New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin is back in 11-man football.
It’s familiar territory for longtime head coach Steve Kleinjan, who guided the Holsteins in their transition from 9-man to 11-man in 2007 and then back to 9-man in 2015.
His experience is invaluable in making the move, but it’s his team’s lack of varsity experience that he feels is its biggest challenge.
“It’s a larger challenge because we graduated such a large group of seniors,” said Kleinjan, who is in his 23rd year at the helm. “With that, the players have established the work ethic needed to be successful.”
Kleinjan said his team graduated 15 seniors last year from a team that was 11-0 before losing to Thompson 42-28 in the Dakota Bowl 9-man championship. Now preparing for an 11-man season in Region 4, he said the focus in camp hasn’t been much different than it normally is.
“You tackle and you block and you do those things the same,” Kleinjan said. “(11-man is) a little more defense-oriented. You generally don’t have those high-scoring games in 11-man that you have in 9-man because the field isn’t as wide open. You have to teach more patience offensively, sustained drives, things like that.”
The Holsteins will lean on a trio of seniors in Adam Morman, Jake Sanders and Tayden Soupir, along with junior Logan Becker. Morman, Becker and Sanders will play along the offensive and defensive lines, while Soupir was a receiver and defensive back last season.
“We just want to go out and attack each week,” Kleinjan said. “That’s the idea. It’s going to be a transition. We’re going to play some teams we haven’t played in a few years. It’s just a process of building each game and getting better.”
Roughriders turn to quick-strike attack
Southern McLean head coach Josh Harvey really likes his wide receiver depth. They’re young and they’re fast, he said. And that’s why he’s hoping to have an offense this season that puts these playmakers on display.
“A lot of the formations are the same,” said Harvey, who is in his sixth season as head coach. “We changed a lot of what we’re reading for our quarterbacks to hopefully make it simpler for them to read the coverage and get the ball into our playmakers’ hands.”
Harvey added that the team lacks depth along the offensive line but boasts talent at the skill positions as the Roughriders hope to bounce back from a 1-7 season in 2018. The offense will feature the team’s receivers and should shorten the amount of time linemen need to hold their blocks.
“We’re trying to incorporate a lot of quick outside throws to get the ball into their hands as fast as possible,” Harvey said.
Proving a boost to the team’s offensive line is junior Hunter Klindtworth. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior played fullback last season but accepted the opportunity to provide much-needed veteran leadership on the offensive line.
“Klindtworth is doing a really good job for us,” Harvey said. “It was a need. … We asked him if he’d be willing to make that switch and he said absolutely.”
-- New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin isn’t the only team in Region 4 that was playing 9-man last season. Shiloh Christian has also moved to 11-man this season. The two teams met in the 9-man quarterfinals last season, with the Holsteins winning 50-14. “Shiloh has been very successful at 9-man, so it’ll be fun competing against them at 11-man,” Harvey said.
-- Kleinjan points to Bowman County, Dickinson Trinity and Shiloh Christian as the favorites in Region 4. Bowman County and Dickinson Trinity each reached the Class A state semifinals last year. “Those three teams are the teams to beat in the league,” he added.
-- Shiloh Christian returns a pair of 9-man all-state second-team selections in quarterback/linebacker Jaden Mitzel and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Josh Lardy. Both are seniors.