One concern Shiloh Christian football coach Funnon Barker had entering the 2017 season was the starting quarterback position.
After two games, Barker is no longer concerned.
Sophomore Jaden Mitzel has completed 15 of 19 passes for 264 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Skyhawks to victories over Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood (54-12) and Grant County-Flasher (50-16). Mitzel threw for 133 yards and three touchdowns against MLS, and 131 yards and three scores in the victory over GC-F.
Barker said Mitzel has picked up where last year’s starting quarterback, Nick Pfaff, left off.
“Jaden worked really hard during the offseason and in the first couple of weeks of practice to win the job and we're very happy with the way he's played the past two games," Barker said. "Any time you begin a season with a new quarterback there are going to be concerns, but Jaden has stepped in and done a great job throwing the ball and running the offense. He's still settling in and there are things he needs to improve on, but we're liking what we're seeing so far and we look for him to continue to improve as the year goes along."
Mitzel’s passing ability compliments another strong Shiloh running game. Canaan Fagerland rushed for 188 yards in the season opener, and added 113 against GC-F. Jonas Jonson racked up 127 yards against GC-F.
“Everyone knows we like to run the football, and a strong running game can help a new quarterback get comfortable," Barker said. "Over the years we've had a well-balanced offense and we're expecting the same this year."
The Skyhawks will face Mott-Regent-New England at Mott tonight. The Wildfire are 1-1 this season.
Holsteins set at QB
Unlike Shiloh, New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin had zero concerns when it came to the starting quarterback.
Junior Evan Henke is back after leading the Holsteins to the 9-man state championship game in 2016. Henke completed 88 of 169 passes for 1,681 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. The second-team all-state selection also scored 10 touchdowns rushing.
In two games this season (both victories), Henke is 16-for-26 for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s always nice to have an experienced and talented quarterback to start the year with. Evan has been a starter since he was a freshman and he’s gained a lot of experience and confidence over the years,” said NSAGU coach Steve Kleinjan. “He’s gotten stronger and quicker since last year and we’re seeing improvement in the way he leads the team and in the way he handles the huddle. No doubt we’re going to be leaning heavily on him. He’s off to a nice start.”
The Holsteins also return three talented skill players –Garrett Soupir (747), Braden Zuroff (346) and Brandon Schroeder (338), who combined for 1,431 yards rushing in 2016. Zuroff and Schroeder also had 155 and 101 yards receiving, respectively.
However, NSAGU is rebuilding its offensive line. All-state center Nathan Wolf and guard Bailey Morman anchored the interior of last year’s front five, and all-state tight end Shane Forster was Henke’s favorite target.
“Those were big losses, but we think we have kids who can step in and do a good job for us,” Kleinjan said. “Dawson Bueligen was a running back last year, but we moved him to guard. Dillon Thiel was a backup lineman the last couple of years and now he’s getting his opportunity as a senior. Brandon Schroeder is playing tight end, and we have other kids who are able to play that position, too. We have a lot of new faces up front, but the potential is there. We've seen good things the first two games."
The Holsteins defeated Kidder County 22-14 in their season opener and Mott-Regent-New England 28-6 in their first Region 5 game. Kleinjan said his team improved immensely from one week to the next.
“We had a really tough game out of the gates with Kidder County, a good football team, but we worked hard on the things that we needed to work on and the kids really responded offensively and defensively against Mott,” he said. “We were in control from the start. I was really happy with the defense. If you hold an explosive team like Mott to six points, you’ve done well.”
Schroeder had three sacks and five tackles for a loss against the Wildfire, and Henke had 10 stops.
The Holsteins will play Grant County-Flasher tonight.
Expectations are high this season for the Center-Stanton volleyball team.
The Wildcats graduated an all-state setter from last year’s state tournament entry -- Madeline Henke -- but brought back five seasoned veterans in seniors Abby Hintz and Mykaela Jacobson, and juniors Ashley Frank, Amber Frank and Morgan Vitek. Add to that junior Rebecca Schmidt, who saw time last season, and junior Teegan Henke, an experienced varsity player who missed most of 2016 after tearing an ACL.
“We have a lot of experience back from a very good team and that's exciting,” said Center-Stanton coach Janet Erhardt. “We have five girls who were part of the rotation last year, plus some others who we know are going to help us. We’re definitely going to miss Madeline. She was a starter since her eighth-grade year and she was our leader on the court … she was the voice. But the girls had a good offseason together and developed some chemistry. They put in a lot of time and it's showing.”
Center-Stanton opened the season at the Coal Country Invitational last week and went 5-1 and placed third in the Gold Division Tournament. Its only loss was a three-setter to Dickinson Trinity in the semifinals.
Hintz totaled 44 kills in the tournament, while Vitek and Jacobson had 33 and 22, respectively. Vitek also had 73 digs.
Ashley Frank and sophomore Karsyn Haag shared the setting duties. They were credited with 57 and 44 assists, respectively.
“I was very happy with the setters. Everyone worked well together,” Erhardt said. “Ashley had some experience setting last year and was very comfortable in that role. Karsyn is new, but she stepped in did a nice job last weekend. I think we’re going to be OK.”
Erhardt expects a wide open Region 5 this season.
“The region usually is very competitive. There are a lot of good teams out there again,” she said. “We saw Flasher and Shiloh at the tournament last weekend and we know for sure that they have good teams. All we know is we have to keep working hard and stay focused if we want to achieve our goals."
The Wildcats will host Shiloh next Thursday in their first region match.