Five Falls City Sacred Heart starters return for a season with new opponents and a practically new line.
“I think our schedule is considerably tougher than it was the past two years,” coach Doug Goltz said. “We’re losing a class of nine seniors, and we’re only going to have three seniors, so we lack depth on both sides of the ball.”
While players such as all-staters Christian Harring and Theo Rohrer will be difficult to replace, the Irish retained three key offensive players that Goltz believes will rise to the challenges of the upcoming season.
That trio includes three-year starting quarterback Drew Bippes.
“He’s been a starter since sophomore year, and he was an all-stater, so that’s a big plus to have our quarterback back,” Goltz said. “He’ll probably end up playing some defense this year. That’s something we didn’t have to do last year with him, but he’s one of the best athletes on our team.”
Jake Hoy and Del Casteel also will be back.
Hoy started halfway through the Irish’s season but became their leading receiver.
As a freshman, Casteel started at tight end and linebacker, but this season, he will move into a new offensive position, running back.
“He’s probably one of the better football players that we’ve had at this early age,” Goltz said. “He’s a good athlete. He’ll be very important, too.”
Goltz hopes that these three, as well as returning defensive starters Sloan Lenard and Branson Darveau, will lead the Irish into the postseason.
Eight Man-2 No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart, 10-2
Coach: Doug Goltz, 32nd season
Championships: 2016, 2013, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989
Returning starters: QB Drew Bippes (Sr.); DL/OL Sloan Lenard (Jr.); LB/OL Branson Darveau (Jr.); E/DB Jake Hoy (Jr.); RB/LB Del Casteel (So.).
Key departures: The Irish must fill gaps left from nine seniors, but Goltz believes the experience of Christian Harring (LB/RB) and Theo Rohrer (OL/DL) will be the most difficult to replace. Both were three-year starters and all-state selections.
Harring, who will play for Doane this fall, is likely to be replaced by Casteel on both sides of the ball.
Key returning player: Three-year starting quarterback Drew Bippes returns to his leadership role, but it will be different from the past two years. Bippes will be running an offense full of new varsity players.
“He’ll be able to help some of these younger kids who haven’t had much varsity experience,” Goltz said. “He just has a lot of experience. He’s a good player and a play-maker type for us.”
As a sophomore, Bippes led the Irish to an Eight Man-2 state championship, and last year, he led the team to the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion BDS.
Breakout player: RB/LB Del Casteel
“He’s one of the best young guys I’ve had in my 32 years,” Goltz said. “Nobody works harder than him. Nobody plays harder than him.”
Others to watch: C/DL Tanner Cromer (Sr.); E/DB Jay Hoy (Jr.); LB/DL Branson Darveau (Jr.)
On offense: While the Irish may lack depth, their offense has the advantage of an experienced quarterback in Bippes.
“He’s one of the best athletes on our team,” Goltz said. “He’s obviously a big important piece. I just think it’s a lot easier when your quarterback is back, and they know the offense.”
That offense will aim to balance passing and rushing. However, with many new varsity players, the Irish lack size.
“We’re not going to be one of those power teams,” Goltz said. “We just don’t have the size to be a power running team, so we’ll spread the field and attack the field. We’ve got a lot of speed.”
This spread offense will focus on key players, including Casteel.
“We basically had three seniors that we rotated in and out as our running backs, so now Del will be the main running back,” Goltz said.
On defense: Smaller-sized players will lead the Irish to defensive changes. While the 3-3 defense of previous years will be used, Goltz expects the need for a more attacking defense.
“We may have to blitz a little bit more,” Goltz said. “We don’t have the size that we’ve had the last three or four years, so we may have to be more of an attacking defense.”
Games to watch: The final game of the regular season against Johnson-Brock may be one of the toughest games for Goltz’s Irish.
Johnson-Brock is new to Eight Man-2. Last year, it finished in the Eight Man-1 quarterfinals.
“I think they might be the best team in D-2 this year,” Goltz said.
2018 schedule (with 2017 record)
x-denotes playoff teams; district opponents in bold type
Aug. 24, Nebraska City Lourdes (6-4)
Aug. 30, Lawrence-Nelson (8-3)
Sept. 7, at Omaha Christian (0-3)
Sept. 21, at Meridian (5-4)
Sept. 28, Lincoln Parkview (3-4)
Oct. 5, at Diller-Odell (6-3)
Oct. 12, Pawnee City (3-6)
Oct. 18, at Johnson-Brock (6-5)
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