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|11/21/2012 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Seniors dominate 2012 All-Observer football team|
By Ross Eberhart
There is no substitute, according to the time-honored proverb, for experience.
And that adage held especially true for the area's two football teams.
Leading the way for Central's historic journey to the state quarterfinals was a group of 14 seniors who put in the work during the off-season to avenge a junior season that ended a field goal short of the playoffs.
The Sabers were not the only team loaded with seniors as Northeast had 13 of them on its squad this fall.
With both teams sporting a large number of veteran players, it should come as no surprise that seniors dominate this year's All-Observer football team.
Of the 27 spots on the team, 19 are manned by seniors.
Nowhere is the domination more apparent than on the All-Observer defense which has just one junior among its 12 honorees.
Leading the defense are three senior captains - Central's A.J. Smith and Austin Lechtenberg and Northeast's Matt Lorenzen.
Smith lived in opponent's backfields from his defensive end spot. The senior led the Sabers and finished second in the area with 67 tackles with 31 of those stops being solo.
Nobody in the Observer-area finished with more tackles for loss than Smith, who had 17, while also coming up with six-and-a-half sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
On offense, Smith played tight end and provided the Sabers with another strong blocker. The senior also caught four passes for good measure, gaining 56 yards.
Along with playing both offense and defense, Smith also completed his second year as the Sabers' punter, finishing the year with 35 punts and a 31.7 average.
Lechtenberg ended up playing both safety positions for Central this fall and excelled in both of them.
The senior finished second behind Smith with 60 tackles on the season for the Sabers with 37 of them being solo stops.
Lechtenberg also had two tackles for loss, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
On offense, Lechtenberg was both a running and receiving threat for the Sabers. On the ground, the senior rushed 79 times for 411 yards (an average of 5.2 yards per carry) and scored four touchdowns.
As a receiver, Lechtenberg led the Sabers in three different categories, finishing the year with 17 catches, 177 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
There were not many quarterbacks in the state that also played middle linebacker, but that is just what Lorenzen did for the Rebels this fall.
The senior started as a strong safety but then moved into the middle midway through the season. Lorenzen ended up finishing his senior season with 50 tackles - good for fourth on the team.
Twenty-four of those stops proved to be solo and Lorenzen had two tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery as well.
Lorenzen was just as good as the Rebels' quarterback as he set a new program record with 1,248 yards through the air.
The senior completed 70 of his 146 attempts and tossed seven touchdown passes, while also earning another score on the ground.
Bookending Smith on the defensive line is another Saber senior - Drew Volrath.
Like his fellow Central defensive end, Volrath was constantly disrupting the opponent's offense.
Volrath finished the year with 56 tackles, including 24 solo, and was third on the team with 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. In addition, the Central senior also recovered a fumble.
In between Volrath and Smith are a pair of Rebel defensive tackles - Brady Eberhart and Jake Nelson.
Eberhart finished fifth for the Rebels in tackles this year with 48 (18 of the tackles were solo stops), while also coming up with three tackles for loss - good for second on the team - and a fumble recovery.
Eberhart played on the Rebels' offensive line as well, starting the year at guard before switching over to center.
Nelson added 40 tackles for Northeast with 14 of them being solo, and the senior added a tackle for loss as well.
Nelson also played on the offensive line for the Rebels as he put together a strong season at guard.
Two other Rebels - seniors Dylan Ploog and Cole Dickey - join Lorenzen in the All-Observer linebacking corps.
Ploog proved to be all over the field for Northeast as he led both the team and the area with 78 tackles this season.
Twenty-eight of the tackles proved to be solo stops and Ploog had a pair of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Like Eberhart and Nelson, Ploog spent his time on offense on the Rebels' line, working to open up holes and protect Lorenzen.
Just behind Ploog on the tackle chart for the Rebels was Dickey, who had 61 tackles during his senior year, including 25 solo stops.
Like Ploog, Dickey had two tackles for loss and the outside linebacker added a fumble recovery as well.
On offense, Dickey played fullback and gained 15 yards for the Rebels on limited carries.
Rounding out the group of linebackers is Central senior Jake Thumann.
Playing outside linebacker for the Sabers, Thumann tied for fourth on the team with 57 tackles, including 28 solo stops.
Thumann had seven tackles for loss as well and had a hand in four takeaways by intercepting two passes and recovering two fumbles.
The senior earned a pair of carries on offense, gaining 11 yards, and also handled kickoff duties during the second half of the season, averaging 45 yards on his kicks, while also booting two extra points.
Joining Lechtenberg in the All-Observer secondary is another Saber senior, Mitch Kirby.
Playing cornerback for the Sabers, Kirby finished the year with 47 tackles, including 35 solo stops and a pair of tackles for loss.
The senior also tied for the area lead with four interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
On offense, Kirby earned one carry and turned it into a 33-yard touchdown. The senior also caught eight passes as a receiver for 71 yards.
Also earning a spot in the defensive backfield is Rebel senior Tait Wilson.
Before having his season come to a premature end, Wilson played cornerback for the Rebels and finished the year with 11 tackles, including seven solo stops, and a fumble recovery.
Wilson also caught two passes for Northeast on offense for 72 yards, while also acting as the Rebel long snapper.
Rounding out the All-Observer defense is its lone junior - Jake Kagemann of Central.
The cornerback across from Kirby, Kagemann led the Sabers and the area with 40 solo tackles (he finished the year with 59 overall).
In addition, the junior had two tackles for loss and intercepted a pair of passes as well.
Kagemann also returned punts for the Sabers, amassing 104 yards in returns.
