Raiders hope momentum carries over from record season

Story and photo by Joe Randleman
Raiders hope momentum carries over from record season

Excitement is at an all-time high for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter football program entering the 2015 season.

The Raiders are coming off a record 10-1 campaign that saw them win a Class 2A District 7 championship with an undefeated regular season and make it to the second round of the playoffs.

It won’t be easy to maintain that level of success with the loss of three first-team all-state players, but Raider head coach Rob Luther still has more than enough talent at his disposal to make some noise.

“They’re talking pretty high goals,” Luther said. “I want them to have those expectations, but you’ve got to temper that. Last year’s team was about guys that really loved each other and we’re not there yet with this group. But practice has gone well. I don’t think we’ll be 0-9, but I don’t know after that. I think we have a chance to be good.”

CMB will be without first-team all-state performers Bryce Kemp, Patrick Girard and Joey Nissen, among several other key contributors off last year’s historic team. But the cupboard certainly isn’t bare.

Brady Stover, a first-team all-state receiver last year, will be the big playmaker for CMB this season. In 2014, Stover made a team-high 63 receptions for 902 yards and eight touchdowns and he also ran the ball 20 times for 70 yards and one score.

“The good thing about Brady is that, unlike Bryce - who was a little uncomfortable in the backfield - he is very comfortable at running back,” Luther said. “You’ll definitely see him at quarterback, in the slot and singled outside. He’s a different type of kid that we can move around and put in a lot of different spots to put some pressure on the defense. You’ll see him all over the place because we’re going to get him the ball.”

Senior receiver Hunter Gunderson caught 16 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, senior Brad Ritter made 13 grabs for 93 yards and one score and sophomore Brady Kemp made two catches for 16 yards as the other top returning receiving threats. Junior Tucker Maxwell will also figure into the equation at receiver.

Getting the talented Raider receiving core the ball will be a trio of quarterbacks led by junior Hunter McWhirter.

McWhirter threw for 1,716 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, splitting time with Nate Bishop. McWhirter also ran for 372 yards and six touchdowns.

Bishop threw for 766 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions last fall. He also ran for 85 yards.

Sophomore Braydon Aker will also vie for playing time behind center.

“I remember with Zach Samson, if something happened to him, I might as well go in at quarterback - we had no other option,” Luther said. “This year we’ve got a lot of options and they’re all good players.”

Coughenour is poised for a big year at running back. Last year as a sophomore, he ran for 847 yards on 5.5 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns and also made 23 receptions for 280 yards and one touchdown.

“We need him to have a big season,” Luther said. “He’s done everything in the offseason right. He has worked so hard to make himself more physical and he’s practiced great. I don’t want to put so much pressure on the kid, but I think he’s an all-state running back and our best since (Joe) Langenberg.”

CMB’s spread, no-huddle attack features an offensive line that returns two starters in juniors Jason Hilgren and Archie McFadden. Both could be moved around, but they are initially starting at offensive tackle.

Looking to fill the open three spots on the line will be seniors Joseph Bienfang and Joseph Acord, juniors Torren Shultheis, Adam Smith and Caleb VanZante and freshman Will Clapper.

On defense, CMB will operate out of a 3-5-3.

McFadden at nose guard, Ritter at defensive end and potentially Hilgren at the other end spot will anchor the Raider defensive line.

Charles Robertson is back to lead CMB’s linebacking core. Last year as a junior, Robertson made 50.5 tackles and seven tackles for loss.

“Charles is a football player,” Luther said. “We’re counting on him.”

Gunderson will take up one linebacker spot after making 26 tackles and four tackles for loss a year ago. Coughenour will also see time on the outside.

The other linebacker spots will be filled by either McWhirter, Kemp, Aker, Bishop or junior Zach Schaffer.

Stover will lead the secondary at cornerback. He made an impressive 10 interceptions in 2014.

Maxwell is back at safety after recording 34 tackles and one interception last season. Several players will be fighting to take the other cornerback position.

“I love that we’re an attacking, aggressive-type defense,” Luther said. “But probably our biggest concern right now is being able to fill some of those holes left on defense.”

Luther also must fill a big void left by Nissen at kicker. Nissen was 41 of 44 on extra points last season and he made 11 field goals, with a long of 42 yards.

“I joked in the offseason that you can’t replace Nissen, so I’m excited to start going for two every time,” Luther said. “But we’ve got a couple kids that can kick.”

Stover is returning at punter and he may see time at kicker. Creighton Caple could also kick.

In 2A District 7 Luther figures Albia to be the frontrunner. The Blue Demons return a lot of talent off last year’s district runner-up team that reached the state semifinals.

“I would be surprised if they’re not preseason ranked in the top two or three and they deserve it,” Luther said. “After Albia, everybody else has a chance. North Polk, Prairie City-Monroe, us and maybe Davis County. It’ll be Albia and everybody else fighting for the two, three and four spots to try and get in.”

CMB opens the season Aug. 28 at West Marshall. The Raiders host Roland-Story on Sept. 4, open district play at home versus Davis County on Sept. 11, go to Nevada the following week and then resume district play at PCM on Sept. 25.