Ballard coming off rare losing season

The Ballard football team will be looking for redemption in 2013 after the Bombers failed make the playoffs for the first time in five years last fall.

Ballard went just 2-7 overall and 1-5 in Class 3A District 4 in 2012. The shaky season has prompted Bomber head coach Al Christian to get back to the basics that made the Bombers a perennial district contender and playoff qualifier.

"We’re going back to our old offense and getting back to tough, physical play," Christian said. "We need to find ways to win games again, instead of finding ways to lose them."

The Bombers will be going out of the I-formation on offense after running a lot of split-back and shotgun formations last year. Ballard only averaged 18.4 points and 245.2 total yards in 2012.

Returning on offense for Ballard will be senior tailback Jacob Nethers, offensive linemen Kirklyn Kohrt and Alex Silberstein and senior receiver Matthew Poots. Nethers ran for 84 yards and one touchdown last season.

Junior tailback Isaiah Johnson also saw time last year and he ran for 108 yards and one score on 16 carries.

Filling out the rest of the offensive line for Ballard this season will be seniors Mason Mann, Trevor Thompson and Brady Harmon. Kohrt is also a senior and Silberstein is a junior.

Junior Cole Wilson will man the tight end position and senior Mason Finn looks to fill in at the other receiver spot.

Senior Coy Baker will take over the quarterbacking duties from Caleb Schafbuch.

On defense, Ballard will switch from a five-man front to a 3-4. The Bombers surrendered 20.3 points and 252.3 yards per game and they forced 14 turnovers last season.

Ballard has four returning starters on defense in senior cornerback Mason Jensen, senior linebacker Marcus Johnson and two senior linemen in Kohrt and Tyler Kyhl.

Last season Jensen made 40 tackles and had one interception and fumble recovery apiece. Johnson totaled 73 tackles, recovered one fumble and returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.

Kohrt finished with 16 tackles and two stops behind the line and Kyhl contributed 43 stops.

Seniors Tyson Pritchard, Mitchell Broer and Mark Goldberg will fill out the rest of the defensive backfield, and seniors Spencer Struve and Lane Volkmann and junior Ben Claussen will join Johnson at the other linebacker spots. Juniors Quinton Erickson and Kenny Randolph will be counted on to help out along the defensive front.

Johnson, Erickson and sophomore Kolby Jensen will be the kick and punt return men for Ballard. Senior Andrew Rasmussen will take over the place kicking duties and Christian said he still hasn’t settled on who will be the team’s punter.

With only five returning starts on offense and four on defense, experience will be an issue early on for Ballard. But Christian is looking forward to seeing what the new starters can do.

"This is a fresh start," Christian said. "Our JV was 7-1 last year and brings in confidence. The defense will be quick, fast and active."

Ballard wants to get back to its usual goals of contending for a district title and making it to the playoffs. Christian said he expects his team to be in the district championship hunt, with defending champion Grinnell and Boone as the other favorites.

South Tama, Newton, Dallas Center-Grimes and Saydel will again be the remaining district foes for Ballard. The Bombers travel to South Tama and Saydel and they host DCG and Newton.

The non-district games will also be return games from a year ago against Webster City, Carlisle and Norwalk. The Bombers open the season at Webster City and they host Carlisle in week 2 and Norwalk in week 4.

Ballard’s season opener versus Webster City will take place Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Webster City.