Mike Richards

Mike Richards is set for his third year as WEM’s head coach this fall, and will have to grapple with the graduation of 17 seniors from last year’s team. (Daily News File Photo)

After the graduation of a 17-player senior class, the depth chart is guaranteed to look slimmer across the board.

That’s the case for Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which will move forward without last year’s experienced seniors in search of answers to plug the gaps they left.

“The next couple of years we’re going to be a little slim with the older kids,” WEM coach Mike Richards said, “but hopefully in the next couple of years we’ll get them up to where they need to be.”

Last year, WEM finished the regular season 5-3 — one win shy of a share of the district title. The Buccaneers then raced pat Minnesota Valley Lutheran in the Section 2A quarterfinals before narrowly falling 46-44 in the semifinals against Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop, the eventual section champions.

Many of the skill positions from that team will be open competitions whenever the season gets started this fall. Grant McBroom, a three-year starter at quarterback, is gone. So are three-year starting running back Brant Melchert, his running mate Jaden Taylor, tight ends Cole Kokoschke and Dylan Androli, and wide receiver Nicholas LeMieux.

That group also littered the team’s defensive corps.

“It’s going to be a completely different looking team than we’ve had,” Richards said.

The Buccaneers will be experienced on both the offensive and defensive lines, since both were areas with underclassmen playing a large bulk of the snaps a year ago.

“This year, the line is going to be our strong point,” Richards said.

Richards said he’s expecting about a dozen seniors and juniors next year and a similarly-sized sophomore class. The incoming freshman group could be just as large as the departing seniors, but they’re also not wholly ready to step into a varsity game next year.

With that much inexperience, it won’t just be the personnel that looks a little different than years past.

“We need to go back to the basics and work back up to where we can be a little bit more advanced,” Richards said. “Last year, we had a bunch of kids that have been in the trenches and done a lot of stuff. As years went by we could add a little more (to the playbook) here and there. This year, I kind of have to go back and hit reset. They’ve done some of the basics as a ninth-grade group and with JV football, so they know what we’ve been doing the last couple years.”

Reach Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @NFNewsSports. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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