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Football: Bombers ahead of schedule

Cannon Falls left tackle Austin Noble (left) puts a block on head coach Josh Hofstedt during drills Wednesday at Cannon Falls High School. The Bombers open the season Friday at home against Kenyon-Wanamingo. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

CANNON FALLS – So far, it’s been smooth sailing for the Cannon Falls Bombers.

Bringing back nine starters on defense and six on offense, Cannon Falls’ seniors are relishing how quickly practices are picking up as they prepare for the 2013 season.

“We’ve learned everything so much faster,” senior wide receiver Jordan Lundell said. “Even the coaches say, ‘We’re stuck, we don’t know what to do anymore’ because we’re learning so fast. We’re getting the offense down and the plays down quickly.”

Coming off a 7-4 season that saw the Bombers reach the Section 4AAA championship game, the confidence is palpable among Cannon Falls’ 15 seniors as they look for similar results in a new conference (Southern Football Alliance Red division) and section (1AAA).

“We want to win a conference championship, we want to win a section championship and go to the state tournament,” said Bombers’ head coach Josh Hofstedt. “That’s what our focus is and that’s what our seniors have planned, so I hope that can come together for them.”

Cannon Falls opens the season Aug. 30 at home against Kenyon-Wanamingo. Meanwhile, the Bombers feel farther along than that.

“We feel like we’re at mid-season already,” said senior wideout/defensive back Alex Bultena.

On defense, Cannon Falls has gotten into the more advanced parts of its system at a break-neck pace after only losing two starters in linebacker Andrew Anderson and cornerback Ian Althoff. With so much experience back, Hofstedt and the rest of the coaching staff saw the group’s cohesion paying off even before practices got underway last week.

“For our pass defense, we could see (their experience) working during passing league, where our guys were communicating and talking the lingo out there,” Hofstedt said. “They know how to make the adjustments without us. It’s like having a free week in practice since we have less to teach them.”

On offense, the biggest lost comes from Althoff, an All-Area running back that finished with 1,151 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Looking to replace that production are seniors Ryan Castillo and Sterling Carlson, while Lundell will split time at slot receiver and running back. 

Running the offense is senior quarterback Hunter Johnson, an All-Area second teamer that threw for 1,345 yards and rushed for another 474 yards.

“He’s gamey and as much of a competitor as I’ve seen out of anyone,” Hofstedt said. “Some people get hung up on his height (5-foot-7), but he’s a winner and he makes things happen.”

With work in the offseason, the confidence is growing for Cannon Falls’ passing game.

“(Hunter’s) gotten a lot better,” Lundell said. “We came out a couple weeks before practice and ran rounds. When we came into camp, we were ready to go.”

Add in an offensive line anchored by Austin Noble, a 6-5 275 left tackle who has garnered Division I interest, and the Bombers got a senior-laden lineup that figures to do some damage.

“Along with Austin, we got another senior lineman, Jake Langevin, who’s about 6-2, 300 pounds and he’s getting Division II looks,” Hofstedt said. “Then we have a state champion wrestler (senior Clay Broze) who’s 220 pounds and in great shape.”

Question marks remain as far as handling a new conference that features two teams from state last year in Kasson-Mantorville and Rochester Lourdes, as well as a new section. But none of that has dampened the Bombers’ hopes in 2013.

“We got a good senior class and a lot of good guys,” Lundell said. “I think we’ll have a good season.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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