Coach: Dirk Ankerholz, ninth season, 35-42
League: AV-CTL IV
Last season: 3-6
Returning starters: 15
Schedule: Sept. 1, at Wellington; Sept. 8, at Augusta; Sept. 15, El Dorado; Sept. 22, Rose Hill; Sept. 29, at Andale. Oct. 6, Chaparral; Oct. 13, Collegiate; Oct. 20, Wichita Trinity; Oct. 27, at Nickerson.
Projected record: 3-6
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Clearwater returns the majority of its offense from last season with seven starters back. Ankerholz was most excited about the offensive line, which will have four starters returning, highlighted by Demel. “The offensive side of the ball is really exciting for us,” Ankerholz said. “We’ve got a lot of returning talent, and we feel really comfortable with that side of the ball.”
2. For the first time in Ankerholz’s nine seasons at Clearwater, the team will not run a 4-3 base defense. The Indians are switching to a 3-3-5 that is better suited to their strengths. “We feel like the new defense fits our personnel better,” Ankerholz said. “That’s going to be a big key for us early in the season is how our defense gels in that new system.”
3. Depth, especially on the lines, is a concern. But if the Indians can stay healthy, then Ankerholz thinks the team has the ability to reach the postseason in a challenging district. “It’s going to be a mental game for us,” Ankerholz said. “As long as our kids are mentally into the game, then that’s going to give us a chance to win.”
Five questions with coach Dirk Ankerholz
1. How’s the offensive side of the ball looking?
“We feel like the offensive side of the ball is really going to be an exciting side for us. We’ve got seven starters returning and all but one on our offensive line coming back. We look really good there and I feel really comfortable with that right now.”
2. And how about the defense?
“Defensively, our linebacker core is going to be really, really good. We’ve got all three of them coming back. We are actually making a defensive switch and it’s going to be a big key for us early in the season how we adapt to that. For the first time since I’ve been here, we’re going to change from our 4-3 base defense and we’re going to switch to a 3-3 stack.”
3. Why does a 3-3-5 give Clearwater a better chance of winning?
“It just fits our personnel better and what we’re trying to do. We’ve been starting to run out of those 4-3-type of players up front and we just felt like switching to three down lineman gave us a better chance. Our first priority is going to be to stop the run. Once we get the run stopped, then we’re going to drop back and try to create as many turnovers as we can.”
4. In such a challenging district, how does Clearwater get back to the playoffs?
“I definitely think it can be done. We want to stress to the kids that it can be done. Of course Collegiate is going to be one of the top taems. Trinity always puts out a solid product and then Nickerson was good last year, as well. The district might not have those traditional powerhouses, but it was a very solid district. Any team is going to have to play great football to get out.”
5. For Clearwater to reach its potential this season, what has to happen?
“Well, it seems like it’s the same thing every year with us because it never seems like we’re very deep. So we have to come out of the season relatively injury-free. When we start getting multiple injuries, then that really limits what we can do. After that, I would just say the mental game. As long as our kids are mentally into the game and prepared to go, then that’s going to give us a chance to win every game.”