Swede football steps into C-1 spotlight
After three consecutive trips to the state quarterfinals and the recent recognition lineman Tanner Borchardt has received, it’s safe to say the days of Gothenburg football flying under the radar have passed.
The Swedes will begin this season as the fifth-ranked team in C-1 according to the Omaha World-Herald. Borchardt was recently named to the paper’s “Super 6” team, comprised of the top six football players in the state.
“I think our days of sneaking up might be over,” said coach Craig Haake. “I don’t think, in all those years, we’ve ever had a preseason ranking.”
The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Borchardt is the most noticeable and highly recruited member of the Swedes, but he isn’t the only reason for the preseason respect.
Zach Wolf is back as the featured running back after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards a season ago. He’ll look to eclipse that mark this fall behind a strong offensive line that returns three starters. Wolf also serves as the yin to Borchardt’s yang as far as leadership goes.
“When he (Borchardt) does say something, they listen,” said the coach of the Swedes. “He talks more with his actions than he does with anything. If you want outspoken, that would be Zach. We try to get him to be quiet once in awhile.”
Joining Borchardt on the line is 240-pound center Dylan Folkers. Haake believes his center might be the best in C-1. With a strong line and a tough running back, it’s unlikely the Swedes will shy away from what led them to the state tournament in the past.
“When push comes to shove, we’re running the ball, and we’re going left,” said Haake. “Everyone we played knew that last year, and we still did it.”
While Gothenburg’s bread and butter may remain running through the left side of the line, the may do it in a number of new formations. In Friday’s scrimmage, the quarterbacks rarely lined up under center.
Sophomore Dawson Graham took the first snaps of Friday’s tune up. Graham was the first freshman to play quarterback for Haake. After Jacob Clark was injured, Graham started the rest of the way, including two playoff wins and the season-ending loss to the eventual state champion, Cozad, in the quarterfinals.
“He’s the fastest kid we have on the team,” said Haake. “He throws the ball well. He’s just going to make plays.”
Clark is expected to start the season as a wide receiver. Haake described the former starting quarterback as one of the team’s best athletes with “great hands.”
The defense will feature many of the same faces as the offense. Borchardt and Folkers will start on the defensive line, while Wolf retains his spot at linebacker. Both Graham and Clark are likely to see time in the secondary.
“Defensively, we are going to get after you,” said Haake. “Like I said, we are an attacking defense also, and that is not going to change.”
Although Borchardt is attracting Division I scholarship offers for his play as an offensive tackle, his coach believes he may be more productive defensively at the high school level.
“In college, he will go and be an offensive lineman somewhere,” said Haake. “In high school, he is such a terrible match up on defense, you better have a couple guys assigned to figure out where he is.”
The team also boasts a wealth of depth in the secondary. After Clark, Jake Peterson and Connor Schwanz saw their seasons ended by injuries, younger players were forced into the mix last year.
The Swedes will open the season at home on Friday against Holdrege. The Dusters spent last year compiling a 5-4 record in Class B.
Four weeks later, Gothenburg will host a Dawson County rivalry game against Cozad.
The week following, the Swedes travel to Broken Bow. Close contests with the Indians have become the norm of late. Last year the Swedes were the victors in a 3-0 game.
Haake stressed the importance of each game with a smaller state playoff field. In years past, a team could expect to make the state tournament with three or four losses. Haake speculates that a two-loss team could miss the postseason this year.
At the end of the day, Haake believes his team has enough talent and potential to feasibly take another step forward this season.
“There are a lot of parts coming back this year,” said Haake. “I think that (improving on last year) is realistic. I think this team has a very high ceiling.”
Members of the team include:
SENIORS—Jacob Clark, Connor Schwanz, Jake Peterson, Zach Wolf, Dirk Earll, Dalton Sylvan, Jordan Lauer, Tanner Borchardt, Justin Sabin, Tyler Baker, Levi Tripp, Dylan Folkers.
JUNIORS—Braeden Brundage, Caleb Rice, Patrick Messersmith, Skyler Schwanz, Ryan Rehbach, Ethan Bihlmaier, Jacob Rosse, Matthiel Martinez, Alex Jorgenson, Drake Langley, Chad Schmiett, Herschel Foster, Jayden Miller, Ziek Brian, Riley Ostendorf.
SOPHOMORES—Collin Hahn, Dawson Graham, Trevor Holley, Bryan Martinez, Stefan Wehjte, Zander Paulson, Kaihden Dorsey, Dominic Long, Tyler Raasch, Myles Mendell, Wyatt Anderson, Noah Royce, Sean Scott, Patrick Peterson, Keith Kuhlman, Will Healey.
FRESHMEN—Reid Houchin, Bennett Folkers, Landon Rosse, Austin Kort, Hunter Baker, Logan Carlson, Patrick Hudson, Stone Hite, Will Mannel, Johnathon Lauer, Hayden Schwanz, Hunter Will, Noah Gugleman, Alex Garner, AJ Whiting, Brady Harrison.