Strong skill positions, defensive nucleus have Bulldogs ready to defend title

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Members of the MFL MarMac football team include (front, left to right) Uriah Duffield, Mason Overton, Elias Hatt, Holden Mathis, Wyatt Powell, Colin Henkels, Bryce Radloff, Bryce Diehl, Dylan Jones, Carver Blietz-Bentien, Tristen Koehn, Nolan Lerch, Dalton Krause; (second row) manager Jaxton Schroeder, Kade McElwaine, Cole Allert, Cayl Anderson, Gabe McGeough, Kaden Stocker, Karter Decker, Corbin McElwaine, Cyrus Johnson, Taylor Herzmann, Blake Lamborn, Jacob Berns, manager Marlene Franzen; (third row) Danta Wood, camera and statistician Cayden Pester, Jonah Wille, Tyler Zuercher, Hunter Meyer, Levi Walz, Austin Schlee, Chauncy Drahn, Josh Reichard, Cullen McShane, Jack Vorwald, Alek Roys, Brandon Christofferson, Hunter Goltz, assistant coach Nelson Converse; (back) assistant coaches Jake Wilke, Brandon Burke and Luke Arenz, Gavin Meana, Kale Miene, Tyler Wille, Braden Landt, Colin Moses, Cayden Ball, Max Havlicek, Logan Brown, assistant coaches Kyle Kirkestue and Ryan Pomerening and head coach Dan Anderson. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The MFL MarMac football team is coming off an historic season—one that saw them go 10-1 and claim the first district title in school history. Last year’s squad was senior-dominated, including five all-state players.

“All of them graduated, and we lost some excellent football players, so there are going to be a lot of new faces,” admitted head coach Dan Anderson, but that doesn’t mean anyone should sleep on the Bulldogs. 

“We’ve got some good guys coming back too,” he stated. “Overall, as a team, we’re smaller, but have good speed and the guys we have are extremely hard workers. They want to continue the tradition we’ve built, and make the fans and school proud. We’re still the district champion until someone knocks us off.”

The team will be led offensively by senior quarterback Max Havlicek, who takes over for two-year starter and all-district selection Cedrick Drahn. A receiver last year, Havlicek would’ve been an all-district quarterback on nearly any other team, Anderson noted.

“He’s got a strong arm just like Cedrick, he’s a great leader and he’s actually got more mobility,” the coach added. “There’s no doubt in my mind—we’ve got an excellent quarterback to lead our football team.”

The Bulldog ground game will consist of what Anderson called the “McDouble,” fullback Gabe McGeough and running back Cullen McShane, who are both juniors and previous defensive all-district selections. McGeough has been starting since his freshman year and added 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season, while McShane is just as skilled as last year’s all-state rusher Kutter Anderson, but even bigger.

Sophomore Karter Decker, who Anderson said is strong and agile and the fastest MFL MarMac player, will step in at wing back along with junior Kaden Stocker.

“Our wing backs don’t get as many carries, but they’re on counters, and usually those are the plays that make the highlight reels,” Anderson mentioned.

Senior Cayden Ball, who split time with Havlicek at receiver a year ago, will be his teammate’s leading target now. He’s blessed with excellent hands, runs good routes and is fast, according to his coach.

“Skill wise we are set,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a little depth with guys like Austin Schlee, who can step in and give some reps, Gavin Meana at wing or running back or wide receiver and Kale Miene, who’s a senior and has great hands and good speed.”

Tight end is more of a question mark. Schlee might see time there, as could seniors Braden Landt and Colin Moses.

Havlicek will be the team’s extra point and field goal kicker. Kickoffs will be done by either Havlicek, Meana, Moses or McShane, the punter.

Defensively, MFL MarMac returns a strong nucleus.

“Last year, we had arguably the best defensive backfield in all of Class A football. We had two guys that tied for the district lead in interceptions, in Cayden Ball and Ethan Stubbs,” Anderson said. “Cayden is back as a returning first-team, all-district corner back.”

Meana, Miene and Stocker are currently battling it out for the other corner position.

Havlicek was an all-district safety last year and will be back at the same spot, while Decker will step in at strong safety. The linebacking corps will consist of McShane and McGeough, as well as junior Chauncy Drahn and, potentially, Schlee and junior Jack Vorwald. 

The Bulldogs have 45 players this season, around 30 of whom are freshmen and sophomores. 

“I’m not big on playing a lot of freshmen on the varsity level right away. I work them in as the season goes along, after I let them get their feet wet playing some JV first,” said Anderson. By the middle or end of the season, “you’ll start hearing those names” in some of these positions.

New names will also be seen on MFL MarMac’s offensive and defensive lines, where Anderson said the team has the most uncertainty. 

“We were senior dominated last year up front. We will be 100 percent new starters,” he remarked.

Drahn, who gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season, will help fortify the group. He was originally slated to play tight end, but the coaches felt his varsity experience, strength and physicality were better suited elsewhere.

“He’s got a great attitude and understands what’s best for the team means we put guys where we think they’re going to help the team the most,” Anderson said. “I think he’s going to turn some heads this year.”

Center will likely be junior Hunter Goltz, while senior Tyler Wille, who saw varsity action last year, will play power tackle. 

“He’s big and physical and can move guys,” Anderson quipped.

Some sophomores will see playing time, including Hunter Meyer, Josh Reichard, Levi Walz, Corbin McElwaine and Alek Roys. With a lot of depth, the lineup may change from week to week.

A lot of the team’s success “is going to depend on how fast those guys grow up,” said Anderson. “I believe we’ll be a different football team in weeks five, six and seven than we are in one through three. That varsity experience those first few weeks is going to be worth its weight in gold for those younger guys. Our success is going to come down to how fast our offensive and defensive lines gel and figure things out.”

Despite some uncertainty, Anderson said he still expects to win every game.

“We believe in what we do. Maybe don’t expect blow outs this year,” he acknowledged, “but all you have to do is win by one point.”

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