Wolverines trying for another step forward
Tom Van Erp wants to see how his team fares without a gorilla on its back this season.
The Wolverines snapped a 23-game losing streak in the regular season finale with West Central Area last October. The 1-7 team then gave No. 1-ranked Crosby-Ironton all they wanted a few nights later in the Section 8AA playoffs before falling 35-21.
VanErp has eight of his 11 defensive starters back. Colter Pettit will be back to handle the free safety spot while Taylor Bienusa and Jordan Rentz man the corners.
The Wolverines will have a pair of good run-stoppers at the linebacker spots in senior Isaiah Toedter and junior Logan Meyer. Toedter was the No. 2 tackler in the Heart O' Lakes Classic Conference last year with 67 solo stops and 56 assists.
VanErp is hunting for the best combination of line talent he can find and has starters back in Nolan Johnson, Duke Harrison and Cory Tumberg. He also wants to give seniors Isaac Lustila and Dylan Anderson chances on the line. The biggest loss up front is Dane Hoffman.
The challenges on offense are considerable as the Wolverines turn the quarterbacking job over to Pettit and go looking for a running threat to replace Aaron Kern, who logged 807 yards on 171 carries and scored seven touchdowns last year.
Pettit has the big shoes to fill as he takes over for Kevin Tumberg, who started the entire season at quarterback and hit on 44 of 114 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's really improved," VanErp said of Pettit. "He's always been fairly steady."
Meyer is a good bet to be the player that replaces Kern having started in the backfield last year.
Seniors Jared and Jacob Wegscheid are also likely to carry the ball for WDC.
Bienusa, Rentz and Jordan Jacobson shape up as WDC's top aerial threats. VanErp has been trying junior Jake Rude at the quarterback spot, but if Pettit proves to be a better player at that position, Rude is a candidate for a wideout spot. Rude has too much athletic ability not to use in the lineup.
"He's a big, athletic kid," VanErp said.
The Wolverines have a good opener on tap Sept. 3 when they travel to Park Rapids. WDC has played two straight overtime games with the Panthers. VanErp rates Staples-Motley and Breckenridge as two of the best teams in the HOL Classic this year. He also likes Pelican Rapids.
"I think they'll be battling this year," VanErp said. "I'd like to think we'll also be in that mix."