When the head coach of a football team says there is one sophomore that has a chance, a chance, to play on the varsity squad, that could be a sign of good things to come.
The Marion High School football team is made up of 26 juniors and seniors, coming off a 4-5 2007 campaign.
Now, playing only juniors and seniors doesn’t guarantee an undefeated season. In fact, the only thing it guarantees is that the team will be older than nearly everyone they play.
However, age usually breeds experience, and that is exactly what the 2008 Warriors’ football squad has.
MHS will have eight returning starters on both offense and defense, and a total of only four players who will start on both sides of the ball.
“Our players will be well-rested,” Thierolf recently told a group of Marion Kiwanis Club members.
Fresh legs can make a big difference, especially at the quarterback position.
Senior Mitchell Leppke will be behind center for the third straight year, but may not start on the defensive side of the ball.
“He looks forward to a great senior year,” Thierolf said. “He is our leading returning rusher and has developed into an option quarterback.”
Leppke scampered for 558 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, but also will have some other guys in the backfield who can run the ball as well.
Junior Sheldon Boone takes over the running back and fullback duties from the graduated Austin Hager.
Boone rushed for 503 yards as a backup a year ago, and scored six touchdowns.
“He is much improved over last year,” Thierolf said.
A pair of junior slot backs will be seeing a lot of action as well.
Drew Maddox had 124 yards and a touchdown in a limited role last year, and Marc Washington, a starter at the junior varsity level a year ago, will be starting slot backs.
“They bring a great deal of speed to our team,” Thierolf said while also referring to slot backs Adam Regnier and Tylor Neil.
Leppke completed 25 passes a year ago for three touchdowns, but returning players only account for seven receptions and none of the three touchdowns from 2007.
Nick Klenda, a six-foot, three-inch, 230-pound junior will be the tight end, and focus mainly on opening holes for the runners.
Senior Luke Gordon, who caught three passes a year ago, will step into the starting wide receiver role.
The offensive line will return three starters in senior Matt Thierolf, and juniors Parker Ash and Brian Fruechting.
Junior tackle Doug Schroeder and junior center Sam Ehrlich will be new to the line.
Klenda, Ash, Matt Thierolf, and Boone are the four projected Warriors to start on both sides of the ball.
Klenda will be a defensive end along with junior Eric Vogel, Ash and senior Mark Kukuk will be tackles, and Thierolf and Boone will couple with Brad Klenda and Tylor Neil as a potentially lethal linebacking corps.
“They will be the a true strength of our defense as we return five players who started at one time or another for us last year,” coach Thierolf said.
Juniors Randy Carlson and Washington are slated as starting cornerbacks for now, but Grant Thierolf said Mitch Cady, Regnier, Maddox, Leppke, and Dillon Wildin all will play the position as well.