by Marlys Kruger
ELK MOUND – 62 candidates for the Elk Mound football team reported to practice Aug. 6, including 13 seniors, nine juniors, 16 sophomores and 24 freshmen. Most of the seniors have varsity experience and head coach Dan Pedersen hopes this group along with the juniors will help improve on their record of 5-5 from last year.
Although they made the playoffs, the Mounders ended up playing and losing to Colby in a level one game. Colby was the top ranked team in the state and went on to win the Division 5 championship.
The Mounders have to replace six players from last year including Matt Hastreiter who platooned at quarterback and was honorable mention All Conference, receiver Austin DeLong and linemen Kyle Holzwarth, Matt Bridges (second team All Conference defensive end), Skyler Hubbard and Zach Brunner.
Returning for their senior season are Nick Heit who took plenty of snaps at quarterback as a junior and several All Conference players including last years workhorse at the running back spot Jordan Klemp (honorable mention), Nate Mack (second team defensive back and honorable mention offensive end), lineman Josiah Bauer (second team defensive lineman), receiver Dakota Tarnow (first team offensive end), Will Miller (second team linebacker and offensive lineman) along with linemen Jon Wolgemuth, Ryan Bridges, Jon Adank, Chris Hayden, David Henningfeld and running back Yeng Her and receiver Garett Phillips.
Junior Ryan Mueller will no doubt be scoring plenty of points with his foot for the team as he was the first team All Conference kicker last season and joining him are fellow juniors Travis Nelson, Justin Fedie, Derrick Redwine, Hunter Alexander, Tyler Deutschlander, Gabe Anderson, Adam Gottschalk and Austin Hanson. Sophomores Korbyn Knipfer and Zach Mohr also hope to contribute at the varsity level this year.
Elk Mound’s coaching staff combines for 130 years of experience as Pedersen begins his 39th year as the head honcho. Jeff Mack enters his 28th year, Mark Traun begins his 26th, Dan Hay 15, Jayson Lesik 11, Dave Lew 10 and volunteer coach Jake Puzio begins his second year.
“Things go a lot smoother when you have coaches who have been with the program this long,” Pedersen said. “Especially knowledgeable ones like we have.”
Looking around at the conference this year, Pedersen sees a pretty balanced group, but expects St. Croix Central to be tough because they have a lot of speed and some players with great skills back. Mondovi is always competitive and he sees a toss up after that.
“We are looking for a competitive year,” Pedersen said. “We should be improved from last year since we return a good number of lettermen who all have a good attitude. We hope to compete for the conference title and make a run in the playoffs,” he added.
The Mounders open the season on the road as they travel to Eleva-Strum for a Thursday night game August 23, then will be tested in conference play right away when they host St. Croix Central Friday, August 31..