Home, sweet home. The Knights are back on home turf for the first time since 2017 after last season was spent on the road during field reconstruction.
Now that fans can see their hometown team right in Kenyon, what they’ll see is a team with one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the Mid Southeast White subdistrict.
Even with injuries to multiple big hosses up front in week 1, K-W rushed for over 150 yards in its christening of the soft, new grass field in a 21-6 win over Cleveland.
The line features senior Cole Flom at center. Juniors Carter Quam, Owen Hilke Armani Tucker and Clay Stevenson all figure to get a lot of snaps as well as senior Wyatt Foss. Due to some injuries and the unit’s athleticsm, head coach Jake Wieme is offered some flexibility as far as shuffling guys in and out on the line.
All-district lineman, and occasional fullback, Kaya Lindell, is the key departure on the lines.
The linemen are mostly two-way players and figure to make life difficult for opposing run games. Cleveland had zero rushing yards in week 1.
Where K-W, which was 2-7 and a Section 1AA quarterfinalist in 2018, will be new is at the skill positions.
The key departure is all-Mid Southeast district running back Nate Bauer. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and was the team’s bell cow.
Junior Tyler Craig, sophomore Josh Schmidt and junior Bray Olson hope to be a three-headed monster for K-W. Craig returns the most carries from 2018 and led the team in rushing in the opener.
Senior Tate Erlandson shifts from quarterback to wide receiver. His sacrifice paid off quickly with five catches in week 1 from Luke Berg.
The junior Berg got some spot backup time in 2018. K-W hopes to add a little more to its passing repertoire this season. Keeping opponents from keying on the run and loading the box will be important to the Knights’ success.
Berg will look to Erlandson and Craig split out wide as his top options along with rising tight end Casey Wesbur. Riley Horn is the other senior at receiver with Erlandson.
K-W has a solid kicker in Kevin Vazquez. He was 3-for-3 in extra points against Cleveland and has a strong leg if called upon.
Defensively, K-W includes in the defensive backfield the senior Erlandson and juniors Craig and Alec Johnson, among others.
Wesbur and Quam are a pair of linebackers who could make an impact.
A new two-year district cycle begins in 2019. K-W moved from the Mid Southeast Red subdistrict to Mid Southeast White.
The district includes Randolph (new to 11-man football), Blooming Prairie (a 2018 state tournament team), Goodhue (2018 state entrant), Bethlehem Academy and Medford.
K-W has crossover games at home vs. Cleveland and Lewiston-Altura and on the road at Winona Cotter.
While Blooming Prairie and Goodhue could both be in the state top 10 when they meet with K-W, the Knights match up well with most of the schedule. A good litmus test will come in week 3 when Lewiston-Altura comes to town.
L-A knocked out K-W from the section playoffs each of the last two years in games in Lewiston. The Cardinals lost a lot of talent from a 5-4 squad in 2018, though they opened with an impressive win at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
It’s all a moot point as far as the section goes until one of the state’s — and the country’s — top prep programs hits a road block.
The Caledonia Warriors own the nation’s longest win streak at 54 games and have won nine of the last 12 state championships.
K-W lost two games by a point and another by six points last year. A few plays changed could have led to a winning season.
Finishing above .500 is not out of the question in 2019, either.