It can be challenging to rally after a crushing state championship loss. It can be even tougher to find a way to replace 13 starters after losing 11 seniors.
However, coach Jon Coffey believes he and the Bobcats are up to the challenge.
“We’re going to surprise some teams,” Coffey said. “You know, everyone says we’ve lost a lot, which we did, but we’re not going to give up, I promise you that. We’re going to be (a) pretty feisty young group.”
He said one of the team’s main goals is keeping the streak of 13-straight state playoff appearances alive.
“We have a lot of young players ready to step up and keep the Bobcat tradition of competing, and it starts with hitting the weight room to get physical, more athletic. It all starts with the work we put in this summer.”
Eight Man-2 No. 3 Blue Hill
Coach: Jon Coffey, fourth season
Championships: Class C2, 2008
Returning starters: QB JC Himmelberg (Sr.); OL Tony Bauman (Sr.); RB/K Joe Mackin (Sr.)
Key departure: Quarterback John Rouse. As a dual-threat, which is especially valuable in eight-man football, Rouse’s combination of playmaking and leadership were very valuable for the Bobcats on their run to the state championship game.
Key returning player: Running back Joe Mackin is one of three main starters to return this fall. Mackin, a Swiss army knife-type player, will be a strong candidate for the all-state team because of his versatility.
Coffey said of Mackin: “He’s a good weapon for us. Joe was an all-state kicker, punter (and) wing-back, and he returned punts and kicks for us as well. He does a lot of things for us.”
Breakout player: Junior RB Max Mooreman. One of the returning Bobcats with experience this season, he will be asked to take a big step.
“He’ll play some running back for us,” Coffey said. “He’s only about 5-8, 160 pounds, but he’s really quick. I think he’ll have a good year for us, he brings a lot of athleticism for us.”
Others to watch: OL Tony Bauman (Sr.); LB Kolton Bohlen (So.)
On offense: The Bobcats’ power running attack has been their bread and butter under Coffey, scoring 47.8 points per game last season. The coaching staff believes they have the right mix of athleticism and understanding of the offense to continue their success. They will also be able to run some spread offense with JC Himmelberg under center and talented pass catchers. They also have an impressive stable of ball carriers between Mackin, Mooreman, and Bohlen.
On defense: Senior Tony Bauman will be making the move to nose tackle for Blue Hill, and at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he’ll be relied on as a force in the trenches and as a leader. Coffey also said that while perhaps undersized at the linebacker spots, his players more than make up for it with quickness, range and the ability to read the offense.
Key matchup: Coffey highlighted the week two tilt at Diller-Odell, which played in Eight Man-1 last season, as the toughest test of the year for the Bobcats.
“Traveling to Diller-Odell week two will be tough because some of our younger guys will just be settling into their roles and there will be some learning and improving on the fly,” he said. “As the state runners-up, as a traditionally competitive team, we know teams will be shooting for us, and we know everyone will a challenge for us.”
2018 schedule (with 2017 record)
Aug. 24, Meridian (5-4)
x-Aug. 31, at Diller-Odell (6-3)
Sept. 7, at Loomis (3-5)
Sept. 21, Franklin (0-8)
x-Sept. 28, at Giltner (6-4)
x-Oct. 5, at Lawrence-Nelson (8-3)
x-Oct. 12, Kenesaw (9-1)
Oct. 19, Axtell (2-6)
X — denotes playoff teams; district opponents in bold type
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