For the first time since starting these rankings two seasons ago, there is a new No. 1 area Minnesota football team in the top 10.
Underwood gets the No. 1 for the start of the 2015 football season.
Last season: 10-2, lost to Grand Meadow in the Class 9-man quarterfinals 20-0
Next up: host Renville County West, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Underwood begins the season as the No. 1 area football team. Photo by David Samson/Forum
There’s talent all over for a team which was in the state championship two years ago and in the state quarterfinals last season.
Matt Biegler is an absolute monster and he returns at defensive end and tight end. He had 63 tackles last season and 15 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He also had 16 catches for 294 yards and four touchdowns and even had five carries for 28 yards last season.
The Rockets lose leading rusher Noah Thompson, but return quarterback Justin Masloski and running back Dylan Kalenze. Masloski threw for 655 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 514 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Kalenze averaged 6.6 yards a carry, rushing for 774 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Underwood returns three all-conference players in Biegler, offensive and defensive lineman Joe Onstad and linebacker Coy Thorson, along with all-conference honorable mentions in Kalenze and fullback Cole Kugler.
Kugler ran for 561 yards and six touchdowns on 93 carries last season. Underwood has a state championship on its mind this season. There’s no reason the Rockets shouldn’t.
Last season: 11-1, lost to Dawson-Boyd in the Class 1A quarterfinals 34-20
Next up: host Pillager, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Mahnomen’s Jerell Londo (21) had 24.5 tackles and 3.5 sacks along with rushing for three touchdowns for Mahnomen last season. Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum
The streak ended last season for Mahnomen. The Indians won 39 straight games and two Class 1A state titles. It was Dawson-Boyd that got them again. In their last 41 games, the Indians are 1-2 against Dawson-Boyd and 38-0 against everyone else.
Mahnomen looks to build a new streak and the Indians have the pieces to do so, despite the fact the Indians have to rebuild their offensive line.
Playmakers are back for Mahnomen. Quarterback Tom Pavek is back after rushing for 1,329 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He averaged 12.3 yards per carry. Jake Worms had six rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown and rushed for 444 yards on just 38 carries. Mitch Foss averaged 10.3 yards per carry, rushing for 764 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Mahnomen has Foss, Pavek, and Worms for the running game, but also have Kody Lefebvre, who missed all of last season. Coach John Clark is expecting a lot out of him.
Defense is never usually a problem for Mahnomen. They’ll have Pavek and Lefebvre in the secondary with Worms and Dan Olson on the defensive line and Jerell Londo and Foss leading the linebackers.
The last time Mahnomen ended a season with a loss, the Indians responded with 39 straight wins and two state titles.
Last season: 8-2, lost to Sartell-St. Stephen in the Class 5A, Section 8 championship 34-27
Next up: at St. Michael-Albertville, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Mike Duginski (right) will take over the load at running back this season for Moorhead. Photo by David Samson/Forum
It was more heartbreak at the hands of Sartell-St. Stephen last season for Moorhead. Two seasons ago it was an interception in the opposing end zone, trailing by five, that ended the section championship against Sartell for the Spuds.
Last season it was a touchdown with 16 seconds remaining that turned a 27-26 Moorhead lead into a 34-27 win for Sartell in the section championship.
Having met in the last three section titles, it smells like the Spuds have themselves a pretty good rivalry with Sartell at this point.
The Spuds have been in the Class 5A, Section 8 championship game all five years under coach Kevin Feeney. There’s no reason the Spuds shouldn’t be right back there again this year with 15 returning starters.
Brody Jerome is a mammoth human being. He’ll lead the defensive line, along with Garrett Brooks. Nate Stich will lead linebackers Tristen Nelson, Zech Klindt and Jacob Viou. Mike Duginski and the Delbrune twins (Malique and Devante) will be the secondary. All of these guys have played together on defense and all are seniors.
For the first time in a long time, the running game for Moorhead is a little bit in question. In the Feeney years at Moorhead, the Spuds have always had a clear lead running back and a secondary guy. Chase Morlock (NDSU) and Jade Lawrence (University of North Dakota) became Jade Lawrence and Mike Duginski.
