Wolfpack Begin Defense Of D-1 Crown Tonight

ELGIN — The EPPJ Wolfpack, possessors of a 26-game winning streak and back-to-back D-1 state football titles, begin a new season Friday night. The Wolfpack, ranked third in the D-1 pre-season poll by the Omaha World-Herald, open the season at Elgin Field taking on Randolph.
The game will be the debut of Randy Eisenhauer as head coach, taking over the program from Carlie Wells who has moved on to Perkins County High School to try his hand at 11-man football.
“I’m looking forward to new challenges,” said Eisenhauer, “that we will be facing throughout the year.” This will be his 11th year coaching football in Elgin.
The obstacles facing Eisenhauer are big. Just one starter returns from last year’s championship team — Kyle Heithoff. Playing one of the lineman positions on offense, Heithoff was a standout linebacker last season, accounting for 105 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for losses. He helped anchor a defense last season which allowed just nine points per game.
“Kyle will be the leader from his linebacker position and others will have to adapt to their new roles as well,” Eisenhauer said.
The Wolfpack return a number of players who gained valuable experience as backups on last year’s championship team. They are Blake Schrage, Peter Starman, Brett Kinney, Alex Pelster, Trent Bauer, Dylan Behnk, Andrew Fangman, Ryan Pelster, Seth Schumacher, Kyle Kallhoff, Austin Meis, Chase Preister, Alois Warner and Scott Moser. Injuries have slowed the progress of some players so far, but everyone is optimistic that things will work themselves out.
“We should have a quick backfield this year that will have to adapt to their new roles,” Eisenhauer said.
Blake Schrage is the leading rusher back this season. One year ago he rushed for nearly 400 yards. Also back will be Alex Pelster. The backup quarterback one year ago, Pelster gained 355 yards on the ground. Pelster is competing for the quarterback job with Seth Schumacher.
The top receiver back from last year’s team is Peter Starman. He caught three passes for 45 yards last season.
“We do have some kids that have some potential of being good receivers/tight ends,” the head coach said. The offensive line is a major concern. Eisenhauer said much of practice has been spent trying to find the right people. Aside from Heithoff who has one of the line positions nailed down, the other two spots will be filled from a large group of players. The strength of the offense, Eisenhauer said, will be the knowledge of the players. He said most already know the system. Most of the players saw plenty of action the last couple of seasons, late in games. “Hopefully, that helps,” he said.
Yet, just like any coach going into a season, Eisenhauer has some concerns. He said depth and a lack of experience in some positions means the players will have to learn fast.
Blake Schrage will be one of the players to watch on defense. Last season he had 22 solo and 48 assisted tackles.
On defense, the coach said some players will be playing new positions this season, meaning they will have to remember their responsibilities. Team speed will be an asset in filling gaps quickly to make the necessary tackles.
“I think our speed and knowing the defense from years past will help,” Eisenhauer said. Developing an inside presence and being ‘physical’ will be areas the defense will have to focus on if the team hopes to have success in the coming season.
Newcomers to watch for this season, Eisenhauer said, are Alex Pelster, Blake Schrage, Brett Kinney, Andrew Fangman and Peter Starman.
Assistant coaches this year are Ben Spiegel, Steve Busteed, Tyler Reestman and Michael Becker.
The regular season schedule is as follows (home games in bold):
Aug. 30………………RANDOLPH
Sept. 13…………………..@ CWC
Sept. 20…………NE CHRISTIAN
Sept. 27……………..@ Creighton
Oct. 11…………….BLOOMFIELD
Oct. 18……………….@ Plainview
Oct. 24………..@ Neligh-Oakdale