Wolverines’ wishbone buoyed by backfield experience

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The GMG football team returns 13 letterwinners from last season. Pictured are, front row: (from left) Ethan Beach, Kolton Gill, Owen Beach, Carson Wobeter, Parker Welton, Blaze Krull and Brock Baldazo; back row: Dalton Hurd, Brayden Peterson, Hunter Smoldt, Conner Casto, Cody Cartright and Wesley Steiner.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The GMG football team returns 13 letterwinners from last season. Pictured are, front row: (from left) Ethan Beach, Kolton Gill, Owen Beach, Carson Wobeter, Parker Welton, Blaze Krull and Brock Baldazo; back row: Dalton Hurd, Brayden Peterson, Hunter Smoldt, Conner Casto, Cody Cartright and Wesley Steiner.

GARWIN — One thing that plagues every high school football team is loss of former players, with some dealing with the problem more than others in a given year.

For Green Mountain-Garwin football, that pain of graduation hits rather hard in 2017, as they lose players like Class A District 5 first-team all-district players Conner Stonewall and Levi Duden and second-team quarterback Garret Groth.

Wolverines head coach Mike Spurlin said, though they have quite a few holes to fill this season, so far he is happy with the turnout he has had at practice.

“We are practicing hard and the guys are having a good time,” Spurlin said during the team’s second week of practice. “We have the right people coming out and they are learning a lot. Hopefully in our first game we get a good day and they do what they are supposed to when they have to.”

One position GMG doesn’t have a lot of turnover at is running back, as the Wolverines return top rushers Brock Baldazo, Cade Bovenmyer and Owen Beach from last year. Spurlin said, given the offensive system he prefers to run, having a triplet that combined for over 1,000 yards rushing last year is definitely a plus for his squad.

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“We were mainly a wishbone last year with four running backs and we have all of them coming back this year,” he said. “We lost three linemen, which hurts, so we are replacing stuff but we are going to try to do some of the same things that we did last year. The kids are all learning quick and doing things right and I think we will be alright.”

Though the wishbone was the system of choice last season and has traditionally been GMG’s offense, Spurlin said what the Wolverines try to do this year will really depend on how the other positions develop.

“It depends on how quickly our skill positions build their experience and get confidence,” Spurlin said. “That is always a big thing, this will be the first year in about three that we will have a quarterback that will start junior and senior year, since we will have him back next year. It just depends how he learns and how the wide receivers come around and the three linemen we lost.”

Junior Kolton Gill is primed to step in behind center for GMG, and though he only took a couple of snaps in a varsity game last season, Spurlin said he has confidence in his new signalcaller.

“He doesn’t have a whole lot of varsity experience but we had a full JV schedule last year and he played really well,” Spurlin said. “He likes to throw the ball and hopefully if we get the chance he makes a couple reads and he gets to throw the ball.”

As for those protecting the quarterback, Spurlin said there has been a lot of turnover on the line but he is looking to a couple returning seniors from last season to have a hand in the development of the less-experienced linemen.

“Conner Casto and Wes Steiner, they have helped a lot with the kids that are starting in there and they are taking them under their wing,” Spurlin said. “They know we don’t change much on our blocking schemes, so they have helped our guys out a lot.”

On the defensive end, the Wolverines do return one of their top tacklers from last season in Bovenmyer, and Spurlin said returning the entirety of a defensive backfield that recorded 13 interceptions last season helps too.

“Cade is looking pretty well, he will play one of the linebacker positions this year,” he said. “He was really good for us last year, as a junior he had to step up and do that and now as a senior he has to step up and lead. Our defensive backfield, all the corners and safeties will be back this year. It was really nice that we were second in the district last year in interceptions so that always helps that the kids are more experienced and have a little more confidence.”

As for his expectations from this season, Spurlin said he wants to see his guys compete well and make sure they take care of business when they should.

“We want to win the ones we are supposed to, that will be the key,” he said. “I don’t like giving out numbers for wins because things can happen, if one or two kids go down shoot that can turn the whole program around. But we are trying to get everybody enough experience and enough reps in preseason and if we can win the ones we are supposed to and maybe surprise a couple of them that would be great.”