Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let the (football) games begin

Even though Mankato Loyola has already played one game, the football season really begins this week, and for local football fans, it's going to be an interesting season to watch quarterbacks.

At Mankato West, senior Philip Nelson will likely be remembered as the best quarterback in program history, and he'll surely end up with most of the prominent passing records by the time he leaves for the University of Minnesota next fall.

If West is to win another state championship, which is Nelson's stated goal, he'll have to be very productive, both passing and running, to overcome some of the Scarlets' weaknesses.

Loyola has a returning starter in Blake Matuska, while Mankato East will send in an inexperienced starter Friday, be it senior Matt Roberts or sophomore Quinn Frisell. Both teams had losing records last season, meaning it's up to the quarterback to help turn things around.

Minnesota State, which had poor quarterback play for much of last season, is going to Jon Daniels, a senior transfer from Nebraska-Omaha. The early reports have been good on Daniels, but sophomore Jon Wolf looked promising at the end of last season.

Gustavus Adolphus brings back senior Logan Becker, who put up pretty good numbers last season but threw 12 interceptions. Ball security should be better as a senior, in his second season as a starter, but the Gusties won't go far with that kind of turnover number.

The Minnesota Vikings acquired Donovan McNabb to be the starter until Joe Webb or Christian Ponder are ready to take over, and McNabb has looked a little better in each preseason game. The Vikings aren't likely to get much out of this season so you wonder how long McNabb will remain engaged.

It's often said that quarterbacks get too much blame and too much credit, but this season, in this area, quarterback play has never been so important.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

High-school football begins

With the exception of Mankato Loyola, area prep football teams began practicing Monday. Of course, any program with a hint of success has been working out all summer, either at camps or led by captains.

Loyola started a week early, taking advantage of a new rule that allowed teams to schedule a game the last Friday of August, then take a week off during the rest of the season.

Loyola should be in a better place this season, with numbers up to 43 from 27. Last season, the Crusaders won just two games, often times practicing with less than 22 players. But those younger players gained a lot of experience.

At Mankato West, all eyes will be on senior quarterback Philip Nelson, who has committed to the University of Minnesota. Other teams will measures themselves against Nelson, who will likely collect many of the program's passing records by season's end.

But don't forget Hunter Friesen, who caught 50 passes and made nine interceptions to earn some all-state recognition.

Mankato East won three games last season and should be able to build on that. There will be a new quarterback, but there are some veterans in the backfield and on the line.

You should always keep an eye on Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which has a lot of players returning but must replace all-state quarterback Conrad Masberg.

At Blue Earth Area, 6-9, 290-pound lineman Jonah Pirsig has also committed to the University of Minnesota.

New Ulm Cathedral returns as the defending Class A champions, though there were a lot of seniors on that team. Senior running backs Eric Hauser, Ted Skillings and Nick Simon each played key roles in that championship season.

Surely, many other cool stories will emerge as the season gets rolling. Check back here or keep an eye on the print edition for some of those.