LAKE CITY – Michael Noll will actually be touching the ball less this season. But that’s hardly any demotion for the Lake City senior.
The starting center for the Tigers in 2013, the 5-foot-11 200-pound Noll will be making the move to the backfield as the fullback in Lake City’s three-back offense.
“It’s exciting,” Noll said about the move. “It’s definitely a lot more fun getting the ball than just blocking for whoever’s got it. … I’ll be able to start making some plays on the offense and helping out there instead of always blocking.”
Except for a few plays in eighth-grade football, Noll said he’s never played fullback. But Lake City head coach Trevor Narum couldn’t keep one of his best athletes away from the ball.
“He would probably be our best linemen, but he’ll probably be one of our best running backs,” Narum said. “He’s got one of the top 40 times on our team, I think he’s got the top shuttle run time on our team. He’s very, very athletic and he’s looked good so far.”
In an offense that has relied on quality runners Elliot Cox, Will Balow and Mitch Kuchinka in recent years, Narum hopes Noll can continue that trend for a Tigers team looking to rebound from a 3-6 season, with a 3-5 mark in the Southern Football Alliance Red Division.
Starting against Kenyon-Wanamingo on Aug. 28, Noll will be paired in the backfield with fellow senior running backs Luke Hartzell (364 yards, six rushing touchdowns last season) and Easton Cox.
The transition never seemed too tough. Narum’s logic is wherever Noll is on the field, he’ll succeed.
“He’s one of those kids where you could put him at any of the 11 positions on our team on offense or defense and he’d be very good at any of those positions,” Narum said. “He’s that athletic, and with his size, he’s got a great size-speed-quickness ratio for a high-school kid.”
Noll’s move away from the line hurts an already-undersized line that is returning just one starter from last year’s team in Tristan Hestnas. And for the first three games, Lake City will be without four starters, including two offensive linemen, due to academic ineligibility.
“It’s a tough decision,” Narum said about moving Noll off the line, “but we just need other kids to step up, especially at the center and guard positions.”
Meanwhile, Noll, an All-Section 1AAA selection as a linebacker, is ready to prove his merits as a running back.
“I kind of always knew what to do for fullback, and it’s pretty easy learning everything,” Noll said.
And while he helps lead the Tigers’ backfield, he’s hoping also to help Lake City back to prominence like when the team won back-to-back Hiawatha Valley League Gold Division titles in 2011 and 2012.
“I feel like we can compete this year, better than we did at the end last year,” Noll said. “I think the experience everyone got last year because of the injuries will really help us this year. I think we’ll be able to compete with the teams like (Rochester) Lourdes and Kasson. There’ll be some tough teams, but I think we’ll compete this year.”