Greater Grand Forks football preview: Central hoping to rebuild under new leadership
The Knights turned some heads over the summer by winning UND's 7-on-7 passing camp.
GRAND FORKS — When Grand Forks Central won the annual UND 7-on-7 football tournament this summer, the achievement turned some heads around the area.
The 7-on-7 competition is all passing and no linemen, but it's perhaps a nod to some of the gains made under Knights' first-year coach Jake Schauer.
Central opens the 2022 season at 4 p.m. today against Watford City at Cushman Field.
"Our guys have worked hard all summer," Schauer said. "They're relentless about getting together to throw and that showed in that. They're putting the time in off and on the field. I don't know if we're the most talented team on the planet, but I don't know if there are going to be many that work as hard and are as close as we are."
The Knights have good participation numbers across grades 9 through 12, but establishing quality depth will be the challenge.
"Championship football teams, you can't tell the difference between the 1's and 2's," Schauer said. "We're not there yet."
The Knights have just 15 sophomores.
"Any time you have a class that as far as numbers ... I'm a big believer in numbers," Schauer said. "We need to get up over 100. We're a little top-heavy right now."
In the preseason, the Knights have worked out multiple quarterbacks with returning starter Dylan LaMont, who passed for 631 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
LaMont filled in at quarterback last season for Cole Barta, who was injured in Week 1.
"Dylan did a nice job proving last year that he was more than capable of playing quarterback," Schauer said. "Cole also knows the position. He's a really good athlete and one of the hardest workers. Us as coaches have been moving him all over the field and seeing where he fits best."
Junior Caden Johansen and senior Jayden Haake are also expected to see running back workload.
The Knights also were able to get a couple of first-time football players out for the sport this year in basketball star Erick Paye (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) who will play wide receiver and defensive line, as well as Chance Colgrove (6-2, 205) who will play offensive line and linebacker.
"I feel like we've done a good job making relationships in the weight room," Schauer said. "We have a strong group of assistants, too. I don't want to do everything we've always done. It's about melding the old stuff with the new stuff. We're putting my touch on it but still honoring the tradition of Central football."
GGF football at a glance
East Grand Forks
Coach: Ryan Kasowski.
2021 record: 5-4.
Key returners: Sr. RB-DB Caleb Schmeideberg (31 carries, 367 yards, 3 TDs), sr. WR-DB Cooper Smith (11 catches, 259 yards, 2 TDs), jr. OL-DL Zach Jeuch, sr. OL-DL Caleb Zejdlik, sr. WR-LB Tanner Nowacki, sr. QB-LB Sam Schumacher (7 catches, 91 yards, TD), jr. QB-DB Drew Carpenter; sr. QB-DB Landon Woidtke; jr. OL-DL Mike Wisk.
Top newcomers: Sr. RB-LB Sam Frost, sr. RB-LB Luke Blazek, soph. WR-DB Austin Rusling, jr. WR-DB Damion Bushaw, jr. QB-LB Clyde Anderson; jr. RB-DB Levi Anderson; soph. RB-LB Jordan Nowacki; jr. WR-DB Jace Fore; soph. RB-LB Cole Bies; jr. RB-LB Grant Burger; sr. WR-DB Ryan Taylor.
Coach Kasowski says: “(2021 quarterback) Tanner Campos will be tough to replace because he did such a nice job stepping in after Sam Votava graduated. But we have two guys we’ll play and they offer some different things. With Caleb Schmeideberg and Cooper Smith, those are two playmakers we need to find ways to get the ball. (The offensive and defensive lines) will be a place where we have to figure out who can play here. We’re excited about that group but they haven’t played much varsity football.”
Polk County West
Coach: Darrin Byklum.
2021 record: 7-2.
Key returners: Sr. OL-DL Alex Hart; sr. OL-DL Daniel Suda; sr. OL-LB Mantana Jorgenson; jr. RB-LB Mike Gapp; jr. WR-DB Landdn Denney.
Coach Byklum says: “Right now we’ve got a senior (Breck Bloom) and a junior (Mike Gapp) there at quarterback. (2021 graduate Sam Gapp) played a lot of running back and quarterback for us. It’s just one of those things where graduation happens and you move on. Sam played since eighth grade, so you lose that experience. Up front is where most of our experience is back on both sides of the ball. That’s what right away in the season, until we’re all up to speed, we have to lean on the (offensive and defensive lines) for leadership and experience.”
GF Red River
Coach: Vyrn Muir.
2021 record: 4-6.
Key returners: Sr. TE-DE Logan Arason (22 catches, 166 yards); sr. RB-LB Brett Feller; jr. OL-DL Lawson Lotysz; sr. RB-LB Jaden Rustad; sr. RB-DB Logan Okstad (73 carries, 308 yards,TD); sr. OL-DL Nolan Pieper; sr. WR-DB Hudson Flom; sr. WR-DB Quinn Nelson; sr. WR-DB Carter Byron; sr. OL-DL Garrett Eickmann; sr. TE-LB Bet Tellman; sr. QB-DB Cole LeDuc (4-for-5 passing, 43 yards, TD); jr. OL-DL Logan Wasylow; sr. WR-DB Cade Wigestrand.
Top newcomers: Soph. QB Pearce Parks; soph. JB Walters, jr. QB-DB Zach Oehlke.
Coach Muir says: “We have a veteran offensive line – five of the six guys are seniors and all played last year. That’s probably the strength of our offense. Having Logan Arason at tight end will be nice as a big, physical guy. Bet Tellman came on in the latter portion of the season last year and can be a real asset. We’re excited about our guys up front. (Pearce) Parks and (Cole) LeDuc are competing for the starting quarterback spot and our running back spot will be by-committee until someone shows they deserve more carries.”
Coach: Jake Schauer.
2021 record: 2-7.
Key returners: Sr. QB-LB Cole Barta (injured in 2021 season); sr. QB-LB Dylan LaMont (61-for-123 passing, 631 yards, 4 TDs, 7 INTs); sr. OL-DL Zach Kuznia; sr. OL-DL Michael Torgerson; sr. WR-DB Bryce Philpot (10 catches, 65 yards, TD); jr. RB-DB Jack Simmers (112 rushes, 605 yards, 4 TDs); sr. WR-LB Jayden Haake (22 carries, 117 yards, TD).
Top newcomers: Jr. WR-DL Tray Kuntz; sr. OL-LB Chance Colgrove; jr. WR-DL Eric Paye; jr. WR-DB Jonah Ohnstad; jr. WR-DB Leo Strandell.
Coach Schauer says: “I don’t know if we’re the most talented team on the planet but I don’t know if there are as many that are going to work as hard and are as close as we are. (At quarterback), Dylan (LaMont) did a nice job proving last year he’s more than capable of playing quarterback. We’re still making that (quarterback) decision. Cole (Barta) knows the position, too. He’s a really good athlete and one of the hardest workers. Us coaches have been moving him all over the field and seeing where he fits best.”