Smaller MHS team has talent, family feel
The key to everything the Warriors want to do on the football field — run the ball effectively and explosively, wear out their opponents defense, and keep the opposing offense off the field — is the offensive line.
“Our offensive line is coming around very well,” head coach Grant Thierolf said. “We have a lot of smart kids there and a lot of tough kids there.”
Although Marion lost several starters along the line to graduation, three seniors are likely to start in the trenches this year. Tim Costello has the bead on the starting center spot. Adam Cope and Connor Thierolf return at guard.
Joining them are juniors David Helmer and Corey Hiebert at tackle and sophomore Spencer Fugitt as another guard who has an opportunity to start.
“We’re going to run the ball,” Thierolf said. “We didn’t run it as well as we could have last year. We made some changes and we’ll be better at what we do.”
Running behind that line will be seniors Les Riggs and Randy Regnier and junior Colten Johnson as a triple threat of tailbacks.
Riggs is getting an opportunity to be Marion’s power back after watching Sheldon Boone punish opposing tacklers the past three years. He accumulated over 1,500 yards rushing for the junior varsity squad last year.
“He could have easily been a starter on a lot of teams,” Thierolf said.
Regnier takes over in a speed back position for graduate Drew Maddox.
“I’m excited about Randy Regnier,” Thierolf said. “He’s a tough runner.”
Johnson is the only returning running back who saw regular carries for Warriors last season. His combination of size, speed, and quickness to elude tacklers is likely to puzzle opposing defenses.
“Colten is just a great athlete,” Thierolf said.
Relieving these backs is speedster Michael Antozyk. Thierolf is not worried about Antozyk’s diminutive stature.
“Mike Antozyk will make people miss,” Thierolf said. “If they’re football players, they’ll play.”
Orchestrating the Warriors attack will be senior quarterback Dillon Richmond. Thierolf expected Richmond to battle for the position with last year’s starter Matt Sprowls throughout the training camp and early practices. When Sprowls elected to have shoulder surgery after a long baseball season, the door opened for Richmond to seize the job.
“He’s been looking forward to winning the job outright,” Thierolf said. “He’s been waiting for a chance.”
Along with the quadrant of athletic running backs, Richmond has tight end Dakin Ledford at his disposal. Thierolf said Ledford is equally adept at run blocking and running routes to catch passes.
“Athletes are athletes,” Thierolf said. “He just does what he’s asked to do. He understands the job description of the position.”
With Ledford, junior Cole Lewman, who is also the backup quarterback, and senior Jordan Versch will be available targets for Richmond.
Although the Warriors have a wealth of talent available at the skill positions, offensive production still hinges on the offensive line.
“He’ll be as good as our offensive line lets him be,” Thierolf said of Richmond.
The heart of the Warrior defense will be its corps of athletic and hard-hitting linebackers: Richmond, Hiebert, Johnson, and Cope.
“Our backers have a chance to be really good,” Thierolf said.
They will be filling in gaps for a defensive line with Ledford and Riggs as the starting defensive ends, with Fugitt and Cody Carlson to back them up.
“Defensive end by nature is an athlete,” Thierolf said. “Their job description is to get off the ball and make plays, playing the run and getting after the passer.”
Thierolf is planning, at least for the first few games, to have a rotation of defensive tackles. Costello, Helmer, junior John Tacha, junior Jared Vondenkamp, and sophomore Isaac Baldwin should all see time on the inside of the defensive line.
“We’re playing against a lot of spread offenses where those guys will have to be running all the time,” Thierolf said.
The Warriors should have a talented defensive backfield. Versch is a returning starter at corner and is joined by Regnier.
Lewman and sophomore Brody Carroll will play safety.
“They’ll grow into that position,” Thierolf said.
Thierolf expects the Warriors will not experience a drop in talent from last year.
“We’ve been 22-4 the last two years at JV,” Thierolf said. “That doesn’t happen by accident.”
He said that the most noticeable difference from last year is depth. Players on last year’s squad could be more specialized; this year, nearly every player will be asked to play on both sides of the ball.
“We’re a little smaller as a team,” Thierolf said. “We’re at 40 kids.”
What will help the Warriors is the difference in team depth between the Mid-Central Activities Association and the Heart of America league. While Thierolf still expects opponents to be talented he doesn’t expect that the teams will have 25 to 28 good players like teams in MCAA.
The Warriors played at Lyons Friday to start the season.
“It’s nice to play somebody we’re familiar with in our first game,” Thierolf said.
Thierolf is looking forward to showdowns Sept. 24 at Moundridge and Oct. 8 at Hutchinson Trinity.
“It’s going to be nice to play Moundridge again. We have a long history of playing each other,” he said. “Hutch Trinity will be awfully good.”
Thierolf is excited for the season to start.
“I don’t think we’ve looked forward to a season more than this one,” Thierolf said. “This team has a familial feel about it.”
Last modified Sept. 9, 2010