Big football games between Shiloh Christian and New Salem are nothing new.
This time around, however, there will be four more players on the field when it goes down.
The Holsteins host the fifth-ranked Skyhawks tonight in a Class A, Region 4 showdown of 4-0 squads.
“It always exciting when us and New Salem get together,” Shiloh head coach Funnon Barker said. “We have a lot of respect for coach (Steve) Kleinjan and that program. Whether it’s 9-man or 11-man, when coach Kleinjan’s involved you know his team is going to be ready to play.”
After several marquee 9-man matches, this time around it’s a meaningful 11-man tilt.
The adjustment has been fairly seamless for both sides. Kleinjan’s Holsteins last played 11-man in 2014.
“For us, it hasn’t been that big of a change,” Kleinjan said. “Our coaching staff is familiar with the 11-man game and we’ve played some of the same teams."
Both teams have been dominant early. The Holsteins have allowed only 34 points through four games, although Kleinjan cautioned the early results.
“The front end of our schedule was against teams we felt like we could have success against,” he said. “The back part is where we’re going to really be tested and that starts (Friday) against Shiloh.”
New Salem’s strong start is all the more impressive considering the spine of last year’s 9-man state runner-up team was 15 seniors, a handful of which are now playing college ball.
“Our kids understand our expectations,” Kleinjan said. “We want to maintain a standard from year-to-year and our players know that.”
Senior Clay Gerhardt and junior Dawson Zuroff have shared ball-carrying duties almost equally so far, while sophomore quarterback Gunnar Remboldt has made progress learning on the job.
Strong play up front from the likes of seniors Adam Morman and Jake Sanders and junior Logan Becker have paved the way for a Holstein offense averaging nearly 41 points per game.
You have free articles remaining.
Tonight, New Salem will see size up front rare at the high school level.
Shiloh’s road-grating front features seniors Josh Lardy (6-1, 220), Evan Baker (6-1, 290), Marshall Reikow (5-9, 290), juniors Dylan Finley (6-3, 335), Stephan Packineau (6-3, 325) and sophomore (Trenton Radenz (6-1, 210).
Behind them, there’s a lot to worry about as well with two-way star Jaden Mitzel triggering the offense at quarterback. Running backs Trey Brunelle and Cole Walth can score from anywhere on the field. Braiden Kuehn, a junior, is a threat through the air.
“(Shiloh) is loaded up front. They have so many big kids up front it’s hard to comprehend,” Kleinjan said. “Their quarterback is extremely talented. They’re a hard team to prepare for. This is going to be a heckuva challenge for us.
“Right now, they’re the best team in our league.”
Under Barker, the Skyhawks embraced the move to 11-man.
“We obviously saw with the way our enrollment was trending this was going to happen,” Barker said. “Our kids worked hard in the offseason to prepare to where we felt good about where we were when the season started.”
The Skyhawks have been explosive both running and throwing. They’ve scored at least 39 points in all four games.
“Being able to run the football has been big for us,” Barker said. “You feel really good when you have a player like Jaden (Mitzel) leading your team. He's a very good football player on both sides of the ball."
Shiloh’s schedule also stiffens in the coming weeks. Three of their next four games are against teams with winning records. The head coach says work remains to be done.
“We talk about trusting the process and preparing for each team on a week to week basis and if we do those things, winning is a byproduct of that,” Barker said. “Our kids have attacked each week with the intention of getting better. We’ve done a lot of good things so far, but we still haven’t played our best football.
“This week, against a team like New Salem, will give us a really good indication of where we’re at right now.”