This fall marks a new chapter for the Northeast football program.
During the offseason, the Rebels said goodbye to seven seniors, including the three focal points of a record-breaking passing attack, and welcomed a new head coach.
Taking over for Jerad Block, who stepped down after six seasons, is Mark Lee.
Lee has plenty of connections to Goose Lake.
A 1993 Northeast graduate, he played on the same field for the Rebels and earned all-district honors.
He then returned to the program and spent over a decade as an assistant coach.
Now, he takes over the reins of a Northeast program looking to make its mark.
A change in coach means a change in offensive philosophy for the Rebels, who are using more I- and pro set formations with the quarterback under center.
That has meant a major uptick in rushes. Northeast has run the ball 101 times in its first three games compared to 46 passes.
That is a very different look for opponents who saw the Rebels attempt more passes (250) than runs (240) last season.
More carries are just fine with senior running back Dakota Stevenson, who returns after averaging over five yards per rush as a junior.
Stevenson finished with 741 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns, while adding 32 receptions for 213 yards and another touchdown (the then-junior ran a kick back 81 yards for a 10th score).
Stevenson is joined in the backfield by fellow seniors Jacob Mickelson and Ty Schmidt — they have combined for 112 yards and both have scored touchdowns — as well as junior Maclane Murrell.
Stepping behind center as quarterback is senior Riley Wolfe.
Wolfe was on the other side of the Rebels’ vaunted passing attack last season, catching seven passes as a receiver for 39 yards.
That athleticism makes Wolfe another threat on the ground and the Rebel has completed 19 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Cade Hughes has been Wolfe’s favorite target hauling in eight passes for 122 yards. That nearly surpasses his freshman year output of 10 catches for 129 yards.
Senior Trey McAleer hauled in a 46-yard touchdown in his season debut — he averaged 26 yards per reception as a junior — while senior Liam Maze has provided a lift at tight end, grabbing four receptions in the early going.
Senior Dawson Rickords (6-3) and junior Ethan Snyder (6-3) provide big targets on the outside and the Rebels’ stable of running backs will be a key part of the passing game as well.
The offensive line is loaded with upperclassmen.
Seniors Atzin Dondiego, Cody Ploog and Peyton Mclane have all seen action on the right side, while juniors Samuel Moraetes, Kenny King and Ethan Messerich have played on the left side.
Many of those same names have made their own impact on the defensive line as well. Dondiego is second on the team with 18 tackles, while Messerich, Moraetes, Ploog and King all have sacks.
Messerich will also see time in the linebacking corps with the likes of Schmidt (a team-high 21 tackles), Stevenson (a team-high 57 tackles last year), Maze and Mickelson.
Hughes leads the way in the secondary, ranking third on the team with 16 tackles, including four for loss.
Murrell, McAleer, Snyder, Caleb Gruhn and Wolfe have also seen time in the defensive backfield. Snyder, in fact, came up with an interception in the Rebels’ opener.
Junior Rodrigo Chotgues gives the Rebels a threat in the kicking game. He is 4-for-4 on his extra point tries and has a 31-yard field goal to his name.
Both Stevenson and Hughes have punted in the early season. The latter has a long of 48.
Northeast’s district — 1A District 4 — produced a pair of state playoff teams last fall in Bellevue, the district champion, and West Branch.
With the graduation of its top passer, rusher, and three leading receivers, the Comets have started slow, but the Bears are ranked fourth in 1A and have opened 3-0 — they are the only team in the district to do so — and have emerged as the favorites.
The other two teams in the district with winning records thus far are Beckman Catholic and North Cedar, who went a combined 5-13 last season, which could mean a tossy-turvy fall for the standings.