Not much about last season went according to plan for the Northfield football team.
Every week, the list of injured and unavailable players grew longer and longer to previously incomprehensible levels, resulting in the Raiders turning to a group of unexperienced underclassmen in order to field a team in the back half of the season.
All that carnage resulted in a one-win campaign last year, but might also pay dividends this season.
“I look at my list of seniors, and a lot of those guys got some playing time and got some varsity action,” Northfield coach Bubba Sullivan said. “Some of the kids that are juniors did, and then one or two that are sophomores now played (last year). That should help us. I wouldn’t say we have a ton of experience coming back, but the fact that some guys got some varsity action should help them be a little more calm come the first game and early in the season.”
Defensively, Northfield returns the bulk of its experience in the backfield. Seniors Porter Adams, Cole Stanchina and Blake Mellgren are all back after playing the majority of snaps a year ago at cornerback and safety.
In the front seven, the Raiders are a bit thinner, but do return junior linebacker and last year’s second-leading tackler Mason Pagel, in addition to senior lineman Nick Lopez.
“He’s our top lineman, for sure,” Sullivan said of Lopez. “He’s one of our captains and he could be a dominating blocker. The thing for him is playing both ways tires him out, so we have to be smart with how we use him.”
The makeup of the rest of the defensive line and linebackers for the first game of the season Friday, Oct. 9, at Faribault is still an open question that will be answered through the first two weeks of practice.
On the other side of the ball, Lopez and Pagel will join with senior Nolan Stepka as the three returning offensive lineman for the Raiders.
In the offensive backfield, Northfield returns Mellgren, senior Josh Johnson and sophomore Charley Monaghan, the latter two of which stepped into ever-increasing roles as the season progressed last year.
On the outside, the Raiders will benefit from some fresh faces, Sullivan said, with now-healthy senior Ethan Lanthier and senior Kip Schetnan, a two-year starter for the basketball team who is playing high school football for the first time this fall.
“We have some skill there with Ethan Lanthier,” Sullivan said. “He was hurt a lot last year, and then Kip Schetnan is out and provides us with a top-notch athlete. Kip makes a difference for us immediately just by being on the field, on both sides of the ball, really.”
Who will start at quarterback for Northfield is still undecided, but it’s down to either senior Cole Stanchina or junior Spencer Klotz. Last year, Stanchina entered the season in a battle with eventual starter Gavin Rataj and did play some varsity snaps at the position.
Klotz, meanwhile, spent last year quarterbacking the junior varsity team.
“They may share some time, but we’ll see how that plays out,” Sullivan said. “I think if we can get them both some action, that’s good, especially if it’s Cole and he’s playing some d-back as well.”