Bulldogs are overall stronger, faster and return 13 seniors

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Members of the MFL MarMac football team include (front, left to right) manager Jonah Wille, Gavin Meana, Cole Allert, Hunter Meyer, Collin Henkels, Aidan Grove, Andrew Heins, Kaden Stocker, Austin Schlee; (second row) Kale Miene, Logan Engelhardt, Chauncy Drahn, Karter Decker, Michael Knickerbocker, Alek Roys, Tyler Zuercher, Corbin McElwain, Hunter Goltz, Levi Walz; (third row) assistant coaches Nelson Converse, Luke Arenz and Brandon Becker, Braden Landt, Jordan Harnack, Max Havlicek, Cayden Ball, Cullen McShane, Tyler Wille, Gabe McGeough, Jack Vorwald, Josh Reichard, head coach Dan Anderson, assistant coach Kyle Kirkestue; (back row) Logan Klenk, Chaise Ziegler, Spencer Larson, Zach Howe, Gavin Hertrampf, Kaleb Tilson, Jackson Landt, Kutter Anderson, JT Stocker, Cedrick Drahn, Eli Johnson, Ethan Stubbs and Trevor Jones. Not pictured are Jacob Trudo and managers Marlene Franzen and Storm Huinker.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The MFL MarMac football team boasts a 44-man roster this year, growing nine players from a squad that went 4-5 a year ago and had the school’s best season in a decade. Those players also worked hard in the offseason, making the overall team stronger and faster, noted head coach Dan Anderson.

“We’ve really started getting things turned around here,” he said, “and we do have a lot of those kids back.”

Among the returners are 13 seniors, which Anderson said is key.

“You can have good underclassmen, but if you want to have success, it comes down to having good seniors,” he stressed, “and we’ve got good seniors.”

Many of them can be seen on the offensive line that, although shuffled around a bit, is one of MFL MarMac’s biggest strengths. Jacob Trudo is the lone junior, joined by seniors Zach Howe, Gavin Hertrampf, Jackson Landt and Eli Johnson. Last year’s center, senior Spencer Larson, will move to tight end, serving as not only another blocker but also an offensive weapon. 

“He’s got a big frame, 6’3” and 225 pounds, and [in the offseason] he went out there with the receivers and proved he had some of the best hands on the team,” Anderson said. “He showed me he could play tight end.” 

The offensive line helped boost MFL MarMac into the top-10 in Class 1A in total offense last season. Paired with returning senior quarterback Cedrick Drahn, who broke the school record for single season passing last year, Anderson is hopeful the Bulldogs can get back to that level.

“Cedrick’s a great quarterback,” he said. “He’s super smart and makes good decisions. He has a strong arm and is a tough kid, good leader, cool under pressure. Everything you’re looking for in a good quarterback.”

MFL MarMac will miss Zach Trudo, who was Drahn’s top target last year, but Anderson is confident juniors Max Havlicek and Cayden Ball will step up.

“They’ll be splitting time at the receiver spot,” he said. “I could care less who’s scoring touchdowns, as long as we’re scoring touchdowns.”

The same goes in the Bulldog backfield, where Anderson said six players are currently battling it out for three positions: fullback, running back and wing back.

At fullback, Anderson said the team doesn’t have another 6’3”, 220-pound Garret Keehner, but they’ve got some guys who are speedier, and perhaps even shiftier, in sophomore Gabe McGeough and senior JT Stocker. McGeough has what Anderson calls that “X factor that doesn’t show up on paper,” while Stocker brings strength and power that has yet to be tapped into.

At running back, senior Kutter Anderson—the team’s fastest player and one of last season’s top rushers after Keehner—is back. He’ll split time with the MFL MarMac’s second-fastest player, sophomore Cullen McShane.

Taking reps at wing back will be seniors Ethan Stubbs and Trevor Jones.

Having that many ball carriers isn’t a problem with MFL MarMac’s offensive style, said Anderson. He appreciates the depth.

“Everyone’s getting to participate, and it’s not like you have to hang your hat on one guy to do everything,” he stated. “They’ll rotate series and keep fresh, because they’re playing on defense too.”

On the other side of the ball, Anderson said the team will run the same defense this year, but will focus less on “Xs and Os,” and more on technique, like tackling and shedding blocks. Three of the top five tacklers graduated, but many pieces return, offering more speed and agility, Anderson added.

The front line will include one of the leaders, Howe, as well as Larson, Trudo and Landt.

“We feel like we’re pretty solid across,” said Anderson.

The linebacking corps will include McGeough, who was honorable mention all-district as a freshman last year, along with Johnson, Stocker, McShane and Jones. Stubbs, Ball and Kale Miene are options at corner, while Havlicek will take over as free safety. Anderson and Drahn are in the running for strong safety.

“We lost our two safeties, so we’ll do a little juggling there,” Anderson said.

Another area that Anderson admitted will take some maneuvering is special teams, where MFL MarMac lost both its kicker and punter. He anticipates Havlicek to be the new kicker, while McShane will take on punting duties.

“We’ve got guys working there,” he said, “but it’s a question mark.”

Another question mark, noted Anderson, is who’s going to take over the leadership roles.

“You’ve got leaders who lead by example and some who are vocal leaders,” he explained. “This year, we’ve got guys who are working hard, but nobody has really stepped up and been that vocal leader yet.”

Anderson said that leadership—that toughness—is necessary if the team wants to build on last season’s success. The Bulldogs also have to stay healthy and play physical, he added.

“These guys understand what it’s like to win, and they also understand, if you don’t work hard and just take it for granted, there’s no guaranteed wins. I keep reminding them of that and they keep working hard in practice,” he shared. “Everybody can beat you on any given night. But when it comes down to it, if we’re not battling for the district title, I’m going to be a disappointed coach.” 

The Bulldogs kick off the season Friday, Aug. 30, hosting South Winn at 7 p.m.

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