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Injury-depleted Imperials hoping to use new formula in 9-man playoffs
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Injury-depleted Imperials hoping to use new formula in 9-man playoffs

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There's Plan B. Then there's Plan C and D. 

Unfortunately, the Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter football team is getting down in the alphabet at the worst possible time.

The Imperials lost their starting quarterback, Tucker Schneider, to a major knee injury Sept. 24. Then last week, backup QB and starter of the future Joren Jangula went down. He also is likely lost for the season.

This is all happening as the nine-man playoffs kick off Saturday. The Imperials host Mott-Regent at 1 p.m. Plan D will be in full effect.

"It's next man up, as hard as it is to say that because you feel terrible for the kids," Imperials head coach Kelly McCleary said. "Especially for a kid like Tucker who's been such a great player for us. You hate to see that happen."

You wouldn't put it past McCleary to find a way, though. The Napoleon native has a .729 winning percentage in his 14 seasons leading the Imperials.

However they piece it together Saturday, it'll look different.

"It shortens up the playbook a little bit," McCleary joked. "You can't really go in and just make a different offense. We have some new concepts, but we still have the same attitude and goals for ourselves."

The Imperials finished the regular season 6-2. Their only two losses came to New Salem-Almont and South Border, which have a combined record of 15-1. Schneider, a returning all-state quarterback, was hurt in the South Border game.

"Tucker had such a big arm, he softened up what the defense could do," McCleary said.

Jangula, a sophomore, threw for more than 200 yards in the Imperials' 30-22 win over Hettinger-Scranton, the Region 6 regular season champion, last Friday. He also had a pair of touchdown passes to Trevor Moos.

"He has a really bright future," McCleary said of Jangula. "We've known that for a while."

But with both now sidelined, the Imperials are coloring way outside the lines.

Trenton Erbele, the team's best lineman, is playing a lot of quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is a handful to bring down in the open field. He had two touchdown runs in the win last week over Hettinger-Scranton.

"We could put him anywhere and he'd do a good job," McCleary said of Erbele.

Jaxcen Glatt, a 6-0, 145-pound senior wide receiver/defensive back, also is likely to see snaps. Glatt has played some quarterback previously.

Adding to the degree of difficulty for McCleary's bunch is that senior wide receiver/linebacker Patrick Pechtel also is out, and likely only could play again if the Imperials make a deep run.

"He's a good player," McCleary said of Pechtel. "It's a tough deal, especially for seniors."

Kayden Sperle, another of the Imperials' nine upperclassmen, drew high marks for his performance this fall. 

"He's had a really good year," McCleary said of the 5-9, 160-pound linebacker/receiver. "He's been a good leader for us and really stepped up on the defensive side of the ball."

Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter defeated Mott-Regent 44-24, but that was back in August. McCleary expects a heavy dose of ground and pound from the Wildfire.

"They're a physical team and they've gotten better as the year went on," he said. "A bunch of those teams in (Region 6) play smash-mouth football and they're good at it."

Under McCleary, a deep postseason run, no matter who is available to play, is not out of the question.

"We had pretty high hopes going into the season. We were playing pretty well, we just got hit by injuries," McCleary said. "I'm proud of the kids. They haven't complained or anything like that. They've kept fighting and that's what we'll need to do again Saturday."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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