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Prep Spotlight: Week 1

August 24, 2012
By DANA BECKER - Messenger Sports Writer (sports@messengernews.net) , Messenger News

Several teams around the state received their first taste of Football Friday last week.

For the teams who didn't have a Week 0 contest, this evening is what the past month of grueling two-a-day practices has been all about.

The start of another prep season has arrived, with teams looking to kick-start 2012 with a victory.

Right off the bat, there are a handful of key matchups that could quickly tell the tale of what this season may bring.

In Clarion, 2011 Class 2A state quarterfinalist Clarion-Goldfield will welcome Humboldt. The Cowboys made a surprising run to the round of eight a year ago for the first time in program history, and while several of those key players have graduated, head coach Paul Hansch isn't changing expectations.

Another all-area tilt takes place in Lake City, as South Central Calhoun hosts Manson Northwest Webster. Both were state qualifiers last year and will be hoping to reach the postseason again this fall.

Some of the other intriguing games include Emmetsburg - a possible preseason No. 1 in Class 1A - hitting the road to face nearby rival Spencer in the annual opener for both programs.

Also, fresh off ending their 53-game losing streak last week, Southeast Webster-Grand entertains Woodward Academy.

Here is a look at those games as we begin the 2012 prep football season tonight:

Humboldt (0-0) at Clarion-Goldfield (0-0)

The Cowboys advanced to the final eight in 2A a season ago, but graduated the likes of Dominic Brandt and Wyatt Sann. In their place, C-G head coach Paul Hansch will rely on 16 letterwinners to help lead the team back to the postseason.

Three-year varsity regulars Jake Haberman and Max Gangestad return, with Gangestad paving the way up front along the line. Haberman ran for 657 yards behind the duo of Brandt and Sann, and will likely be in line for more carries this season.

Both Haberman and Gangestad are also key cogs for the defense, as Haberman recorded a team-high 146 tackles a season ago. Gangestad is a starter on the defensive line and registered 87 stops as a junior.

A familiar face is back under center, as senior Adam Stevens returns for another year. Stevens threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns last year.

Humboldt knows what it is like to compete in the postseason, as the Wildcats have been there several times under head coach Greg Thomas. Last year, however, Humboldt won just three games.

Ben Jacobson returns at quarterback after throwing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Also, Nikko Wheeler is back at running back (606 yards), but the leading receivers have moved on.

The Wildcats feature 20 letterwinners in all from a season ago, including linemen Ian Hadar, Bryan Larson, Devin Shiflett, Don Smith and Cody Weisbrich. Larson, Shiflett and Smith are all expected to start on both offense and defense.

Humboldt ended 2011 with two straight victories, and will look to start 2012 off with another win.

Manson Northwest Webster (0-0) at South Central Calhoun (0-0)

The Cougars made a name for themselves around the state when they claimed a team state track title earlier this past spring. Now, Manson Northwest Webster is hoping that all that speed transfers over to the gridiron.

Fourteen letterwinners return from a seven-win program in 2011, including two-way standouts Brody Eischeid and Brennan Thompson.

Eischeid caught 33 passes for over 550 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, while Thompson will be counted on to replace the strong running of Chris Stuhrenberg from a season ago.

The Cougars will also be breaking in a new quarterback for the first time in two years, as Tucker Herzberg has exhausted his high school graduation.

South Central Calhoun has made it common place to be competing in the postseason. The Titans advanced to the second round of the 2A playoffs a year ago, and boast 11 starters back from that squad.

Quarterback Nathan Christensen will be a key early on, as running backs Austin Blair and Kirby Vogel have graduated. You can count on seeing Kyler Case, head coach Bryan's son, with Christensen in the backfield after the junior accounted for 363 yards a year ago.

Christensen threw for over 700 yards and 11 scores, including several connections with Case.

Defense has always been the calling card for the Titans, and 2012 will be no different. South Central Calhoun returns Aron King, Tanner Toms, Brett Snyder and Jake Petzenhauser to a unit that allowed just nine points per game last year.

Emmetsburg (0-0) at Spencer (0-0)

The E-Hawks returned to a familiar place last year, advancing to the Class 1A state semifinals. Now, with several key members back, Emmetsburg will be looking to add another trophy to its case.

Andrew Wellik returns from a 1,000-year junior season. Wellik was part of a three-headed attack with Brady Berkland and Marcus Akridge a year ago, but both Berkland and Akridge have departed, taking over 1,800 yards and 25 touchdowns with them.

Ryan Kliegl is also gone from the quarterback position, so Jake Jackson will be looked upon to fill his slot.

Emmetsburg's defense is expected to be as good as ever, as Austin McCartan anchors the unit. The senior had 86 tackles a year ago and will be joined by Jackson and Nick Schany on that side of the ball again.

Spencer advanced to the second round of the 3A playoffs last season. The Tigers, who are coached by Jim Tighe - the son of St. Edmond head coach Dick Tighe - have quarterback Blake Altenhofen back, along with Matt Finnern, a junior who ran for 564 yards last fall.

Woodward Academy (0-0) at Southeast Webster-Grand (1-0)

The Eagles started 2012 off on the right foot, defeating GMG to snap a 53-game losing skid.

Tyson Comstock shouldered the load on offense, carrying the ball 23 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Glaspey added 118 yards and a score, while Lucas Burns ran for 75 yards and one touchdown, as well.

Junior Trey Kahl-Long paced the defense, registering 13 tackles and one sack, while Nolan Mitchell added eight stops. The Southeast Webster-Grand defense also had an interception and recovered two fumbles in the win.

Woodward Academy went 3-6 a year ago and feature former Iowa State University standout Lorenzo White on its coaching staff.

Other area games tonight: Algona (0-0) at Forest City (0-0), Humboldt (0-0) at Clarion-Goldfield (0-0), Webster City (0-0) at Ballard (0-0), East Sac County (0-0) at Prairie Valley (0-0), North Union (0-0) at Estherville-LC (0-0), Perry (0-0) at Greene County (0-0), Alta/Aurelia (0-0) at Pocahontas Area (0-0), Eagle Grove (0-0) at Belmond-Klemme (0-0), Harris-Lake Park (0-0) at Corwith-CWL (0-1), Kingsley-Pierson (0-0) at Laurens-Marathon (0-0), West Bend-Mallard (1-0) at Remsen-Union (0-0), Remsen St. Mary's (0-0) at Newell-Fonda (0-0).