Football: Red Wing roster full of new facesFans attending Red Wing football games this year might need to check the program a little more often with all the new faces.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
Fans attending Red Wing football games this year might need to check the program a little more often with all the new faces.
The Wingers graduated 24 seniors from last year’s 7-4 team that advanced to the Section 1AAAA title game against Faribault. Red Wing fell 28-21, one game shy of a state tournament berth, and few pieces from that team return this season.
Despite the lack of returners, the experience of reaching the section title game hasn’t been lost on the new group.
“The expectations are up there, but I think we want to get there,” senior defensive back Andrew Sandstrom said. “That’s the thing. This whole group had that taste of a section championship and we’re hungry for more.”
Last year’s success, the Wingers’ first winning season in a decade, helped set a precedent for this year’s group.
“I think the No. 1 thing it did was show these guys we could win football games,” fifth-year head coach Matt Schultz said.
Red Wing’s seniors last year called on the underclassmen to contribute to the team at a team camp and that’s carried through to this year.
“I definitely feel an obligation as a senior,” offensive lineman Jordan Blank said. “Last year, I remember all the seniors they asked us at the beginning of the season, ‘This is our senior year and we want you guys to help us to have a good season to go out on.’ We expect the same out of our juniors this year.”
The offensive line is one spot with experience. Seniors Jordan Shull, Matt Zorn, Kyle LaPorte, Blank and Joe Czech return after starting as juniors. The line was one of the question marks heading into last season and is now a strength. The line has some size with Shull standing at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Zorn at 6 foot and 221 pounds, Blank at 6-2, 222 and Czech at 6-4, 227 pounds.
That’s good news for the team as it brings in first-year starter Ricky Turcotte at quarterback. Turcotte will benefit from the offensive line’s experience as he adjusts to the role.
“They know where to go and we communicate with each other in the huddle,” Blank said. “We know where the weaknesses are in the defense and we let them know that I can put this guy on his butt and run right behind me.”
The Wingers will employ an offense similar to last year’s with an emphasis on the passing game and there will be a whole new crew of receivers. Andy Kalb saw time at wide receiver last year and there’s junior Isaac Toivonen and others for Turcotte to find.
Senior Andre Page played at wide receiver but was used more often on running plays. Page often went in motion and took hand-offs and forged a ground game for Red Wing to balance the passing attack.
Sandstrom is one of the few defensive starters back. Chris Holm returns to linebacker and Jason Berg is a returner who played on the defensive line.
The defensive line lost Hoka Janis, Ryan Parr and Jonny Banks to graduation. That group utilized its speed and athleticism to shut down opponents but the line will have a different makeup this year.
“Most of the kids are thicker, more run stoppers,” fifth-year head coach Matt Schultz said.
Team speed is down this year, according to Schultz. Red Wing fielded a team where nearly every player on the field ran a sub-five second 40-yard dash last season, Schultz said.
“We were really fast last year,” Schultz said. “We probably have the same number of kids in that really fast category … five or six kids. Where we excelled last year was the number of kids that were in that 4.7, 4.8, 4.9 range.”
The Wingers open the season Friday vs. Austin at 7 p.m. in Red Wing.