Collegiate’s Mike Gehrer couldn’t quickly recall a time when he’s entered a football season relying so heavily on young, untested players.
“Our livelihood is going to be in the hands of a whole bunch of sophomores,” said Gehrer, in the second year of his second run as Spartans coach.
If that dependence on youth keeps Gehrer up at night, the thought of his quarterback situation ought to yield blissful slumber. Collegiate, coming off a 9-2 season that ended with a playoff loss to eventual Class 4A champion Holton, returns one of the area’s top signal callers in senior Landon Root.
Root (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), completed 116 of 186 passes for 1,599 yards and 18 touchdowns last season after transferring from Kapaun Mount Carmel. He also ran for 613 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards.
“I was a little nervous, I’ll be honest,” Root said of his first season as a starter. “I feel like I’m a lot more prepared. That season helped me mature as a quarterback.”
Root, who has orally committed to Northern Illinois, will be aided by other transfers in his final season. Junior lineman Kyler Ehm earned all-league honorable mention last season at Circle. Four days before the first practice, Gehrer said Rose Hill senior Bret Waddell, an all-league receiver and defensive back, and his brother, sophomore quarterback Austin, have transferred to Collegiate.
Root’s favorite targets last season, Markus Phox and Spenser Schooler, graduated along with leading rusher Isaiah Franklin. Junior Jacques Williams and senior Seth Carder, both two-way starters, will be in the backfield to replace Franklin, who ran for 1,285 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Junior Jack Copher, and sophomores Damare Simms and Jack Larsen are part of a young receiving corps that will inherit increased roles. Collegiate will build its offensive and defensive lines around senior Mitch Copeland. The Spartans’ special teams will be boosted by senior Max Moxley, an all-league kicker and punter last season.
Gehrer said five or six starters on offense and defense could be sophomores.
“The seniors and juniors we have are talented, quality guys,” he said. “But they’re going to have to bolstered by that younger group.”
Coach: Mike Gehrer, 17th season, 135-34
League: AV-CTL Division IV
Last season: 9-2
Last five seasons: 49-8
Projected 2013 playoff team? Yes
Top skill players
|Sept. 13||at Buhler|
|Sept. 27||at Wellington|
|Oct. 11||at Maize South|
|Oct. 18||Trinity Academy|
|Oct. 25||at Rose Hill|
|Oct. 31||at Augusta|
Landon Root on his team
What Collegiate does well: “The offseason really helped us get our timing down with younger players and establish some chemistry. We’re all a big family from freshmen on up to seniors. No matter what grade you’re in, we know we’re all on the same mission.”
What has to improve: “We might not have the big-play ability we had last year on offense. I’m sure we’ll still have big plays and big moments. But we need to accept that first downs lead to touchdowns. That’ll be big.”