New quarterbacks filling big shoes in Heart of America League
Kaleb Hammeke, Hooper Schroeder, and Nick Davenport. Those three names gave defenses goosebumps in 2018. All three quarterbacks have graduated, and that means some new quarterbacks will be leading Heart of America League offenses in 2019.
After an 8-2 run in 2014, the Celtics had to hit the reset button with a new set of players in 2015. A group of players that included quarterback Kaleb Hammeke began the slow build up, culminating in a 9-2 season in 2018.
Big changes are coming again. Hammeke graduated after throwing for nearly 800 yards and rushing for 726 yards in his senior season. Aaron Guerrero led the team with 734 rushing yards, and Nolan Clarke and Isaac Miller combined for 68 percent of last year’s receiving yards.
Junior Evan Remar saw limited time at quarterback last year, completing both of his pass attempts for seven yards and rushing for 46 yards on seven attempts. He will be handing the ball to 185-pound junior Andrew Bergmeier, who ran the ball 47 times for 274 yards in 2018. Out wide, junior Landon Gray offers some size at 6-2, and junior Lucas Hammeke returns.
The Celtic defense last year contributed to the win total with four shutouts. It held another four teams to just one touchdown. The squad was hit hard by graduation but Remar was second on the team last year with 80 tackles. Junior Miles Friday recorded 52 tackles up front on the line.
The Cardinals capitalized on a quarterback of their own in 2018 to win eight of its first nine games. After a playoff win against Meade, Sedgwick was ousted at home against eventual state champion Smith Center. But the Hooper Schroeder era has officially ended.
At just 5-11, 145, Schroeder was a giant last year, completing better than 62 percent of his passes for 2,035 yards with 21 touchdowns and just three picks. He rushed for another 532 yards and 15 touchdowns. Schroeder was even scarier early on with 885 passing yards through just two games.
Now it’s time to fill some big shoes. Lance Hoffsommer threw for 92 yards as a freshman. Junior Henry Burns also completed five passes for 77 yards but will likely be utilized as a wideout this year after pulling in seven catches for 95 yards last fall.
The Cardinals will still be dangerous with seniors Kale Schroeder and Mason Lacey back. Schroeder caught 28 passes for 768 yards last season, and the 6-2 Lacey was right behind him with 476 yards on 25 receptions. Senior Qayden Shepherd, also at 6-2, caught 14 balls last year for 159 yards, and junior Remington Nold added 107 yards on eight catches. Kale Schroeder returns as the team’s leading rusher after the Cards lose a combined 1,434 yards to graduation via Colton Smith and Hooper Schroeder.
The Cardinal defense allowed more than two touchdowns in just two contests last year, including the game against Smith Center. Seniors Lacey and Gannon Resnik return as the second and third-leading tacklers with a combined 151 last season. Burns and Kale Schroeder combined for five interceptions in the secondary.
The other big HOA power in 2018 came in the form of the other Cardinals. With the help of All Class 1A quarterback Nick Davenport, Ell-Saline finished the year at 7-3. The Cards lost to powerhouses Hutch Trinity and Smith Center by a total of nine points, and ended the year with a 3-point playoff loss to Plainville.
Davenport, after excelling in all three seasons and academically at Ell-Saline, has moved on to Butler Community College after throwing for just shy of 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns and leading the Cards with 694 yards and 15 more scores on the ground.
Still, longtime coach Terry King gets back seven offensive starters and eight back on defense.
Ell-Saline gets some power back in junior TJ Morrical, a 6-0, 180-pound running back. Morrical saw some limited time at quarterback in 2018. Senior Luke Parks (5-10, 160) also returns as a capable receiver and running back. Senior Sawyer Kramer and junior Treyton Peterson were also receiving threats last season.
Up front, the Cards have great size for a 1A school. Senior center Noah Hopkins tips the scales at 250, and senior Colton Bunting weighs in at 240. Junior Carter Underwood also has nice size at 5-11, 200.
Defensively, Parks returns as a decorated 3-year starter at defensive back. Kramer and Peterson round out a talented secondary. Seniors Owen Bradley and Ty Chalmers return at linebacker.
The only other 11-man team in the HOA with a winning record in 2018, the Teutons finished at 6-4 with big league losses to Trinity, Ell-Saline, and Sedgwick, and a playoff loss to an Elkhart team that lost just one time. This comes after an 0-9 showing in 2017. The tide should keep rolling into 2019 as Lance Sawyer gets back six offensive starters and nine back on the defensive side.
