’Horns will play host
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Head Football Coach Dan Lenners likes what he’s seen from his team so far heading into Friday’s season opener.
The Chase County Longhorns will play host to the Gordon-Rushville Mustangs who come off a 3-5 season last year while the Longhorns went 6-4.
Lenners said he’s seeing the benefits of a summer of hard work and dedication by his players.
“They did a good job of coming in and working hard over the summer,” he said.
Lenners believes this work has resulted in the team coming into the season as the best conditioned he’s had.
For example, a dozen players never missed a summer running or weight-lifting session. A bunch more made at least 90 percent of the sessions, he said.
Lenners brings back a number of starters and experienced players from last year’s state playoff team.
They include Kelton Fisher, Isaac Sorensen, Jeff Dickey, Justus Wallin, Kevin German, Tyler Oxford, David Almanza, Shea Eidson, Trey Milner and Dan Sullivan.
With this experience, Lenners is looking to go up-tempo with the offense.
He said they worked on tempo during preseason practices by speeding things up. Coaches feel it’s helped the kids stay more focused.
This focus, along with summer conditioning habits, will make the team better in the third and fourth quarters, Lenners said.
Plus, Lenners said they’ve tried to simplify both the offensive and defensive schemes.
Lenners said one of the challenges this year is rebuilding the line.
Probable starters going into Friday night’s opener include Eli Engbrecht at center; Khris Kuhlman or Oxford will be at one guard spot with Charles Holman and Luis Rodriguez competing for the other guard spot.
Sam Haarberg and Jacob Christensen will run at the tackle spots, with help from Sam Cahow.
Lenners feels good about having eight players who can play in the line.
Sorensen will be the lead tight end with freshman Bryson Fisher seeing action there as well.
Kevin German and Shea Eidson will play the wide-out positions with Almanza playing the slot.
Kelton Fisher will lead the team at quarterback with backup from Travis Luhrs and Destyn Milner.
Lenners moved Wallin from the line to the back field this year, for his blocking and running abilities at fullback.
Running backs include Dickey, Jake Lueth, Dan Sullivan and Trey Milner.
This kind of depth will allow offensive coordinator Bob Holman to platoon backs to keep fresh players in the game.
Almanza will handle the kicking duties, coming off a strong year last season. Four others will vie for the punter position.
Lenners said the Longhorns will operate out of both a three-man and four-man front.
He said they’ve worked especially hard this preseason on tackling fundamentals and running to the ball.
In a four-man front, Sorensen and Kuhlman will run at ends, with Christensen at one tackle and Oxford, Rodriguez or Cahow at the other tackle spot.
Linebackers include Dickey and Wallin in the middle and Trey Milner and Sullivan on the outsides.
Almanza and either Eidson or Bryson Fisher will be at the corners with Kelton Fisher as the safety.
In a three-man front, Sorensen will drop back as a linebacker.
Lenners said the Longhorns will have their work cut out for them in the C1-9 district that includes Cozad, Gothenburg, Kearney Catholic and Minden.
Non-district games include Gordon-Rushville, Sidney and Chadron. This year, both G-R and Chadron travel to Imperial.
G-R lost a close battle to Ainsworth last week, 12-14.
Lenners said they like to throw the football. Their starter at quarterback returns and can throw the ball quite accurately.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. here Friday night.
This year’s roster includes:
Seniors—David Almanza, Luis Rodriguez, Justus Wallin, Shea Eidson, Khris Kuhlman, Sam Haarberg, Trey Milner, Dan Sullivan, Kevin German, Tyler Oxford, Charles Holman and Sam Cahow.
Juniors—Isaac Sorensen, Travis Luhrs, Kelton Fisher, Kevin Chavira, Jacob Christensen, Allan Smith, Jake Leuth, Jeff Dickey and Brian Burpo.
Sophomores—Hunter Dillan, Eric Chavira, Eli Engbrecht, Destyn Milner and Taylor Wilson.
Freshmen—Zachary Space, Nolan Spady, Hunter Bartels, Bryson Fisher, Garrett Taylor, Dakota Wallin, Trey Bahler, Jacob Kelley and Cody Williams.