include 10 juniors and seniors and one sophomore, but injuries could force more underclassmen to contribute.

“I don’t like to put freshmen and sophomores in. They’re just not ready physically or mentally,” Anderson said. “Success lies in juniors and seniors.”

Other teams in MFL MarMac’s district will face the same dilemma, though, he added.

“I’m confident our young players are just as good, or better, than other teams’ young players,” he said. “If you have enough juniors and seniors, you might have an advantage. It comes down to keeping them on the field.”

Anderson said his best players will play offense, defense and special teams, allowing for few breaks.

“That may be a challenge, especially early in the season, in the hot weather,” he commented. “They have to be in good physical condition, so we’ve been pushing them hard in practice.” 

The Bulldogs boast a lot of juniors this season, but Anderson said many had varsity experience last year. He’s pleased with the team’s size and physicality, especially up front. 

The offensive line, for example, which includes sophomore Jacob Trudo and juniors Zach Howe, Spencer Larson, Jackson Landt and Gavin Hertrampf, ranges in size from 200 pounds to 260. Sophomore Tyler Wille will also be able to step in, Anderson noted.

Anderson said the team has its biggest depth at the skill positions: running back, fullback, wide receiver and quarterback.

Garret Keehner, a 6’3”, 225-pound senior captain, will play fullback and outside linebacker. He was a wide receiver last season, but Anderson wants him to be more involved. 

“He’s smart, hardworking and a good leader,” he shared. “We want our best player with the ball in his hands. We’re definitely going to pound the ball.”

Senior Dylan Corlett and junior Kutter Anderson are battling it out for the running back position. Anderson said both have good speed and size, so it will come down to how well they block. 

“But they will both play a lot to keep fresh legs out there,” he said.

Junior Ethan Stubbs and senior Jamarr Tanniehill will be the team’s wing backs. They have different skill sets, with Tanniehill being more physical and Stubbs more shifty, Anderson noted.

Zach Trudo, another senior and team captain, will lead the Bulldogs at wide receiver. He will also be the place kicker. 

“If we’re down inside the 20, I have faith we can put him out there,” Anderson said. “It’s another weapon.”

Junior Logan Klenk, who Anderson characterized as a hard worker and good leader, will be the tight end.

MFL MarMac has two quarterbacks, in junior Cedrick Drahn and sophomore Max Havlicek, who Anderson said are evenly matched. He’d be comfortable sending either onto the field.

“Both are very good, have good mechanics and are hard workers,” he remarked. “Both will get their chances to play at the spot.”

In addition to Keehner, Trevor Jones will also be one of the Bulldogs’ key linebackers. Zach Trudo and Corlett will be at safety and Stubbs at corner. The defensive line will include a combination of Larson, Jacob Trudo, Landt and Hertrampf.

Tanniehill will be the team’s nose guard, a move Anderson said will surprise some people.

“He’s not really big, but he’s strong for his size, and he’s not afraid. He’s also fast and quick and can give offensive lines fits up front,” Anderson explained. “People might chuckle, but he will open some eyes.” 

Although acclimating to a new system takes some time, Anderson said he expects his time to win now.

“I believe we have the right people in the right spots and have the right scheme and game plan,” he said. “A lot of football is played between the ears; you have to have the right mindset and go into games expecting to win.”

The Bulldogs have four non-district games to start the season (at South Winn, home versus Postville and Jesup, then at Sumner-Fred). That will be followed by five district games (at Clayton Ridge, home versus Maquoketa Valley and Lisbon, at Edgewood-Colesburg, then home against Alburnett).

For MFL MarMac’s district, Anderson said it’s difficult to say one team has a distinct advantage over the others.

“It may come down to which team can stay healthiest at weeks seven, eight and nine,” he commented. “If we stay healthy, don’t count out the Bulldogs.” 

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