Pirates lack size, experience on offensive line
Mike Mahlen and his Verndale Pirates will need help on the line this season to make any progress in the Pheasant Conference.
Mahlen and his coaches have been hunting for replacements, after four linemen were lost to graduation.
"It all starts up front," Mahlen said. "You have to be able to run block and you have to be able to pass block."
Senior Jacob Engebretson and junior Dan Fisher will find playing time at tackle and center respectively. Fisher was a one-way lineman for Verndale last year, starting at defensive tackle. Mahlen is also taking a look at junior transfer Vernon Mason, who came over from Staples-Motley in the off-season, and sophomore Seth Zins.
Other line candidates are junior Austin Chock and sophomores Jared Dye and Josh Horstman.
Senior Alex Walsvik is back to play a tight end spot for the Pirates. Senior Josh Gilb and junior Eric Blaha will also see playing time at tight end.
The Pirates have two deep threats in senior Dallas Ehrmantraut and junior Marcos Gomez.
Sophomore Dillon Card brings some good tools back to the quarterback spot.
"He had good size, he throws the ball well and he makes good decisions," Mahlen said of his 6-3, 200-pound quarterback.
The Pirates suffered a serious blow to their backfield in last Saturday's scrimmage, when they lost junior running back Andy Bounds. The 200-pounder tore his ACL and will be out for the entire season. By moving junior Dakota Finck into the position, the Pirates are giving up 50-pounds. Sophomore James Kveton returns at the fullback spot.
Mahlen is more confident of his club's defensive situation. Fisher is back at a tackle spot, and Walsvik will once again play end. Card moves to the other end spot after starting at safety last year. Kveton is slated to play a linebacker spot again, while Ehrmantraut returns to play safety.
Other returning lettermen on this year's squad include sophomores Bradyn Sickels (wideout/defensive back), Anthony Kern (wideout/defensive back), Colter Ehrmantraut (running back/defensive back) and tight end-linebacker Dalton Emerson.