Duginski is the lead back this season. He rushed for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns last season and had nearly 200 reception yards and three touchdowns receiving. Question is who will be the secondary back. On top of that, the Spuds lose a lot of their offensive line and will need Jerome, Brooks and Tanner McBain to take over the offensive line.
Spuds have Matt Bye returning for his second season at quarterback and Nelson will be his big target.
Finally, Moorhead has an incredibly tough schedule with three Class 5A teams that made it to state in St. Michael-Albertville, Bemidji and Elk River. The eight teams on the schedule for Moorhead combined for a 55-27 record last season.
4. Ottertail Central
Last season: 9-2, lost to Holdingford in the Class 2A, Section 6 championship 42-22
Next up: host Barnesville, Saturday, 8 p.m.
Ottertail Central will be looking for a big year from 3-year starter Cody Seedorf this season. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum
It’s pretty hard to bet against Ottertail Central as long as the names Ukkelberg and VanErp continue to pop up on the roster. It would seem there are 500 of each, so it’ll be hard to bet against the Bulldogs, especially with Don Seipkes coaching, for awhile.
OTC has three-year starters in quarterback and linebacker Tony Ukkelberg, fullback and linebacker Cody Seedorf and safety and wide receiver Andrew VanErp.
Ukkelberg threw for 1,200 yards and ran for 677 yards last year at quarterback as a junior. Seedorf ran for 848 yards and was second on the team in tackles. VanErp had 548 yards receiving and four interceptions. All three were all-conference players, as was junior defensive and offensive tackle Daniel Ukkelberg.
Another big help for Ottertail is the Bulldogs won’t be seeing Holdingford in the section playoffs, as Holdingford moved up to Class 3A. Holdingford knocked out the Bulldogs in the section championship the last two seasons.
Last season: 9-2, lost to Hawley in the Class 2A, Section 8 championship 34-13
Next up: at Breckenridge, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Tanner Bachmann (ball) will be the leader of this year’s Frazee team. Photo by Carrie Snyder/Forum
Eyes are big in Class 2A, Section 8 with Hawley losing 21 starters to graduation. The section seems up for grabs after belonging to the Nuggets for the last three seasons.
No team was closer to topping Hawley in the section than Frazee last season. They lose a big piece in quarterback Hesston Bachmann and Garrett Malstrom, Roger Thorp and Austin Torma on defense.
The Hornets return leading rusher Tanner Bachmann, who rushed for 1,471 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and leading receiver Riley Utke, who had 25 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Jonah Lange will have to fill in for the losses on defense.
Jim Jacobson has a good situation for his first year as head coach of the Hornets.
Last season: 7-2, lost to Nevis in the Class 9-man, Section 6 semifinals 36-0
Next up: at Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Last season was supposed to be it for Ada-Borup. The Cougars lost all their offensive weapons and had a first-year coach and a new system. Finally, the football team would become human, after winning five of the previous six section titles.
Apparently human for Ada-Borup is 7-2. Now, the Cougars went from young and inexperienced in a new system with a new coach to experienced and fully aware of the system.
Michael Kolness returns after rushing for 764 yards and five touchdowns, catching eight passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns and recording 53 tackles on defense. He’s back at running back. Lucas Lindell is back at quarterback, after throwing for 650 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
The Cougars have 10 returning seniors with a lot of experience. This high of a ranking could be a reach for the Cougars, but if they can go 7-2 with no expectations, hard to bet against them with experience.
Last season: 8-3, lost to Pierz in the Class 3A state quarterfinals 42-28
Next up: Thief River Falls, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Gunnar Payne (left) will need to have a big season on defense for D-G-F to get back to state. Photo by Michael Vosburg/Forum
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton has made it to state in back-to-back seasons. The Rebels have done so with their defense and their running game.
The Rebels had over 2,500 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns between Brandon Wayne, Alex Matthews and Joe Flatt last season. All three have graduated, so D-G-F will look to Tyler Oberg, Eric Watt, Ryan Poehls and Garrett Scheel to fill those numbers.
The spotlight is on senior Blake Kragnes at quarterback. He’s grown two inches and gained 25 pounds and is in his second season starting at quarterback. There isn’t a lot of experience at wide receiver, but D-G-F will use Kragnes and his size in some shape or form. He threw for 1,029 yards and nine touchdowns, but also threw eight interceptions.
