2011 Jefferson County football preview
by Dennis Sharkey
The 2011 football season is a different tale from a year ago for most Jefferson County teams.
Many teams last year depended on senior leadership to lead them to the post season while other teams got young players valuable experience in preparation for the future.
The Oskaloosa Bears, Jefferson County North Chargers and Valley Falls Dragons all have to replace seniors at the quarterback position.
On the other hand, the McLouth Bulldogs, Perry-Lecompton Kaws and the Jefferson West Tigers will boast experienced backfields.
District assignments remain the same as last season. Oskaloosa, Valley Falls and JCN play in Class 2A with Riverside (formerly Wathena and Elwood) and Immaculata of Leavenworth. The Tigers and Kaws play in Class 4A with Tonganoxie and Basehor-Linwood. The Bulldogs play in Class 3A with Pleasant Ridge, Rossville and Silver Lake.
Coach: Mike Paramore, 11th year
2010 record: 6-4
The Kaws got back on the winning track last year after a rough season in 2009 and made their first trip back to the playoffs since losing in the state championship game in 2008.
Starting quarterback Jeremy Immenschuh and starting tailback Luke Kellum were both freshmen on the 2008 team and both became starters the next season. Head Coach Mike Paramore said it is like having two coaches on the field and if his team is successful it will be because of his senior leaders.
“Your leaders determine where you go,” he said. “It’s important to them. They can lead the other guys. They can say ‘Hey we’ve been here and we’ve been in these battles.’ Leadership is huge.”
Paramore said it is key to have three-year starters at important positions because of the playing time and experience they have.
“You can’t simulate football any other way,” he said. “You get better by playing. Their experience is huge.”
Paramore will return back to the spread offense that was used in 2008. He hopes to strengthen the running game by spreading out opposing defenses. The passing game will be utilized but will play off the run.
“We’ve got a lot of skill guys,” Paramore said. “We feel like they can do things when the ball is in their hands.”
Paramore said the seniors on his team are motivated to get deep into the playoffs because of their experience as freshmen.
“This is a motivated group,” Paramore said. “They saw how that group went about their business and they’re a tight knit group. I think this group is good enough to do some great things.”
Paramore also likes his team’s improvement on defense. Like his running game, the defense will focus on being physical and tough.
“I think we’re getting it figured back out again,” he said. “We want to be an aggressive pursuing team.”
Valley Falls Dragons
Coach: Rod Bunde, 19th year
2010 record: 6-4
The Dragons come off a season that started slow but ended with a trip to the playoffs and Head Coach Rod Bunde hopes this year’s team takes a page out of last year’s book.
Like last year the Dragons start out the season with a tough schedule before getting into their four-game district schedule. Last year the Dragons started slow but were able to dial it up during district play that began with a double overtime victory on the road at Oskaloosa.
Bunde returns nine seniors but will have to replace many starters at line and skill positions because of graduation or a position switch. His roster will also get back some kids who were lost to injury last year.
“We have kids with experience but will be moving around to different positions this year,” Bunde said. “We just hope to get better each week.”
Senior Brock Watson will start at quarterback for the Dragons. Watson has spent the last three seasons as the backup and was second team all conference last year at wide receiver. Bunde said Watson is a level headed kid with a lot of athletic ability.
“He’s a good leader,” Bunde said. “When we needed someone to step in he did a good job so we’re expecting him to do a good job for us this year.”
Monty Gier, Gates Glassel and Luke Burns will all see significant time at wide receiver but a group of runners including Bryson Smith, Riley Kearney, Kody Heuertz, Blake Burns, Elijah Clark, Derek Lassiter will all compete for playing time in the backfield.
Coach: Scott Whaley, 6th year
2010 record: 7-3
The Oskaloosa Bears have a lot of questions to answer if they are to get back to post season play after losing a lot of seniors and key players in the skill positions.
The Bears will have to replace their entire starting backfield. Last year three seniors primarily carried the ball and the same will be true for this season as the trio of Dalton Ricketts, Chris Garst and Matthew Henry try to fill that role.
Quarterback is still up for grabs with Dylan VanHoutan, Garrett Noble and Justin Sharp all competing for the spot.
