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Pirates ready to rumble

Photo by Brian Hansel Cody Yungbauer works against Verndale teammate Amos Schmidt during a pre-season drill. The Pirates will host Brandon-Evansville Friday in their season opener.

Verndale football players have always known that Mike Mahlen can take them to the Metrodome if they are willing to supply the muscle.

Last spring some members of the team went on the offensive and caught the 41-year coaching veteran a little off guard.

They wanted extra practices.

The thinking goes like this: how much time you spend on the field determines how long you will be out there in the fall. Come late October, you have to win.

The Pirates started workouts in June and have kept it rolling throughout the summer -- nothing heavy, but regular and building. The players are after rhythm and they do not want the playbook to be a mystery to be solved in three weeks.

The Pirates were 10-1 last year, repeated as section champs and reached the Class Nine-man quarterfinals.

The Pirates have some experience and talent on both sides of the line. Seeing line duty on the offensive or defensive sides of the ball will be seniors Clay Cottrell (190), Jon Kohlhase (235) Nate Dunbar (225), Nate Wiese (160) Justin Kern (170) and Trevor Enberg (165) along with juniors Dan Kneisl (175), Tim Kern (180) Kyle Booth (160) and Aaron Bounds (265).

"Our strong point would be our offensive and defensive line, we've got depth there," Mahlen said.

The Pirates will run their Wishbone and I-back formations behind senior quarterback Colby Schmidt (150). Senior Amos Schmidt (180) will be the team's featured back but juniors Zach Meidinger (175) and Cody Yungbauer (165) will also join him in the backfield.

Schmidt was the team's No. 2 tackler last year at a linebacker spot behind standout Matt Moenkedick. Booth is also likely to see action at linebacker along with Meidinger, Yungbauer, Cottrell and Justin Kern.

Kohlhase is destined to play the line along with Wiese, Enberg, Dunbar, Kneisl and Tim Kern.

Schmitz is back to head the secondary with junior Dustin Motschenbacher (125) also likely to see some action.

Mahlen sees Bertha-Hewitt and Eagle Valley fielding strong teams in the Pheasant North this year. He regards Hillcrest's Jared Schultz as the best quarterback in the conference. One of the best teams in the entire state will be Pheasant South favorite Clinton-Graceville-Beardlsey. The Wolverines fought their way to the Prep Bowl finals last year before they were derailed by Houston, the same club that bumped the Pirates out in the state quarterfinals.