Football 2012: Expectations remain high for defending champ Longhorns
Published on -8/30/2012, 10:50 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
Kensington-Thunder Ridge coach Jerry Voorhees was uncertain about several things regarding this year's football team.
Thunder Ridge graduated six starters on offense and defense from its dominant 2011 Eight-Man Division II state championship squad, and Voorhees said he still wasn't sure where their replacements would fit this season.
The playbook also needed to be changed to take advantage of the strengths of his new group, so the players had to learn new terminology.
However, he was sure about one thing: Expectations will remain elevated.
"The expectations are high for this football team even though we have lost a lot of kids," Voorhees said.
Thunder Ridge blew by most opponents it faced last season, winning by an average margin of 40.5 points. The Longhorns even won state by a wide margin, defeating Baileyville-B&B 46-14.
But with just three players returning who started last season, this team will be different from the squad that took the field in 2011.
Senior fullback Trevor Lowe is Thunder Ridge's top returning offensive weapon. Lowe rushed for 855 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, but other than him, Thunder Ridge's backfield will have all new faces.
Junior Derek Reed will start at quarterback. Reed saw limited action last season at running back but won the starting quarterback job this summer.
Senior Greg Yoxall, sophomore Trent Rietzke and senior Chandler Hoskins will split time at halfback -- none of whom saw more than sparse carries for the Longhorns last season.
However, Voorhees said he's confident in his players.
"We have a lot of young kids that could have played on a lot of other teams but didn't play because we were so senior loaded last year," Voorhees said.
Senior Kade Dennis, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, played on the offensive and defensive lines last season and is the only starter from either front line returning. Junior linebacker Garrett Krueger, the other returning starter, helped contribute to make Thunder Ridge's defense No. 1 in Eight-Man Division II.
Voorhees said it will be difficult to replace players like graduates Joel Struckhoff, Blane Hrabe and Dakota Foreman, but the players who didn't get onto the field much are ready to step in.
"With last year's group, you had kids that had played together since fourth grade," Voorhees said. "They had unity going on, but that has poured over to this group of kids."
For instance, Voorhees said he has high expectations for Benton Hrabe, a 5-foot-10, 225-pound junior lineman.
"He would have played for a lot of teams last year," Voorhees said.
Last season was a historical year for Thunder Ridge.
They were the best team every time they stepped on the field. The Longhorns averaged 48 points per game and allowed just 7.5 points per game.
Lowe said it will be difficult to repeat what 2011's team accomplished.
"We'll have a good team this year, but it won't be like last year," Lowe said. "Last year, we were really, really good."
"Pretty much every position we had was really good," Lowe continued. "As long as you did your job, you would stop them or we would gain yards. Everybody on the team was really, really good. The line was good, and the backs were good."
This group of Longhorns is full of unknowns, but Voorhees said the mystery won't last for long.
"The first week or two we are going to find out what we got here," Voorhees said.