Football Season Preview: Cannon Falls ready to stand its ground
CANNON FALLS – The Cannon Falls Bombers have no intentions of letting up.
Finishing 7-4 and reaching the Section 4AAA finals last year, Cannon Falls goes into the unknown of being one of the smallest schools in the new Southern Football Alliance Red division, as well as moving to Section 1AAA.
But the changes aren’t affecting the Bombers. In fact, they’re embracing everything.
“I like coming in as kind of being an underdog,” said senior wide receiver/defensive back Jordan Lundell. “We want to prove people wrong.”
Wideout/defensive back Alex Bultena added, “It’s real exciting for us. We’re starting fresh, we’re gearing up for new teams. We know a lot of kids from different schools, so it’ll be fun having new rivalries.”
And with nine returning starters on defense and six starters back on offense, the Bombers believe they got the talent and the experience to make another deep postseason run.
“We can’t control what conference we’re put in; we look at it as having great competition that hopefully makes us a better team,” Cannon Falls head coach Josh Hofstedt said of Section 1AAA. “It’s going to be the same thing as our normal conference schedule: it’s going to be a grind.”
With 15 seniors back in the fold, the Bombers have been ahead of schedule as they prepare for a rivalry game with Kenyon-Wanamingo at 7 p.m. Friday at John Burch Park.
“It’s been really exciting; we’ve looked up to the seniors in years past,” Bultena said. “It’s been real fun being the leaders this year, and it’s a good group of guys to play with.”
Many of Cannon Falls’ skill players return on offense, including quarterback Hunter Johnson and Lundell and Bultena at wideout.
“(Hunter’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, but he’s a winner and he makes things happen.”
Not only will Lundell be expected to help with the passing game, but he will be seen as an all-around playmaker in the Bombers’ offense.
“Jordan can play all over the field for us,” Hofstedt said. “He’ll play running back and slot. He’ll continue to do that with a bigger role for us, doing everything for us.”
Austin Noble, who has garnered Division I interest, will anchor the offensive line along with Jake Langevin, who has gotten looks at the Division II level. Clay Broze, the Class 2A 220-pound state champion in wrestling, will play on both sides of the ball.
Where Cannon Falls is missing a proven commodity on offense is at running back, where the team looks to replace All-Area running back Ian Althoff. But, the team has more than a few options.
“We have a stable of running backs we can use,” Hofstedt said. “Ryan Castillo and Sterling Carlson are both really good athletes and both are about 190 pounds, so they’re pretty big backs for high school. We also got some junior speedsters like Jack Holscher.”
Defensively, only two starters from last year – Andrew Anderson and Althoff – are gone, leaving an extremely talented and experienced group on the field.
“We switched it up a little bit from last year,” Lundell said of the defense. “Pass coverage will be good, run defense will be good. We got some big hitters and we got a lot of guys back from last year, so it should be good. … (In the secondary) it’s great to know we’re in sync with each other. We don’t have to keep teaching new people everything.”
With this group of players, a repeat trip to a section championship game remains on the forefront of their minds as the Bombers look to return to state for the first time since 1996.
“We want to win a conference championship and the section championship and go to the state tournament,” Hofstedt said. “That’s what our focus is and that’s what our seniors have planned, so I hope that can come together for them.”