BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson.
That’s head coach Tony Shiffman’s take on Friday’s season opening football game with Central Lee on Friday night at 7 p.m.
But in this case Shiffman wasn’t referring to the Bloodhounds opponents, he was referring to his own team getting on the field and going up against the county rival Hawks.
“It’s one of those things – they know in their mind what they need to do until they get punched in the mouth and then things change,” Shiffman said of the Bloodhounds.
Last year’s game was a high scoring affair with the Hounds outracing Central Lee 56-35. The Hounds got seven combined touchdowns from Alex Gully and Shance Redd-Donald who were lost to graduation last year. But Shiffman said the Hounds are deeper this year in the skill positions and said the team actually is more athletic this year than in the past.
“We’re probably a little more athletic this year even with losing Gully. We’ve got a few spots that are really really good, depth wise, and we’ve got a couple that we see a drop off. We’ve got good athletes all over the place and that will be a key for us when we get to our district schedule.”
Junior Diego Lozano will be carrying the load rushing the ball, but Shiffman said four or five others will be in the running to carry the ball. Shiffman said sophomore transfer Kali Maestro, who’s probably the most physical player on the team, will get carries as will sophomore Calem Maclearn, Brock Kalif, and Keaton Poe.
Lozano had 120 yards on 40 carries last year, but suffered a shoulder injury just over half way through the year. Maclearn, who’s a sophomore this year, is the only other Hound with varsity yards with 37 last year on 14 carries.
“Kali will run you over, he will run through you,” Shiffman said. “If it’s his grandmother out there playing linebacker, he will run her over.”
In the spread, Shiffman has more options than last year and will be counting on Shaymour Redd-Donald and Trey Kuntz, along with Dominque Franz, Mike Mosena, Quentin Schneider, Harley Pennamon and Brandon Keester to haul in passes this year
“We’ve got a lot of receivers that when they are consistent and playing well, can do a lot with the football. I’ve probably even forgotten a few in that list,” Shiffman said. “Trey’s one of those kids that has stepped up this summer and had a really good start to practice. He’s gotten a lot better at being consistent with his pass catching and I think he’ll surprise some people.”
Shiffman said Mike Mosena is probably the fastest skill player on the squad and is hard to track down if he gets in the open field. Kuntz is the only returning Hound with receptions last year with 86 yards on nine catches and a touchdown.
Senior QB Lennon Barker will be back as the signal caller again this year after throwing for 1300 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Shiffman said he like to see Barker take more control in the huddle.
“There’s just a couple reads he has to make and he’s getting it. He just needs to do a better job of being a leader. He needs to put his foot down and say, ‘Do it this way and do it right, or get out’. He still learning that, but he’ll be alright.”
Shiffman said the Hawks have been one of the most stable teams in southeast Iowa over the past five or six years and they’ll be ready Friday night.
“They’ve been in a tough district and they’re still in a tough district. They’re young, but they’ll be ready. It’s going to be a good measuring stick for our season,” Shiffman said. “If we come out play like we should play, it could be a good start and if we come out and lay and egg it could be kind of wipe the board clean and see what we’ve got.”
Central Lee will feature junior Tyler Hopp out of the backfield. Hopp rushed for more than 500 yards and had five scores last year. But the Hawks lost defensive standout Jared Brisby, Adam Rooney, who led the team in rushing, and quarterback Austin Gaylord all to graduation, along with about six other seniors who had significant playing time.
“They’re gonna be run heavy, they’ll get the ball to Hopp a lot and do some spread and other funny things,” Shiffman said.
Shiffman said he’d like to utilize placekicker AJ Nolting more this year. Nolting attempted just one field goal last year and made it, but Shiffman said he will be looking to Nolte more this year.
“I’m comfortable with AJ inside 35 and he’s comfortable from about 40 in and I told him if we get inside the 20 and gets to third down, get close to me because I’m gonna abuse. I want the points. It’s something he wants to do at the next level maybe so he’s really put in some time this year.
Defensively, Redd-Donald will anchor the secondary with Nicky Clark, both seniors. The two combined for 39 tackles and two picks last year. Alex Lauber and Danen Settles holding down the line and senior Sam Hayes and Lozano will keep guard from the middle of the field. The duo were No. 1 and 2 on the team in tackles last year with 76 combined. Settles was third on the team in tackles with 33 last year as a sophomore.
“They just need to play. We don’t go 100% tackle to the ground hardly ever in practice. It’s a matter of getting to the ball and making plays. It’s doing their jobs essentially and as long as they do their job we’ll be fine,” Shiffman said.
With last year’s game being a shootout, Shiffman said he’s comfortable with that because one of the team goals is to score as many points as possible each game.
“I’ve got the same mentality as last year. If we play well we can win big. If we play down this is a team that can beat us,” he said. “I think these kids are going in expecting to win, but we have to play our A game and we have to do that all year.”