GLENWOOD CITY — After back-to-back appearances in the state football title game, including a Division 7 state championship in 2012, the Glenwood City football team missed the playoffs altogether last season.
Despite starting 3-1, the Hilltoppers went on to drop four of their final five games, all to Dunn-St. Croix Conference foes, and finished 4-5 and out of the playoff picture.
Like a year ago, the 2015 version of the Glenwood City football squad is young with limited numbers.
The Hilltoppers, who have just 32 players, grades nine through 12, on its current roster, must stay healthy and learn quickly.
“We believe that we can be competitive despite our youth,” Shane Strong, Glenwood City head coach said.
Although Glenwood City had just a half dozen seniors graduate from last year’s squad, all of them were starters and big contributors.
All-conference selections Todd Petersen and Jake Hierlmeier were integral parts on both sides of the ball in 2014. Petersen led the Toppers in the receiving corp with 464 yards and six touchdowns on 30 catches while Hierlmeier was second with 31 receptions for 316 yards and a pair of scores. Both anchored the Toppers’ defensive front as ends.
Four other graduates were key components on both sides of the ball. Twins Logan and Christian Smith and Troy Hall were starters on both the offensive and defensive lines while Bill Norenberg ran the ball for nearly 200 yards on 42 carries and patrolled the field as one of the Toppers’ starting linebackers.
Stabilizing those loses, however, is the return of a dozen letterwinners including Glenwood City’s entire offensive backfield headlined by seniors Nick Schone and Nathan Mrdutt.
Schone, who is entering his second year as the Toppers starting signal caller, threw for 1,272 yards in nine games which was tops in the Dunn-St. Croix conference. But Schone also finished with 21 interceptions compared to just 11 touchdowns. He also served as the Toppers’ punter, averaging 31 yards per attempt.
Mrdutt emerged as the Toppers’ go-to-man on the ground a year ago as he led the team in rushing with 615 yards and six touchdowns in 123 attempts for a solid 5-yard per carry average. The bulky fullback also snared a dozen passes for 129 yards and a score – fourth best on the team. In addition, Mrdutt was a force on the defensive unit as he racked up a team high 84 tackles from his linebacking spot and earned first team all conference honors at the position.
Letterwinners and juniors Jake Nelson and Jake O’Meara should provide the speed for the Hilltoppers’ rushing attack. As a freshman last year, Nelson was Glenwood City’s second-leading rusher with 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 44 carries. Both will play on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Another pair of junior letterwinners will be anchoring the linebacking corp. Marcus Ullom and Jake Logghe were the second and third leading tacklers last season with 64 and 48 tackles respectively. They will be joined by senior Mitch Hurtgen.
Ullom will likely work on the offensive unit as a tight end while Logghe is the team’s backup quarterback.
The offensive and defensive lines may likely be one of the Hilltoppers’ strengths this year.
“Our strength will be three returning offensive linemen over 210 pounds to go with some speed at our skilled positions,” noted Strong.
The backbone of the O- and D-lines will be seniors Joel Ormson and Hogan Chourinard along with junior Allen Croes. Ormson was tabbed as an allconference performer on both sides of the ball in 2014.
Senior Mitch Hurtgen appears to be transitioning from his end position last year to a spot on the offensive line.
Other lineman include seniors Cody Bonte and David Hoffman, sophomores Collin Schone, Marcus Hurtgen, Kyle Myers and Carlos Perez and freshmen Bryce Fayerweather and Matt Prinsen.
“We will play six to seven sophomores on both sides of the ball,” stated coach Strong. “They are talented but young.”
Glenwood City’s glaring weakness is its lack of depth. This year’s squad can ill afford any major injuries.
“We will not have much depth so if we suffer injuries it will hurt our team greatly,” Strong stated.
Strong, who enters his seventh season as Glenwood City’s head coach and a 40-26 record, sees Spring Valley, Elk Mound and D-SC newcomers Durand as the favorites for the 2015 conference title.
The Cardinals returned most of their team which finished second in the conference standing last season and made it to the level three playoffs. Elk Mound has big numbers and an explosive senior class while Durand comes from the tradition rich Middle Border and is a very physical squad.
Strong will again be assisted by Chuckie DeSmith, Randy Ketola, Jake Score, Jon Mrdutt and Richard Croes.
The Hilltoppers will open the season this Friday, August 21 at home against Frederic in a non-conference game. They then travel to Amery on August 28 before opening conference play at home against Elk Mound on September 4.
2015 Glenwood City Roster
Seniors: Nate Mrdutt, Nick Schone, Joel Ormson, Hogan Chouinard, Mitch Hurtgen, Cody Bonte, David Hurtgen.
Juniors: Jake Logghe, Jake O’Meara, Allen Croes, Marcus Ullom, Spencer Peterson.
Sophomores: Jake Nelson, Carson Strong, Jake Kopacz, Collin Schone, Pete Hill, Quinn Taylor, Ethan Kahler, Marcus Hurtgen, Darian Multhauf, Brad Kessler, Kyle Myers, Owen Wagner, Carlos Perez.
Freshmen: Tanner Davis, Hadin DeSmith, Caleb Peterson, Bryce Fayerweather, Dakota Dean-Immerman, Dillon Hierlmeier, Matt Prinsen.