The Rebels lost a lot on defense. Their linebackers were all seniors last season and their three main defensive linemen were as well. Gunnar Payne will have to fill the shoes of Garrett Pemelton on the defensive line.
Coach Anthony Soderberg said his team may not have the experience, but they have the athletes.
No part of the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton co-op has been to state three seasons in a row since Glyndon-Felton did it in 1983, 84 and 85.
Last season: 4-5, lost to Pelican Rapids in the quarterfinals of the Class 2, Section 6 playoffs 27-20
Next up: host Frazee, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Breckenridge has a lot of experience returning and four big boys on the offensive and defensive lines in Erik Manning, Tyler Vold, Alex Mertes and Austin Ramos.
The Cowboys have experience all over the field with Easton Erbes, Hunter Aigner, Travis Miranowski and Treyton Hought returning in the backfield and Stevin Lipp at wide receiver. Ashton Hegge is also playing football this season and he’ll be another option at wide receiver.
Defensively, Aigner, Miranowski and Hought will be the linebacker corps, along with Erbes, Lipp, Carson Yaggie and Hegge at defensive backs.
Much will depend on how Yaggie plays in his first year at quarterback. He certainly has experienced options around him.
Last season: 6-4, lost to Hawley in the Class 2A, Section 8 semifinals 26-11
Next up: Ottertail Central, Saturday, 8 p.m.
The health of Ethan Ishaug (8) will be a big factor for the Trojans this season. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum
Barnesville could not stay healthy last season, which was a pain for the Trojans, but it makes for a lot of experience this season, as the Trojans return 15 starters. Despite the injuries, the Trojans still finished 6-4 and gave Hawley – ranked No. 1 in Class 2A at the time – a pretty good game in the section semifinals.
Trojans would be ranked higher if they weren’t injured again, but they should come around in the middle of the season. Ethan Ishaug is back at starting quarterback, but he’s fighting back problems. He’s also a four-year starter at linebacker.
Connor Meyer returns at running back, but he’ll be out for a few weeks, as will Joey Roste. Barnesville has four returning starters on the offensive line and a linebacking corps that will be in its third year starting together.
Problem for Barnesville is the schedule offers no help for the Trojans and their injuries, as three of their four games to start the season are against Ottertail Central, Breckenridge and Frazee.
Last season: 9-1, lost to Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal in the Class 9-man, Section 6 semifinals 14-13
Next up: host Kittson County Central, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Waubun’s Dayton Makey will rarely leave the field this season for the Bombers. Photo by David Samson/Forum
Much was talked about the read-option offense for Waubun last season and they lose their two leaders of that in quarterback Jordan Spaeth and running back Ryan Weber.
Those two combined for 2,697 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. What was generally overlooked was the Waubun defense. The Bombers defense gave up a total of 75 points in 10 games last season.
A big reason behind that was Darius Woods-Steichen, who had 16 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season. He also rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries.
Dayton Makey is another guy Waubun coach Paul Clark is going to need. Clark said Makey will probably not come off the field this season, playing running back, linebacker, kicker, punter and kick returner. Makey showed good signs last season of breaking through as a sophomore. He averaged 9.4 yards a carry, rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns, caught three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown, had six tackles (three for loss), punted and kicked extra points and field goals last season.
A lot is on Woods-Steichen to lead the Bombers, but Makey could take a lot off his shoulders if the junior has a breakout season.
Last season: 6-4, lost to Fosston in the Class 1A, Section 8 semifinals 14-8
A lot will be on Paul Jensen at running back. He had 96 carries and two touchdowns on 29 carries last season. He’ll be getting a way larger workload this season. Defensively, he returns in the secondary where he had 39 tackles and one interception. Hunter Christianson and his five interceptions from last season also returns to the secondary.
The defense was big last season for LP-A. Outside of a 45-7 loss to Mahnomen, the Raiders gave up 73 points in nine games. Three of their four losses were by a combined nine points.
Carter Reann and Trent Rosing will fight for the No. 2 running back position behind Jensen. Reese Matson will step in at quarterback after LP-A lost Tim Brekken to graduation.
Even bigger for LP-A is the Raiders are out of the section with Mahnomen, moving from section 8 to section 6 in Class 1A.
Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.