August 31, 2022 at 5:50 p.m.
Highly anticipated season ahead for maroon and white
Behind a senior-laden group of 11 players, the Sauk Centre football team has high expectations for this fall.
Last year’s team finished their campaign with a 5-5 season and were eliminated from the post-season by West Central Area, who went on to place second at state. But, many of the Streeters who played in that section semifinal game return, making this season a highly anticipated one for the maroon and white.
“We’ve talked about last year going 5-5. In my world, it’s a pretty good year and not a great year. We talk about reaching our potential and we have an opportunity to go further,” said Head Coach Charlie Warring. “It starts with leadership. We have 11 seniors, 10 that can play (senior Carter Ziemer is injured). Those guys bring a lot of positive energy and a lot of hustle. They are upbeat and lead by example; hopefully the younger grades follow their lead.”
Offensively, the threats from last year’s team, senior running back Eli Fletcher, junior wide receivers Jay Neubert and Hunter Danielson, and senior quarterback Matthew Warring, are all back. The foursome scored all but one of the team’s touchdowns last season.
“We have a lot of kids with a lot of experience,” Warring said.
Joining them as wideouts will be seniors Nathan Lahr, Nate Schirmers and Reece Blondin, who add additional speed and toughness to the group.
A group of quick and mobile linemen will be asked to generate holes and pass protect for the Streeters. They include junior center Ethan Riley, senior guard Aaron Kerfeld, sophomore tackle Troy Hansen and returnees, senior tackle Carter Schuster and guard Corey McCoy. The group averages 190 pounds.
“We are not huge on the offensive line, so it’s not going to be a lot of 1-1 and smash mouth. We will probably do a lot of trapping, double-teaming and trying to get to the edges to use their speed and quickness. We have to be creative with how we block,” Warring said.
Offensively, Sauk Centre is planning to run a spread formation which puts Fletcher in the backfield and sends out four wide receivers.
“I think we are flexible enough that we can mix it up,” Warring said. “We have to be smart and take a look at what the defense is giving us and what can we run.”
Many of the same faces will line up on the defensive side of the ball for the Streeters, who plan to run a 4-3 base defense. The lone exception will be senior linebacker Owen Christians. Schuster and Riley will be the team’s starting tackles, and they will be flanked by defensive ends Warring and McCoy. Lahr and Fletcher will join Christians in the linebacker crew, Danielson and Blondin will be the cornerbacks, and Neubert and Schirmers the safeties.
“We have to be an aggressive, smart team. We have assignments, and have to do those assignments,” Warring said. “Our defense is flexible in what we are going to do.”
Fletcher and Neubert will share punting and kicking duties.
Sauk Centre had a chance to gauge their talents and schemes Aug. 27 when they played Holdingford, Staples-Motley, Minnewaska and St. Cloud Cathedral. Warring left with a positive vibe from his squad.
“It’s good that we did a lot of good things. We executed a lot of plays that we did good with,” Warring said. “It was also good because there were things to clean up as far as technique and assignments. It’s all stuff we can fix.”
Continuity with players and coaching staff should be another strength for this year’s team. Warring will be flanked by the same coaches – defensive coordinator Curtis Krump, offensive coordinator Rick Meyer and special teams and line coach Spencer Carpenter – he had last year.
“Last year everything was new; this year, we are ahead of the game and are so much more comfortable. Now, we have those guys that have a handle and we can add options off each play or modify a play and deepen our play book,” he said.
Sauk Centre will compete in the Mid-State District against formidable competition, including Eden Valley-Watkins, Royalton, Paynesville, Holdingford and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted. Three of those teams beat Sauk Centre last year.
“Eden Valley has everybody back; they are going to be good. Royalton has a lot of people back,” Warring said. “Our regular season is going to be tough. There is not a cupcake on the schedule. We have to stay healthy, that’s going to be key to our success.”
They will also play Morris, Melrose and Montevideo during the regular season.
“I don’t stress winning when I talk about being successful,” Warring said. “I stress play as a team, 11 guys on the field doing their job, knowing their assignments and executing their assignments. We have to play with passion and with energy and have fun while we do it. We can’t turn the ball over. If we do those things and eliminate our mistakes, we have a chance to be successful.”
Osakis, West Central Area, Staples Motley, Wadena-Deer Creek and Pillager are in the same Class 2A Mid-State District as Sauk Centre.
“We have a chance to make some noise in the section. Last year was decent, we have the potential to do better. Nothing is going to be easy,” Warring said.