The Huskies will run the ball until stopped on offense and and load up to stop the run on defense, which is usually a recipe for success in Minnesota high school football. Receivers Noah Budach and Alex Raichle give quarterback Abe Havelka some talented weapons in the passing game, but this team will probably feed junior Jason Williamson to the tune of at least 20 carries each week, provided its offensive line matures.
Raichle is the star of a strong back end of the defense. The Huskies also return linebackers Zach Mensink and Mitch Wiese, but an almost entirely new defensive line will need to step early in the season against the run.
Owatonna’s performances against Apple Valley and Elk River put everyone else on notice that this team will contend in 2017. If they can find a couple replacements on the offensive and defensive line, the Huskies will take home the Class AAAAA hardware in November.
Perfect is the only way to describe Elk River’s 125th season of football last year. The Elks won the program’s first state championship, ravaging almost every opponent on their way to an unblemished season.
Coach Steve Hamilton won’t have anything close to the experience or talent in his unique offense this fall, but that doesn’t mean the Elks won’t contend. Their defense returns five starters from a first-team unit which surrendered just a touchdown per game in the first three quarters of games in 2017 before giving way to backups.
The overlooked unit will be led by safety Mitch Stroh and three returning linemen, including Ronnie Audette, who also will start for his fourth season on the offensive line. Running back Sherrod Kpahn is the only other offensive starter back for Elk River, which opens its title defense against Moorhead.
Former coach Mark Esch built the Scarlets into Class AAAAA’s model program during his tenure with the Scarlets. They qualified for the state tournament in nine of the past 11 seasons and won two titles in the process.
Esch’s offensive coordinator, J.J. Helget, took over as head coach after Esch’s resignation this offseason. The Scarlets have 10 total returning starters, including most of their offensive and defensive lines. No Rob Meidl (quarterback) or C.J. Terry (running back) means the lone skill players with experience are receivers Wesley Henderson and Deondre Spann.
Veteran Zach Jakes will be a menacing presence on both sides of the ball for West. Players like junior linebacker Clay Herding and sophomore quarterback Jack Foster will have to step up into larger roles for the Scarlets to get back to U.S. Bank Stadium.
Willie Howard’s entering his eighth season guiding the Hawks. This season might bring the the highest expectations for his team during that time.
Senior Phoenix Sproles will do a little bit of everything for this squad. He’ll return punts and kickoffs. He’ll catch passes all over the field from Cameron King, who’s back at quarterback after an All-District junior season. He’ll be a lockdown cornerback on opponent’s top receivers. The 6-foot, 175-pounder is definitely worth the price of admission.
The Hawks biggest questions are at offensive line. A majority of last year’s group graduation, including Eric Abojei, who is gone to the University of Wyoming. Can Cooper get enough up front alongside senior Adam Cook to finally make a run to the Class AAAAA state tournament?
It might be a little surprising to see Apple Valley crack the top five considering the Eagles lost two of Minnesota’s best seniors to graduation in Noah Sanders and Mario Lewis. Still, with multiple linemen and wide receivers back in 2017, the Eagles should be tough to stop again. A friendlier schedule will help too.
Harvard commit Spencer Rolland along with Riley Hansen anchor the offensive front. Both players were All-East Metro District performers as juniors. A pair of 6-foot-4 pass catchers – Luke Martens and Nathan Macho – should make the transition to quarterback smoother for Tyler Cardella, who was on the receiving end of passes last season.
The defense will have more inexperienced players at every level except linebacker, where seniors Kellan McKeag and Jackson Green return.