Raiders return several big-time skill players

After coming up painfully short of state a year ago, the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter football team will play the 2013 season on a mission as the Raiders aim to return to the promised land.

CMB finished 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the newly-aligned Class 2A District 6 last year.

A 41-35 victory over Davis County in the final game of the regular season left the Raiders one measly point shy of qualifying for state on points. Their final extra point in the win was blocked to end the season in heartbreak, despite actually winning the game.

The Raiders are determined not to let that happen again. With the return of versatile quarterback Zach Samson, talented 6-foot, 5-inch receiver Bryce Kemp and a big play-making running back in Zach Huffaker CMB is poised for a winning season, both overall and in the district.

"I love our attitude right now," CMB head coach Rob Luther said. "We had a very good summer, both in the weight room and in camps, and 7-on-7 tournaments. Now we need to get the pads on and find out who wants to block and tackle."

CMB will continue running out of spread, no-huddle offense. The Raiders averaged 31 points and 405 yards per game last year and with the return of so many big playmakers, those numbers figure to be even better this year.

"I am very excited about where we are offensively this early in the season," Luther said. "We are way ahead as far as mentally grasping what we want to accomplish. Samson is so smart at understanding the offense and making decisions, and we have a lot of kids who can spread the field both vertically and horizontally."

Samson will be the main cog in the engine for the CMB offense after accounting for over 3,000 total yards last fall. When everything is humming smoothly in his game, the Raiders are nearly impossible to stop.

Last season as a junior, Samson completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards and 18 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, despite playing with an injury for part of the time. He also ran for 1,090 yards and 12 touchdowns on an average of 6.2 yards per carry.

Kemp battled injury problems last year, but he still managed to catch 33 passes for 712 yards and nine touchdowns as the top big-play receiver on the team.

Joining Kemp at receiver will be seniors Austin Moorman and Jordan Coughenour, and sophomore Brady Stover. Moorman missed half of last year with a broken arm, but still caught 30 passes for 470 yards and six touchdowns, Coughenour had four catches for 25 yards and Stover made one eight-yard reception.

Huffaker ran for 656 yards and 11 touchdowns on an average of 8.6 yards per rush as a junior in 2012. He also was a big receiving weapon out of the backfield, making 39 receptions for 562 yards and two touchdowns.

On the offensive line, CMB will have seniors Shane White and Dawson Dahlke and juniors Patrick Girard and Clayton Weltha to fill out the guard and tackle positions.

"We are really struggling to find our center," Luther said. "We have three or four guys who could play there, but we have to wait for the pads."

Luther said the line will be the key to CMB becoming an even stronger unit on offense.

"Our line has to be dominant for us to make a deep run," Luther said. "We have very good skill kids, but our mentality has to be one of physical football."

Staying with the physical theme will be equally as important on the defensive side of the ball.

CMB will use a multi-front defense with a four-front base that can stem to a three or a five-man front. Luther stressed more aggressiveness on defense after the Raiders yielded 33 points and 357 yards per game last fall.

"We have to get better defensively to be able to take the next step forward," Luther said.

CMB will have Samson, Weltha, Girard and Dahlke in the four-man defensive front. Last year Weltha made 48 tackles and three sacks, Girard had 30 tackles and two stops behind the line and Samson totaled 23 tackles.

In the defensive backfield, CMB will have plenty of experience. The Raiders return Kemp at safety and add Huffaker and Gabe Schabillion at cornerback.

Kemp made 76 tackles and one interception, despite his missed time last year. Huffaker tallied 50 tackles and a team-high three interceptions in 2012 and Schabillion finished with 24 stops, plus two interceptions.

Linebacker will be the team’s biggest question mark on defense. The Raiders must replace last year’s leading tackler – Tim Thalacker – who finished with a team-best 103 stops.

"We have to find some linebackers who want to play downhill and want to be guys who will play hard in the box," Luther said.

Coughenour, Moorman, senior Logan Cory and junior Nick Little will fill in the linebacker spots this season. Coughenour had 15 stops last year, Moorman tallied 35, Cory picked up 27 and Little added nine.

In special teams play junior Joey Nissen will be back at kicker for the third year in a row.

Nissen made 40 of 42 extra points last season. He also punted once for 28 yards.

CMB has the tools to make a run at a 2A District 6 championship. But it won’t be an easy task.

"Albia will be very, very good," Luther said. "They have so many good athletes and are very well coached. Bondurant-Farrar has great numbers and football is a numbers game. We also respect the heck out of Prairie City-Monroe."

In addition to the tough competition, CMB also must overcome health issues that have become a hindrance over the past two seasons if it hopes to lay claim to a district title.

"Our goals are the same every year – to win a district championship," Luther said. "But you have to set little goals to get the big ones. Fundamentally we have to improve, we have to stay healthy and we have to have great leadership. We have to worry about getting better each time we step on the practice field."

CMB will open the season with a non-district home game against Gilbert on Aug. 30 at Baxter. The Raiders will face Roland-Story in Story City on Sept. 6 and take on Nevada at Nevada on Sept. 27 for their other non-district games.

In district play CMB hosts Bondurant-Farrar, PCM and I-35 on Sept. 13, 20th and Oct. 4 at Baxter, Maxwell and Baxter respectively. The Raiders’ first district road game will be at Albia on Oct. 11.

CMB also takes on Clarke at home on Oct. 18 and they wrap the regular season up with a trip to Bloomfield to face Davis County on Oct. 25.