Sabers abound on All-Observer offense
Coming off a season in which they set program records for rushing and total yards, there was a lot to like about the Central offense this fall.
And the Sabers' dominance on offense shows up on the All-Observer team as well, as Central players take up 10 of the 14 spots on the offensive side of the ball.
Leading the way is the entire Central offensive line - tackles Doug Hayen and Volrath, guards Drew Schroeder and Chase Kraklio and center Cameron Donovan - which paved the way for the Sabers' potent rushing attack.
The group might have been undersized (only Hayen and Donovan cracked 200 pounds), but they more than made up for it by using equal measures of technique, leverage and tenacity to open up the holes the Sabers needed.
The proof is in the pudding, or rather the yards the Sabers gained this season. Central finished second in class 3A and set a new school record with 3,636 rushing yards and finished the season with 4,339 total yards - another program best.
Each of the quintet assisted the Sabers on defense as well.
Volrath's play has already been mentioned, but the Sabers also got 50 tackles from Donovan, who had 22 solo stops, 11 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Schroeder added 16 tackles (six solo) as a linebacker, while Hayen had six stops, of which half were for loss, and Kraklio had four tackles and recovered a big fumble in the Sabers' win over Marion.
The line provided plenty of support for Central quarterback Mitch Green, who earned a spot at the same position on the All-Observer team.
Leading the Sabers' option attack, Green finished second on the team with 956 rushing yards (he averaged 5.9 yards per carry), while scoring an area-best 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Green also completed 58 of his 118 pass attempts for 628 yards and four more touchdowns.
Green is just one of a number of talented skill position players that make up the All-Observer offense.
Lining up behind Green is a trio of running backs led by senior Chris Keitel.
Like the Energizer Bunny, Keitel kept going and going this fall. He set a program record by carrying the ball 214 times this season (breaking the old mark of 202 set by Tyler Driscoll in 2003) and finished the year by rushing for 1,358 yards (the first Saber to eclipse 1,000 yards since Driscoll again in 2003).
Along with averaging more than six yards every time he earned a carry, Keitel finished second among area players with nine rushing touchdowns.
The senior also gave Central a lift in the passing game, catching eight passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, Keitel played middle linebacker and finished the year with 57 tackles (including 26 solo) and 14 tackles for loss, while also recovering a fumble.
Joining Keitel in the backfield are a pair of juniors - Jake Feldpausch of Central and Tevin Stoecker of Northeast.
Feldpausch was the big-play threat on the ground for the Central offense as he averaged seven yards per carry as he racked up 522 yards on 75 carries with five touchdowns.
The junior also caught three passes for 24 yards and provided a spark on special teams with an 86-yard gallop on a kick return against Marion.
On defense, Feldpausch had 15 tackles with eight being solo stops and one coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Stoecker had his own kick return for a touchdown as he also covered 86 yards in a return against Dyersville Beckman.
The junior also proved to be the Rebels' leading rusher as he gained 271 yards and scored a team-high two touchdowns on the ground. Stoecker caught 11 passes as well and finished second on the team with 193 receiving yards.
Stoecker played safety for the Rebel defense and finished the year with 43 tackles - including a team-best 29 solo stops. The junior tied Kirby for the area-lead with four interceptions and recovered two fumbles for good measure.
Adding an extra dimension to the All-Observer offense is a talented receiving corps led by Rebel senior Ben Hildebrandt.
After his senior season, Hildebrandt's name will show up all over the place in the Northeast record book.
The receiver tied one program mark by catching 36 passes this season and smashed a second by amassing 720 receiving yards. Hildebrandt also led the area by notching seven receiving touchdowns.
Hildebrandt set additional career marks for receiving yards (1,270) and touchdowns (14) for the Rebels.
On defense, Hildebrandt played safety for Northeast and had 19 tackles this year, while also intercepting a pass.
The Rebels had another receiving threat in Riley Buech. Unfortunately, the season came to a much too early end for the senior.
Buech had three catches for 49 yards for the Rebels this season and added seven tackles on defense to go with a fumble recovery.
The Sabers also had a pair of capable receivers in junior Emmitt Enyeart and senior Lucas Sheppard.
Enyeart finished second for the Sabers with 161 receiving yards this fall with a 75-yard scoring strike against Anamosa providing a large chunk.
The junior also recorded six tackles on the season as a member of the Central secondary and came up with two interceptions.
Sheppard, meanwhile, tied for second on the team with eight receptions and collected 84 yards through the air this season, while also catching a touchdown pass during the Sabers' playoff game with Decorah.
Defensively, Sheppard consistently found himself around the ball. The senior had 10 tackles during the season (five solo), while also intercepting a pass and recovering two fumbles.
Finishing off the All-Observer football team are the specialists.
Sharing kicking duties on the team are senior Patrick Haller and freshman Keegan Lass.
Haller, a foreign exchange student from Switzerland, handled the kicking duties for the Sabers for the majority of the season and performed well.
The senior was a perfect 19-for-19 on his PAT attempts and booted a field goal during the Sabers' victory over Western Dubuque, while also averaging over 40 yards on his kickoffs.
Lass stepped in for Haller in the Sabers' season finale against Marion and handled the placekicking during Central's playoff run.
The freshman never shied away from the big moment as Lass' two field goals this season both proved to be game winners (one against Marion, the other against West Delaware). Just for good measure, Lass was also perfect on all 11 of his point after tries.
The punting duties on this year's team falls to Stoecker.
The junior punted the ball away 28 times this fall and averaged 37.6 yards per punt, while also doing the long snapping on 24 other Rebel punts.