Comets possess quality depth
The North Polk football team will be gunning for a fourth-consecutive trip to the state playoffs in 2013.
The Comets are coming off a 7-4 for season in which they placed second in Class 2A District 7 with a 4-1 record and advanced to the second round of the 2A playoffs before falling to Kuemper Catholic. Two years ago, North Polk also made it to the second round and in 2010, the Comets advanced all the way to the 2A state championship game.
Returning to state won’t be an easy task as North Polk must replace several key players from a year ago. But the Comets still have plenty of talent to get the job done.
"We hope the (senior) classes before have helped show the current players what it takes to play good football," North Polk head coach Evan Groepper said. "We have to replace some very talented seniors – the guys we lost last year made a lot of big plays. We need to find ways for new guys to step up and make plays."
North Polk will be operating out of the I-formation with some single-back and shotgun formations on offense. Last year the Comets averaged 25 points and 300 yards per game.
It will be tough to replace all-state receiver Jacob Hadaway, who caught 60 passes for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns last year. The Comets also must make up for the loss of playmaker Clay Cory (253 yards rushing, 153 receiving), all-district offensive lineman Jakob Torsky, receiver/defensive back Nathaniel Long (218 yards receiving, 48 tackles) and linemen Drake Van Roekel and Nick Obernolte.
But with quarterback Cole Jackson and playmakers Russell Greene and Garrett Moeckly returning, plus some quality linemen, the Comets have a chance to be even better offensively in 2013.
Jackson completed 141 of 257 passes for 1,973 yards and an impressive 20 touchdowns against only five interceptions in his first year as a starter last fall. Greene caught 42 passes for 461 yards and seven touchdowns and Moeckly was the team’s top rusher last year with 570 yards and seven touchdowns.
Senior Kris Bower and junior Alec White also have some experience running the ball and senior Chad Purcell, junior Mason Weiss and speedy sophomore Matt Cox will also see some time in the offensive backfield.
Senior Landon Schuessler will fill in at the other starting receiver spot opposite Greene. He caught two passes for 23 yards last year.
Senior Grant Schiltz and juniors Brian Keasey and Ryan Helland will also see time at receiver. Helland had one reception for 19 yards in 2012.
Seniors Austin Williams and Wyatt Johnson, and junior Colton Determann will fight for time at tight end.
On the offensive line North Polk will have three senior returning starters in Jon Lackore, Collin Hoshaw and Ben Bruggeman. Lackore will start at one tackle spot, Hoshaw at one of the guard positions and Bruggeman at center.
Juniors T.J. Krehbiel and Ryan Polich will compete for the other tackle spot and seniors Jamaal Hansen and Zach Houseman will fill in at guard.
On defense North Polk will be in a 5-2 formation. Last year the Comets were tough on that side of the ball, giving up 21.4 points and 298.8 yards per game and forcing 22 turnovers.
North Polk’s returning starters on defense are Williams at defensive end, Hoshaw at defensive tackle, Moeckly, Bower and Lackore at linebacker and Greene at safety.
Greene and Hoshaw will anchor the defense as Greene made third-team all-state last year and Hoshaw was a first-team all-district pick. Greene had 85 tackles and five interceptions in 2012 and Hoshaw finished with 34 tackles and four sacks.
Moeckly is the top returning tackler with 87 a year ago and Williams finished with 67 last year. Lackore had 45 stops a year ago and Bower had 40.
Bruggeman, Houseman, Hansen, Krehbiel, Polich and junior Brian Abshire will also fight for time at defensive tackle, and senior Wyatt Johnson and juniors Determann and Blake Brauer will compete at defensive end. Senior Dakota Woodard will help out at linebacker.
North Polk will be loaded with experience in its front seven, but Greene is the only starter returning in the secondary.
Schuessler did make 19 tackles last year and he and Purcell will compete for the other safety spot. At cornerback North Polk will have Schiltz, senior Braeden Ingersoll and Keasey in the mix for playing time.
"I am excited about the number of upperclassmen we have this year," Groepper said. "That should allow us to have great competition in practice all year. It should also give us depth and allow us to be fresh late in the game."
Defending district champion West Marshall will be the clear favorites to win 2A District 7 after returning a lot of talent from last year.
"West Marshall brings back great skill guys and they have won the district a whole bunch of years in a row," Groepper said. "I think the other six teams are looking for a way to take the district crown ourselves. I think it will be a very competitive district."
North Polk travels to State Center to take on West Marshall on Sept. 27. In their other district games, the Comets will play at Roland-Story on Sept. 13, host Gilbert on Sept. 20 and Nevada on Oct. 4, travel to South Hardin on Oct. 18 and host East Marshall in the regular season finale on Oct. 25.
In non-district play the Comets host Bondurant-Farrar on Aug. 30, head to Jefferson to face Greene County on Sept. 6 and play at I-35 on Oct. 11. The season opener against Bondurant-Farrar is set to start at 7:30 p.m. at Alleman.