If big-play potential at the skill positions was the strength of the Yankton football team last year, what might it be this year?
Look up front, coaches and players will tell you.
The Bucks, who open the 2019 season at home Friday night against Spearfish, appear to have the kind of depth on both lines that could lead the way while new faces settle into new roles at those skill positions.
That depth up front is certainly an advantage.
“It’s big,” senior center Wil Pease said.
“Last year, if one guy got hurt, we didn’t have much left. You could see that going into the postseason.”
A year ago, as Yankton went 6-5 and advanced to the Class 11AA semifinals, it paced by a record-setting offense that included some of the program’s all-time greats — including quarterback Ethan Wishon, running back Caid Koletzky, receiver Rex Ryken and receiver Michael Drotzmann.
With an injury to junior Corbin Sohler, the Bucks now return zero of their 208 receptions and 10 of their 357 carries from last year.
That’s why that depth on the lines is so critical.
Pease and junior Gaige Koster return to the offensive line, while sophomores Carson Haak and Bodie Rutledge, along with junior Christian Thorsted, have seen significant time with the ones during preseason practices.
On the defensive line, junior Xavier Leonard returns, while Pease, Haak, junior Brady Smith and junior Dillon Ahrens have practiced with the ones.
“Now we have to get those guys some reps and the younger guys have to learn it,” Pease said. “If someone goes down, there’s another guy right there.”
That’s not the case now, with the number of linemen Yankton boasts this season, according to second-year head coach Brady Muth.
The varsity roster also features six other linemen: Senior Trevor Ellis, junior Dylan LaPointe, and sophomores Adam Kurtenbach, Curtis Steppat, Zach McKee and Ashton Christ.
“A lot of those guys now were twos on the depth chart, but they’ve changed so much,” Muth said. “It’s made our jobs harder to find the right five guys to get out there.”
While a bulk of the linemen may not have significant varsity experience, they certainly boost the kind of size to make an impact, according to Pease.
“It’s just getting them to know the plays and know where to go, but they have size, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage,” he said.
With so many options to plug into the line, it’s certainly a good problem to have, according to Muth.
“For years, we were always looking for the fifth guy, but this year we’ve got those five guys,” he said. “We just need to get the right five out there.”
Friday night’s season opener will kick off at 7 p.m. at Crane-Youngworth Field.
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