Head Coach Scott Whaley said last week that many positions on the team are undecided.
“We haven’t really settled on anybody yet,” Whaley said last week. “We’ll have to decide who’s going to play there as we go on.”
Whaley said he isn’t making any changes to the program other than having different players.
“It will be some different guys carrying the football, a different guy throwing it,” Whaley said. “But we’re going to try to do what we normally do, we just have some different faces to plug in there.”
Whaley believes his team is a work in progress but hopes that once the dust settles the team will improve as the season goes along.
“We expect to get better every week,” Whaley said. “As we gain some experience we’ll get better as we see what we can and can’t do. We’re plugging away and working hard so we’ll see what happens.”
Jefferson West Tigers
Coach: Steve Johnson, 6th year
2010 record: 4-5
The Tigers bring back their most potent weapon from last year in senior quarterback Dalton Dean and some experienced runners behind him.
However, the up front linemen are inexperienced and will take some time to develop. Only one starter returns from last year to a line that will feature two juniors and three sophomores. Head Coach Steve Johnson said there will be some growing pains with the line.
“We’ve got all new bodies,” Johnson said. “This group will get better as the season goes along because they’re still learning the system. There’s a lot of good talent in there, they’re just young.”
Johnson said primarily his offense will focus on running the ball at the beginning of the season and work more of the passing game in as the season progresses. The seniors Mik Barnacik and Logan Herring will help get the young lineman where they need to be.
“We do have good runners so it does take some pressure off the guys up front,” he said. “Hopefully as the season progresses and those kids develop and get more comfortable we’ll be able to expand.”
Johnson said there are 26 sophomores on this year’s team who will provide a talented group and depth. That group went undefeated as freshmen and seventh and eighth graders.
“They are talented, they just need that varsity experience at that speed to see what it’s all about,” he said.
Coach: Mark McMillan, 18th year
2010 record: 3-6
Head Coach Mark McMillan will have to find a new signal caller this year but hard work and 10 returning seniors could be the spice the Chargers use to compete in 2011.
“If the kids keep working hard like they have been the first couple of days of practice I believe we’re going to be a salty team,” McMillan said.
Senior Dalton Minor and junior Cory Noll were both competing for the starting quarterback spot early in practice. Minor started at tight end last year and Noll started at the split end position. Minor was one of the backup quarterbacks last year.
McMillan said his team lost only three seniors from last year’s team and like quarterback, some other positions maybe switched to better match talents.
“We want to try to do several different things and move personnel around to be more effective,” he said. “We have good personnel to fill that void.”
Donavan Whitman returns as the tailback where he started much of last year and was the main running threat for the Chargers.
Some younger players are pushing for playing time in practice. McMillan said depth is his main concern heading into this Friday’s season opener. To gain depth McMillan said he will have to work some younger players into the game for experience.
The Chargers have run a spread offense the last two years. They will mix things up more this season but it will still be used at different times during the season.
“I’m getting comfortable with it and the kids are too,” McMillan said.
Coach: Chris Stewart, 4th year
2010 record: 3-6
The Bulldogs took another step forward last year improving by two games from the year before under second year starter at quarterback Marc Walbridge and running back Alex Courtney.
Head Coach Chris Stewart has been trying to build a program and believes his team has finally reached a point where they have some experience on the field and some leadership. Last year’s team featured only two seniors who played significant time.
“We’ve been waiting for awhile to get some senior leadership,” Stewart said. “We’ve got a pretty experienced team this year and our expectations are pretty high for them.”
The Bulldogs are still a little undersized at some positions on the line but have playing experience. Stewart hopes that experience will help when it comes time to play.
“The big thing for them is just being able to execute,” Stewart said. “We’re not really big but these guys have been playing.”
Stewart is still trying to build some depth on his team. He returns 10 starters on offense and defense but many of his kids play both sides of the ball due to a lack of numbers. Only 27 kids are on this year’s team.
Regardless of the numbers, Stewart still expects his team to perform well.
“I really expect our guys to execute the plays offensively and defensively the way we know they can,” he said. “I tell those guys they control the outcome of the game with the way they execute.”
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