Redhawks rely on mix of youth and experience

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The North Tama football team returns 16 letterwinners from last season. Pictured are, front row: (from left) Zach Greiner, Nic Sierra, Peyton Willenbring, Michael Kreinert, Tyler Morrison, Noah Bond, Zade Podhajsky and Hale Hulme; back row: Cael Even, Ryan McLean, Keegan Rohlfsen, Cory Kennedy, Trinity Grimm, Skyler Staker, Chase Morrison and Tayten Payne.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The North Tama football team returns 16 letterwinners from last season. Pictured are, front row: (from left) Zach Greiner, Nic Sierra, Peyton Willenbring, Michael Kreinert, Tyler Morrison, Noah Bond, Zade Podhajsky and Hale Hulme; back row: Cael Even, Ryan McLean, Keegan Rohlfsen, Cory Kennedy, Trinity Grimm, Skyler Staker, Chase Morrison and Tayten Payne.

TRAER — Entering his second season at the helm of North Tama football, head coach Austin Pink has a unique challenge of introducing some new players to his system while still maintaining the contributions of some old hands he has back from last season’s 4-5 squad.

The biggest losses from last year for the Redhawks are Class A District 5 all-district players Cael Kopriva at quarterback, Tanner Calderwood at defensive line and Noah Kaufmann at offensive line, but they do return other all-district selections like junior Noah Bond and senior Cory Kennedy.

Pink said with what the team returns this season and the work his Redhawks have put in since the end of last year, they should experience good things in 2017.

“We have a ton of athletes coming back and this offseason was huge for us in the weight room,” Pink said. “If you look at last year’s roster, Noah Bond as an example is a running back and will be in the slot for us and he went from 6-foot-1, 170 pounds to 6-foot-3 200 pounds right now. He put on 15 pounds of muscle, that kid is a beast right now. Tyler Morrison is going to be solid for us, he is the guy that we are going to lean on. If we can get him a hole, I like our chances a lot. He is just getting explosive, he is seeing the holes and he is only a junior too.”

Calling signals for North Tama this season will be sophomore Skyler Staker, a guy Pink said will be very important to the success of the Redhawks given the important positions he will play.

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“He is a kid that really takes on a challenge and he is going to play middle backer for us on defense as well,” Pink said of his new athlete under center. “He loves the game of football and just kind of gets it. He’s one of those kids who texts me every day saying ‘hey come watch film’ or ‘can we watch film before practice?’ He is one that is always trying to get better and we are working on his leadership skills too. He is only a sophomore but he has done pretty well so far.”

As for replacing guys like Kaufmann and Calderwood in the trenches, Pink said that will be no easy task but it is something they have worked on for quite some time now.

“The offensive line is something we have been really working on in camp, really get that nailed down a little bit and figure out who we can put where and the rotations we can use,” Pink said. “The guys have come a long way, first week of camp we were kind of scratching our heads because we did lose Noah Kaufmann, Tanner Calderwood and Parker Lundy on the line there, so we are sticking some new guys in but we have some decent size up front.

“Ryan Mclean is a sophomore at 6-foot-4 230 pounds, Cory Kennedy will be our senior leader on the line along with Peyton Willenbring. Zade Podhajsky has had a good camp and he works hard in the weight room, just like Chase Morrison. We have some guys that can work in there, it is just a matter of teaching technique and making sure we rep some stuff out.”

Having some guys that fill multiple roles is one of the themes of North Tama football this season, or, as Pink would say, having some ‘dudes’.

“I was up in a clinic in Minneapolis this winter and there was a coach down in Missouri that uses the term ‘dudes’. Like he has a dude at receiver, a dude at quarterback, so I kinda like that and I brought that back over to Traer,” Pink said. “I want to be able to tell people when they ask me how the team is this year ‘I’ve got some dudes on the line’ or ‘I’ve got a dude at quarterback who can make all the plays.’ Those guys have really tried to epitomize that mentality as well.”