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Cardinals are running on the edge

Running a balanced offensive attack is what Newton Senior High’s Cardinals are about in 2013. They’ve had a soaring passing attack the past few years because of personnel.

Cardinal head coach Ed Ergenbright knows the personnel he has on this season’s football team and he wants to run the football with more consistency. Ergenbright is counting on his young backfield of juniors and a sophomore to execute a new offense.

“We have our starting quarterback returning. Tyler Wood did a steady job with our offense last year. We had some growing pains early, as he was a sophomore, but came into his own late in the season,” Ergenbright said.

“Tyler has the experience to guide the new offense, which is called the gun rocket. An issue the past three years is we’ve not run the ball with consistency against the best teams on our schedule. The lack of the ability to run the ball has been overshadowed by our strong passing game.

“We won’t get back to where we want to be — deep into the playoffs or a run at a state title — until we can line up and run the football at people you need to run against.”

Newton opened the 2012 season at 1-4. The Cardinals responded with four straight wins to reach the playoffs out of Class 3A, District 4. They lost in the first round of playoffs to finish 5-5.

“Our district is always tough with Grinnell, Dallas Center-Grimes, Boone and Ballard with strong tradition. Grinnell will be highly ranked in 3A with the players they have coming back,” Ergenbright said. “Our first two games are non-district, starting with Norwalk, which is a tremendous program.”

“Right out the gate, we’ll find out what our weaknesses are and what we’ll need to work on,” he added.

To run the football, a team needs an offensive line to control the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals have senior guards Will Brock (6-0, 210) and Jake Huizenga (6-0, 200) to anchor the interior of the offensive line. Starting offensive tackles are juniors Alex Bartels (6-0, 190) and Mason Bowes (6-2, 275).

Battling for the starting center position are senior Derek Wrage (6-2, 240), who is back out for football after two years away from the sport, and junior Patrick Murphy (5-11, 180). Ergenbright said Wrage is a very good athlete with size and Murphy is young and an intelligent player. Either player will provide steady play at the center spot.

“We feel good about our personnel from tackle to tackle. This is a good front line group, plus we have some younger kids who will develop into good linemen playing at the junior varsity level,” Ergenbright said.

Bowes played every down for the Cardinals during their 5-5 season a year ago. Bartels was a part-time starter as a tackle. He did play in the Cardinals’ playoff game.

“They give us experience at the tackle spots and have come into camp ready to work. Will Brock is our best player on the team. He was a first-team All-District linebacker last year, but is just as good of an offensive guard. He had really big games on both sides of the ball for us,” Ergenbright said. “Jake Huizenga is just like Will. They both have good quickness and are very strong.”

Playing at the tight end positions are 6-1, 185-pound senior Dillon Constant, 6-4, 190- pound junior Jordan Travis, 6-1, 200-pound Jake Smith and 6-5, 250-pound Ryan Thompson. Ergenbright said all four are working well and Thompson can play offensive tackle.

“We just need to execute our base plays in the new offense and take what the defensive alignment is giving us. We have enough speed to get the ball on the edge. We want to run the ball on the perimeter. You establish that, and it opens up the inside run game,” Ergenbright said.

Directing the gun rocket offense, is 6-1, 175-pound junior Tyler Wood. Wood completed 105 of 189 passes last year for 1,299 yards. He threw eight touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Wood earned Class 3A, District 4 honorable mention.

In the backfield with Wood are juniors Deonne Harris and Tristan Peters as the wingbacks and junior Jeff (J.T.) Thongvanh and sophomore Joseph Banfield. Harris and Peters played a lot last year as receivers for the Cardinals. Thongvanh and Banfield made their marks in junior varsity action.

“Deonne is 6-3 and a state qualifier in the high hurdles in track. He is explosive and is a player you want to get the ball to in space. Tristan is a tough inside runner for his size and blocks well,” Ergenbright said. “J.T. is smaller (5-11, 175) but put together well and has done work in the weight room. Joseph is a hard, physical runner.”

The receiving corps is young led by juniors Michael Barr (6-2, 180) and Nick Easley (5-10, 165). Ergenbright said Easley has demonstrated that he can be a threat on the outside for the Cardinals, running strong passing routes and having outstanding hands to catch the ball. Barr has good size and understands the offense well plus also runs good routes and a steady pass catcher.

Easley is Newton’s All-District 4 place kicker, who was 17-for-20 in point-after- touchdown kicks and hit 5 of 7 field goal attempts a year ago. His longest field goal was 35 yards. He punts for the Cardinals also, with a 31-yard average.

DEFENSE is where the bulk of the Cardinal senior returning players are established.

Starting along the defensive line are Thompson at defensive end and honorable mention District 4 selection Ray Schroder as defensive lineman. They anchor the front of the defense.

“Ryan can be as good as he wants to be as defensive end. With his size, he presents problems for opposing teams up front. Ray is a wrestler, and at 5-8, 205, he is extremely strong. We look for him to be a force in the middle,” Ergenbright said.

Zakk Weatherly is a 5-11, 215-pound sophomore, who is working on the interior of the defensive line. Ergenbright said he likes Weatherly’s quickness, “but he has to mature into the position, knowing the proper gap to take and understanding to do all the little things right.”

Ergenbright said Constant, Travis and Smith are working for the other starting defensive end spot. He said the Cardinal coaches are trying to find the best fit for players so the Cardinals can two-platoon as much as possible this season. Those three are vying for a tight end spot offensively.

Leading the linebacker corps is Brock. Brock, who earned All-District 4 first-team honors, returns as the top inside linebacker, coming off a season of 45 solo tackles and two quarterback sacks. Nick Glotfelty, a 5-8, 185-pound senior back out for the team this season, worked hard in the off-season and will provide strong play along side Brock.

Senior Joe Wright and sophomore Duncan Lee are backup linebackers.

At strong safety, senior Levi Michener (5-10, 165) recorded 31 solo stops and four quarterback sacks a year ago, earning district honorable mention. Daquan Allen is a 6-1, 180-pound senior, who started as a safety late in the season a year ago.

“We have speed on defense and our guys pursue the football pretty well,” Ergenbright said. “Colton Hanson is our returning free safety. Colton has great size at 6-2. With a year of varsity play under his belt, we expect him to have a good senior season.

At cornerback, junior Jeff Stanton is back with good skills as a defensive back. First-time out sophomore Mike McCormick is working as a cornerback.

“One concern we do have going into the season is our secondary, only because of the lack of game experience. We have some young kids working in those positions to give us depth.”

Easley is a strong special teams’ weapon for the Cardinals. Grant Davidson, a senior, can also kick and punt and Thompson can kick off the football. They Cardinals are working on finding a new long snapper. Retuning kickoffs and punts will be Harris, Peters, Easley and Banfield.

The Cardinals open the 2013 season on the road Aug. 31 at Norwalk. 

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