GC Football preview: Next man in
By BRANDON HURLEY
JEFFERSON – A new quarterback and four new offensive lineman hope to set the tone for the Greene County Rams this season.
For success in a deeply talented district, the Greene County Rams must have several first-time starters become key contributors fast.
The Rams went 4-5 a season ago, narrowly missing the playoffs in Class 3A, district 2 but lost several vital weapons on both sides of the ball.
Gone are do-everything quarterback, Daric Whipple, who amassed more than 2,000 yards and 31 total touchdowns last year as well as a trio of three year starters in offensive lineman Noah Juergensen, Ben Lint and Matthew Gordon, second-leading receiver Tyler Beger and running back Max Neese. Whipple and Juergensen are now both members of the Iowa State University football team.
Sophomore Clint Dennhardt try and replace Whipple as the Rams’ new signal-caller this fall. The quarterback made one start as a freshman last season, a 14-0 loss to Humboldt October 2. Dennhardt struggled mightily in his first high school action, completing just four of 20 passes while throwing three interceptions.
Growing pains as the quarterback and four new offensive lineman get acclimated are expected, but keeping the playbook simple and almost identical to last year’s has been somewhat of a blessing for the group.
“(Clint) did get a varsity start last year, so he’s used to that competition,” Lansman said. “It’s really tough to replace a three-year starter.“
Hunter Ruth returns as the only offensive lineman with starting experience.
“Having to replace four out of five offensive lineman is a challenge, but coach Mark Sawhill is doing a nice job of teaching technique,” Lansman said. “(He) will have a solid group when week one rolls around.”
But a new found dedication to strength training in the offseason has the Rams head coach excited.
“The biggest area we have developed this offseason has been in the weight room,” Lansman said. “The previous few years we have had good numbers as they reached their senior season, but (we) have really stressed the importance of getting the younger kids in (to the weight room) as well. This has gone extremely well.”
Dennhardt’s strength is how well can he sling the pigskin. The sophomore will look to 2015 leading-receiver Nick Schroeder as his no. 1 option this fall. The 6-3 senior snagged 28 balls for 517 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. Seniors Chase Stoline and Calvin Skalla also saw heavy rotation in last year’s offense.
“(Clint) has a very good arm, he’ll be able to stretch the field,” Lansman said. “We obviously won’t have such a wide open playbook as we did last year. We will start out by keeping it simple and then as each week goes on we will be able to add things to it.”
Senior Trey Tucker enters the fall season with the most career carries at running back and should pose to be a viable option for Dennhardt to hand the ball to.
“The offense has been improving everyday and will get to where we need to be,” Lansman said.
While linebacker and leading-tackler Keyden Pollack and defensive end Mitchell Gorsuch are gone on the opposite side of the ball, Lansman noted how the Ram defense should actually be a strength this season.
Stoline and Logan Lansman return as defensive backs in addition to Tucker and Jake Berns at linebacker. Several returning players saw significant acton on the defensive side as well.
SAME DISTRICT, NEW OPPONENTS
Four new teams replace departed Carroll, Humboldt and Algona in Greene County’s district this year – Class 3A, district two. Gilbert, Ballard, Dallas Center-Grimes and Iowa Falls-Alden join the fold this fall and were all playoff qualifiers a season ago.
Joining Greene County in the district once again are Webster City, Boone and Perry. Webster City also qualified for the playoffs, giving district two five returning playoff teams.
The Des Moines Register has ranked Webster City, Dallas Center Grimes and Ballard in their preseason top 10 as well as week two opponent, Harlan.
“It’s about a four to four split on new versus old, but it will be a lot of good competition,” Lansman said.
Greene County opens the 2016 season on the road Friday in Carroll against Class 2A foe, Kuemper. The Knights went 3-7 a year ago but return their leading rusher, quarterback Gage Gunnerson.
“They are going to have a little different look this year,” Lansman said. “They had been more of a spread offense in the past, but now they are going to a more traditional (run-first) offense. They are going to be physical.”
The Rams defeated the Knights, 35-21 in Jefferson last season in the year’s second game. Lansman expects the 2016 contest to be a bit more low-scoring.
“Defensively, they play similar to us,” he said. “It’s a good smash mouth game each time we play. Neither one of us have have a lot of depth coming back from last year so it will be a good opportunity to see where we are at.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Kuemper football field in Carroll.
2016 Greene County Football Schedule
**All games on Friday
Aug. 26 - Kuemper Catholic (Carroll) Away
Sept. 2 - Harlan Away
Sept. 9 - Dallas Center-Grimes Home
Sept. 16 - Webster City Away
Sept. 23 - Iowa Falls-Alden Home
Sept. 30 - Boone Away
Oct. 7 - Gilbert Home
Oct. 14 - Perry Home
Oct. 21 - Ballard (Huxley) Away