“We are excited to get back at it,” Sawyer said. “After a great season in 2018, our guys have continued to dedicate themselves to the weight room. Our growth has been outstanding and we are ready to see results again on the football field. Our goal is to get back to the playoffs.”
Sophomore Jace Doerksen (6-0, 165) made an immediate impact from the pocket last year, throwing for 828 yards and rushing for 116 more. Junior Nate Shober (5-9, 165) returns as the leading rusher from 2017 but with just 112 yards on the ground in 2018.
Gone is Matt Ramey, who rushed for a team-high 1,108 yards last season. But the Teutons get back seniors Justin Schroeder (5-9, 165) and Kolby Blank (5-10, 165). Sawyer said senior Sam Kleinherenbrink (5-10, 175) is “ready for a breakout season at running back” in his second year of football.
At center is state powerlifting champ Jacob Coop (5-9, 165), and the rest of the line includes junior Cole Hase (5-9, 180), junior Mason Carter (6-2, 170), and junior Dairien Dawes (5-10, 170). At receiver, Sawyer expects junior Derick Johnson (6-0, 175) to be one of the top wideouts in the league.
Defensively, Doerksen returns as a leader after earning all-league honors at linebacker with 65 tackles. Schroeder and Shober also return to linebacker after combining for 82 tackles in 2018. Hase will lead the group up front, and junior Carter Brown (5-9, 175) and sophomore Kyler Konrade (5-8, 160) will also be valuable members of the defense.
The Grant Thierolf era came to a close in 2018. Thierolf posted a 185-103 record in his three decades at the school. Last season Shaun Craft made his debut with a 2-7 showing. The two wins came against Sterling and Bluestem teams that combined for just four wins on the season.
Craft gets back four offensive starters, including one of the league’s top linemen in junior Todd Palic (6-1, 180). Junior center Matthew Christensen also brings nice size at 5-8, 220, and senior Luke Lanning weighs in at 190 pounds. They will offer their services to junior quarterback candidates Will Alleven and Hunter Helmer. Senior Jaxton Tracy (6-1, 190) returns at running back.
The Warrior defense was full of ups and downs last season, surrendering 50 or more points four times but holding three opponents to 18 points or fewer. Six are back on that side of the ball, including Palic and Christensen up front. Tracy is joined at linebacker by senior Hunter Helmer (5-11, 190) and junior Braedon Mercer (6-1, 147).
One Schneider is out and another in atop the Black Bear football program this fall. Derek Schneider went 6-2 in his first year as head coach but moves to assistant with an overall 9-8 record with the program. Sterling welcomes in former Ellsworth coach Brent Schneider, who enters this season with an overall 15-22 record as head coach.
Brent will have some talent back with 12 letter winners returning. Senior Brady Myers is a multi-year starter at quarterback who put up just more than 1,200 yards of offense in a virtually perfect split on the ground and in the air. A workhorse, Myers had 141 carries in 2018. Also back is junior Alan Anderson, who ran the ball 63 times for 427 yards. Senior Logan Weigel returns at wideout after catching 22 passes for 254 yards last season.
The Black Bears also get back senior Cade Wilkey in the backfield and senior Bryan Montoya on the offensive line. Cody Oden and Zach Surface will be other options out of the back field.
Defensively, Myers returns at linebacker and Weigel and Wilkey return to the secondary along with junior Cody Royer and sophomore Kaz Comley. Schneider gets back several defensive linemen in Montoya, Anderson, Caden Webb, Trevan Jones, and Trevor Ochs.
After a 5-0 start to the 2017 season, the Bulldogs slowed to a 6-3 finish that year. Bennington opened the 2018 campaign with a pair of wins before losing its next three. The Bulldogs closed out last season strong with three wins in four games, but some big losses will bring another set of challenges in 2019.
Quarterback JT Ohlson was an offensive force last year with more than 1,500 yards of total offense to go along with 28 total touchdowns. He leaves some big shoes to fill though senior Tyler Stanley (5-10, 145) saw limited time behind Ohlson last year. Stanley completed seven passes for 145 yards and netted 56 rushing yards on 31 carries.
Stanley was one of Ohlson’s favorite targets last season with 420 receiving yards. If he moves to quarterback, that still leaves track star Javon Allen out wide. The six-footer used pull-away speed to lead the team with 465 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 22 receptions. Allen also rushed for 301 yards and six scores on just 31 attempts.
After the first two games last year, the defense allowed at least 30 points in six of its final seven games. Six of those opponents scored at least 42 points. The Bulldogs lose their top three tacklers from a year ago. Allen recorded 51 tackles last season, and seniors Stanley and Chase Anderson each had a pair of sacks.