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Northwest Salmon



Webster Area football looks to

build off last year’s state run

by Emre K. Erku

You may still hear the echoes ricocheting off the Vermillion DakotaDome turf. You may still remember the heat of the sun shining on the players’ backs after they punched their state ticket by ousting Baltic. Yes, you may remember a lot.

But that was then. This is now. And, for the 2017 season, a young Webster Area football Bearcat team looks to use their past state championship push to their advantage.

“For a lot of them it’s a motivational factor,” said now four-year head coach Tanner Christensen. “A lot of kids have had that taste. A lot of them are feeding off of that.”

Seventeen seniors graduated last year, but that doesn’t mean Christensen – 26-6 overall as head coach – believes it should deter his young group from success.

“We’re gonna be ones that people are gonna look at, ‘You dropped a lot of seniors so you’re going to drop,’” said Christensen. “I don’t accept that as an OK opinion. We lost 17 seniors – that’s great. But we still have kids who are able to play and we still have a lot of talent there.

Webster Area returns eight letter-winners from last year, and, said Christensen, they’ve got a good chunk of sophomores to weaponize.

One of these sophomores – Braden Holland – is set to take over Kelby Hawkins’ spot as starting quarterback. Though last year’s offense produced 283 yards rushing and 101 passing per game, Christensen says he expects Holland to develop his maturity, and use his sound foot work to help his squad break new barriers.

“He plays with confidence,” said Christensen. Bearact offense looks to use I-formation this season. “He has kind of a chip on his shoulder that he’s a bit smaller than other guys.”

But so was Hawkins, said Christensen. The 29-year-old head coach added that Holland is, “A student of the game,” and that, “He has a good eye for defense.”

However, being that his athletes are bit green, he’s trying to see which piece fits into what place.

“This year is kind of up in the air,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of shifting going on.”

Yet, Christensen says he looks to get some good playing time out of youngsters Sterling Rausch, Parker Roerig and Coby Reetz. He boldly stated that Coby is “bigger than Riley was.” Last year, Riley Reetz was a pivitol player in their success.

Christensen said that assistant coaches Wade Rausch and Kyle Braun will head the offense while he’ll focus himself on defense. Again, offense will maintain a “ground and pound” game plan which has led to so much success in the past.

“I think we’ll have the front line to be able to do that,” said Christensen.

Then there’s the Bearcat defense... That was another strong suit from last season as they allowed just 98 yards passing, 108 rushing and 13.25 points per game. With bruisers Colton Koslowski and Logan Richie, who’ll be suiting up with NSU this season, now gone, Christensen expects his youngsters to execute a 3-4 set while finishing hits and exploiting offensive weaknesses.

“It still comes down to the little things,” said Christensen. “One – you gotta make the tackle when you’re in position. Two – any chance for a turnover, you got to make it. Then, we’ve got to limit our turnovers offensively.”

Some of his bigger players he looks to lean on this year: Devin Koslowski and Tristen Bent.

According to the head coach, both these athletes push past six-feet tall, while Bent is pushing 210 pounds and Koslowski 195-200.

Said Christensen: “There’s some intimidation there.”

The start of this season, said Christensen, should be quite electrifying – especially the second game against Deuel and third against Hamlin. He said those games will be close scoring. As for game one against Tri-State, Christensen said, “It’s going to be a reality check.”

“We’re going to figure out game speed real quick,” he said.

The Bearcats have already scrimmaged Britton/Hecla this year to help get a preview of what this speed tastes like.

Overall, Christensen says he likes that his boys possess that “team over me” mentality – meaning unselfish play. However, their youth will be a challenge, he noted.

Most of all, he said: “I’m excited to see what we can pull off. I like seeing this younger group of kids. I want to see them grow up a little bit and see how they do; see how they react to playing at a full speed. I want to see this maturity level, and I want to see them step up.”

According to the head coach, in 9AA, Garretson, Gregory and Parkston are the teams to beat.

The Bearcats have won three championship titles since 1981: 1983, 2000 and 2003.

They’re set to play Tri-State Aug. 18 at home.

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