Tigers host Linton-HMB in season-opener on Friday
By Jay Davis
The Tiger football team starts things just like they have started them the last seven seasons: facing off against North Dakota rival Linton-HMB.
“It’s a game that, win or lose, is always a competitive game,” said third-year coach Nathan Lamb.
The season kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday at Tiger Stadium.
“We finally get to get that first game under our belts,” said Lamb. “It’s getting to be that time. We’re ready to hit someone in a different jersey.”
The Tigers have seven starters returning on offense and six on defense as they set out to improve on last season’s 3-6 campaign. They are replacing seven graduated seniors, five starters on defense and just four on offense.
While the offense is bringing in just four new starters, some are moving to new positions. Mason Keller, 190-pound senior, moves from quarterback to running back. Lucas Ulmer, 146-pound junior, takes over at quarterback. Foreign exchange student, Oquez “Kahn” Kaanenir, 220-pound junior will start at wingback. Catching passes will be returning starters Ethan Kettering, 141-pound senior, and Noah Chase, 162-pound junior, along with Eli Richards, 143-pounds junior and Matt Lepke, 148-pound junior.
The offensive line brings back a lot of experience. Preston Frederick, 201-pound senior, moves from tackle to tight end. Also returning are left tackle David Jensen, 216-pound senior, center Chase Schoenhard, 220-pound senior, and right guard Quinten Fish, 258-pound junior. Joining the cast up front are left guard Dalton Martian, 192-pound sophomore and right tackle Carson Keller, 232-pound freshman.
Returning to start on defense are Mason Keller and Chase at linebacker, Jensen and Schoenhard on the defensive line and Kettering and Ulmer in the defensive backfield. Keller and Chase are the outside linebackers. Kaan and Martian will start inside. Jensen and Frederick will start at defensive end, while Schoenhard and Fish will play tackle. Kettering and Ulmer will play cornerback, while Richards starts at safety.
With 37 players on the team, there is depth at quite a few positions, but a lot of the depth is young. The Tigers have six seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores and 15 freshmen.
Lamb said the team has had a good preseason.
“They’ve been working hard at conditioning,” said Lamb. “Not just working hard to condition, but working hard to get better. A good number of the guys have successful seasons in other sports and good summers.”
Lamb said the success has carried over as the team attitude has been great so far.
The rest of the team is: senior Joseph Avalos; juniors Killian Warner, Riley Schott, Tyler Larson, and Nathan Thompson; sophomores Hunter Gill, Jeff Kemnitz, Caleb DeMarrias, Adam Silbernagel and Joseph Hogan; and freshmen Dylan Cerney, Parker Blom, Brady Greger, Michael Davis, Nathan Bauer, Koty Weleba, Dakota Nickels, Stone Jensen, Brenden Marker, Jason Gerry, Chase Chandler, Josh Chase, Bradley Keller and James DeMarrias.
With so many youngsters, the Tigers have stepped up the coaching staff and the junior varsity schedule.
This year’s coaching staff has returnees Paul Goehring and Keith Mayer, with newcomer Jason Pasco and volunteer coaches Jason Bauer, Nate Bauer and Jim Cerney.
Lamb said he has been able to delegate more and practices have been much more productive with a deeper staff.
The youngsters on the team will get to see action in seven JV games this fall, which will step up the learning curve for the future starters.
Friday will be the 15th game between the Tigers and Lions. Mobridge-Pollock holds a 9-5 edge in the all-time series. The Tigers have won two of the last three, but Linton-HMB scored late touchdowns to beat the Tigers 34-13 in Linton last season.