Soccer: Park Rapids coaches, players sure to win more games – Park Rapids Enterprise

Coach Jeremy Nordick is banking on a confident Park Rapids football team to produce a winning record this fall.

Ten players graduated from last year’s team that posted a 1-8 record while being outscored 231-91. The Panthers received the No. 6 seed for the Section 8AAA tournament and saw their season end with a 28-0 loss to No. 3 Perham in the first round. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton beat Fergus Falls 22-20 in overtime in the section championship game.

Park Rapids has some starting spots to fill with the graduation of Kobe Burton, Parker Harmon, Tristan Hill, Logan Jackson, Jaxson Lund, Josiah May, Nick Michaelson, Sam Reish, Kaleb Stearns and Kiergon Wilkins.

On the offensive end, the Panthers must replace their leading rushers in Hill (88 carries for 347 yards and three touchdowns) and May (35 carries for 96 yards) and leading receivers in Jackson (38 receptions for 522 yards and six TDs). Michaelson (24 receptions for 446 yards and one TD), Stearns (six receptions for 117 yards), Lund (seven receptions for 49 yards and one TD) and Harmon (five receptions for 38 yards).

Defensively, Hill (85 total tackles), Burton (56), May (46), Jackson (42), Michaelson (36), Stearns (14) and Harmon (13) were among the leading players. May had 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, while Stearns had two interceptions. Jackson returned an interception for a TD, Stearns recovered two fumbles and Michaelson averaged 35.2 yards on 17 punts. Hill, Burton and Jackson received District Red Midwest honors.

If the kids keep making progress, we’re going to be a very, very tough team to beat at the end of the year.

Jeremy Nordick

On the plus side, the Panthers return their entire offensive line and starting quarterback among their 12 returning letterwinners. That group includes seniors Ethan Eischens, Hunter Harrison, Luke Hartung, Cory Johnson, Lucas Kritzeck, Malachi Martin and Mason Yliniemi; juniors Noah Morris, Noah Larson and Matt Johanning; sophomore Kaleb Weaver; and freshman Jaydon Walen.

Morris returns at quarterback after completing 74 of 135 passes for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns and will be protected by the starting offensive line of Eischens, Harrison, Kritzeck, Martin and Weaver. Johnson and Yliniemi will be tight. Competing for spots on the offensive line are seniors Nicholas Graham, Daniel Hoyt and Marc Moir; young Jack Moses; and sophomores D’Andre Johnson and Mason Nisius while junior Anthony Tyge will provide depth at tight end.

Walen and Johanning will start at running back with sophomore Aiden Maanum providing depth. The receivers will be Hartung, Larson, Johanning and junior Blake Morris with sophomores Landon Strasburg and Ryan Carroll providing depth. Johanning and freshman Carter Hirt will serve as backup quarterbacks.

“We will use the same formations, but we will have a different look in attack,” said Nordick. “We will have more speed at the back, which we will use to our advantage. Our receivers are confident they can make big plays. I’m excited about the depth we have on our offensive line. Another year in the weight room is more physical. I really like what I see on offense.”

Back on defense are Yliniemi and Martin up front with Kritzeck joining Cory Johnson and Larson at the defensive ends. Hartung, Morris and Johanning return to the secondary. Larson (50), Johnson (43), Yliniemi (33), Hartung (17), Kritzeck (14) and Johanning (12) return after reaching double figures in tackles. Larson had two interceptions, while Johanning forced two fumbles.

Competing for starting spots are Eischens, Harrison, Graham, Weaver, Nisius, Moses, D’Andre Johnson and juniors Mason Sherva and Bryant Tesch up front with Maanum, Tyge and junior Owen Van Batavia providing depth at linebacker. Walen and Strasburg will also see time in the secondary, while sophomore Kale Ravness will step in at nickel coverage.

“Our line is going to be our strong point defensively,” Nordick said. “We have a lot of extremely athletic guys at linebacker and in the secondary. They like to go out and hit people. We’re not going to outplay anyone, but we’re going to be as physical and give the other teams all they can handle.”

Walen will handle the punting duties and join Maanum, Johanning and Noah Morris as kickoff and punt returners.

Rounding out this year’s roster are junior Alex Brewer; sophomores Thomas Hartung, Matthew Berdahl, Peter Carroll and Gannon Hrdlicka; and freshmen Wrigley Clark, Jackson Soderberg, Mason McCarthy, Heath Safratowich, Gabriel Hoogakker, Andy Johanning, Cooper Ackerman, Kaden Shepherd, Corbin Schiller, Parker Hunter, Carver Laturnus, Bradyn Hoffman, Travis Feather-Kaumans, Alexemer Ch. Landstrom.

The Panthers coaching staff has plenty of experience with everyone having competed at the collegiate level. In addition to Nordick (Bemidji State), Jesse Bucholz (Concordia College) returns to the staff as defensive coordinator. New to the varsity staff are Josh Popanda (St. Cloud State) as offensive and defensive line coach, Wyatt Sanford (Dakota State) as defensive backs coach, Jeb Sanford (Dakota State) as linebackers coach, Noah MacPherson (North State) as tight ends and defensive line coach, and Kevin Murphy serving as special teams coach and assistant offensive coordinator.

“All those guys have a passion for the game,” Nordick said. “They’re constantly thinking about Park Rapids football.”

Nordick believes the passion for the game from the coaching staff and players has the Park Rapids football program headed in the right direction.

“DGF has the tradition that we are trying to achieve. They expect to win every game. DGF is the team to beat this year, but I think the rest of the section is a toss-up. I think the whole section is more open than in previous years. I think any team can win it. That will make this a fun season,” said Nordick. “Our program is where we want it to be. K to 12 program development has increased. The numbers are where we want them to be and the emotion is where we want it to be. We have 51 guys who think team one and I like to see that. If the varsity can win a few more games on Friday night, this program will take off.”

The key to turning the corner and having more success depends on players believing they can win matches. Nordick thinks this group has that belief.

“The children are excited. They believe they can win,” said Nordick. “We have a lot more balance and depth on both sides of the ball than we’ve had in the past. We will take it one game at a time and grow and build throughout the season. I feel like we have an opportunity to win our first playoff game and we’ll take it from there. If the kids keep improving, we’re going to be a very, very tough team to beat at the end of the year.”

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