Football: Brand-new Bombers aim for success
CANNON FALLS – When Cannon Falls and St. Charles open the 2014 prep football season on Friday, it will be a battle of two teams that won a combined four regular season games last fall. In fact, both the Bombers and the Fighting Saints finished 2-6 ahead of the playoffs.
But that’s where their paths changed dramatically.
St. Charles bowed out of the Section 1AA bracket after a 61-20 thrashing from eventual Class 2A state champion Chatfield. Cannon Falls, which lost five straight games to close out Southern Football Alliance Red Division play, promptly knocked off second-seeded Tri-City United in the first round of the Section 1AAA playoffs.
The Bombers captured a fourth victory in the section semifinals with a 33-16 victory over third-seeded Plainview-Elgin-Millville before top seed Rochester Lourdes ended the surprising Cannon Falls run with a 29-15 decision in the section title game.
Bomber head coach Josh Hofstedt said he wanted a better regular season, but the team ended up where it wanted to be: playing for a chance to go to state. Things came together at the right time, Hofstedt said.
Now, with a large part of that team off to college, Hofstedt is faced with rebuilding, or reloading. And it all started months ago.
“We’ve been working hard this offseason, getting in the weight room. And we’ve got a bunch of guys that are ready to step up,” said senior co-captain Quinton Lindow.
Not all spots had been settled on as of last week, but the many upperclassmen are giving it their best shot.
“There’s a few battles, but it’s mainly a bunch of juniors and seniors who have stepped up and are ready to fill (spots) and produce,” Lindow added.
With so much of the offense gone – including quarterback Hunter Johnson, and wide receiver Jordan Lundell – it would seem obvious to look at the holes and worry. But these Bombers are not the worrying types.
“Instead of looking at it like, ‘Oh, we lost all these different people,’ what we’re hoping to do is look at it where there are all these spots that are going to provide the upcoming people with opportunities to shine,” senior co-captain Matthew Delk said. “It’s more opportunities to get out there, get playing time, and really show everyone what you can do. We’ve got a lot of people who have been working hard, and are looking forward to getting some playing time and hitting some people.”
“It is rare, because last year there were a lot of (seniors) playing. The juniors are really stepping up. The quarterback, Mason Beissel, is really getting it done. And a bunch of the receivers have been putting in work and are ready to go,” Lindow said.
The offense, which featured a lot of running and throwing from Johnson, will attempt to be more balanced behind Beissel.
“It is quite different,” Lindow said. “We’re going to run it straight at you more instead of scrambling around like Hunter did. And we’re also going to pass quite a bit like we did last year.”
And perhaps the biggest key is Hofstedt’s willingness to keep the same playbook while, at the same time, molding his play calling to match his talent.
“Our offense hasn’t really changed, it’s the same offense. But we do try to adjust it year to year with the talent that we have,” Hofstedt said. “There’s some little changes because of different skill sets, but it’s the same system. It’s the same offense.”
But will it be the same kind of season? After St. Charles, Cannon Falls will host PEM, which split the season series with the Bombers with a 21-20 Week 6 overtime victory. Cannon Falls then will alternate road and home games with the cream of the SFA Red crop. A trip to Section 1AAAA finalist Stewartville is followed by a visit from Rochester Lourdes in Week 4. The second half of the season includes a stop in Byron, a home date with La Crescent, and a Week 7 jaunt to Kasson-Mantorville, the defending Section 1AAAA champions. Lake City will head to Cannon Falls to close out the regular season.
It’s a tough slate of games for a team that may be relying on a few sophomores as well as some inexperienced juniors, and some seniors learning new roles.
But the Bombers appear ready. Or, if 2013 taught anyone anything, they will be when it matters.
“The sophomores and juniors have done a really great job of stepping up, especially over the summer, they’ve been working their tails off in the weight room and doing the different training,” Delk said. “I know the juniors are a fantastic class, they’ve done a great job stepping up to the plate, and we’re looking forward to seeing some great things come out of them this year.”