PELLA — Veteran offensive and defensive linemen, team speed and a returning starting quarterback are counted as strengths for the 2013 edition of Pella Christian High football.
“We have a nice nucleus of players coming back with 15 returning upperclassmen. We have most of our offensive line back and our defensive front returns in force,” said Richard Kacmarynski, Eagle head coach.
The Eagles opened the 2012 season strong, going 5-0, but injuries two their starting running backs knocked them off track. Kacmarynski said Pella Christian couldn’t regain its stride after that and ended up at 6-4 overall.
Pella Christian, which plays in Iowa Class 1A, District 7, has to replace its whole backfield except for senior quarterback Colten Collins. The 6-4, 180-pound signal caller threw for 1,068 yards, completing 66 of 142 passes. He had 15 touchdown passes and was intercepted seven times.
“Colten was the second-leading passer in the district. He is quite the athlete and with his experience, we except him to be a dual threat as our quarterback. He throws the ball well ,but also can hurt teams with his running ability,” Kacmarynski said.
After the Eagles lost their two starting senior running backs last year, Mason Howerzyl was pressed into service in the backfield. Howerzyl, a 5-9, 170-pound senior, rushed for 678 yards on 150 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Juniors Carson Dugger (6-0, 165) and Dillon Branderhorst (5-9, 170) were the Eagles’ feature running backs at the junior varsity level last year. They step up to the varsity.
“Mason responded well for us when he had to play full-time on offense. Carson and Dillon had strong junior varsity seasons. We’re confident the three will be very, very good as they gain more experience,” Kacmarynski said.
Providing the push up front for the Eagles is an offensive line of five seniors and one junior. Zach Arkema, a 6-5, 240-pound senior, is aback at left tackle while Zack Rozendaal, a 6-2, 200-pound senior, is playing tight end. Zach Van Zee is a two-year starter at guard. The senior is 6-foot and 190 pounds.
Conner Milligan is a 5-11, 240-pound senior and senior Andrew Vander Hart is 6-1 and 185 pounds. They fill in the other guard and tackle spots. Junior Tyler De Bruin (6-2, 180) is the Eagles’ center.
Josh Posthuma leads the receiving corps for the Eagles. Posthuma is a big target at 6-4 and 180 pounds. Another new receiver is Jake De Ruiter at 5-11 and 160 pounds. Jacob Brouwer is a 6-2, 170-pound junior, who is a backup tight end.
“We’re encouraged with what we’ve seen from Josh and Jake as receivers. They’re developing quickly,” Kacmarynski said.
Rozendaal, Arkema and 6-3, 205-pound junior Nate Haveman are the returning defensive line for the Eagles. Van Zee and Howerzyl return as starting linebackers on the defensive side.
“Again, up front on defense we’re solid. Our secondary has to develop,” Kacmarynski said.
On special teams, Brouwer is the placekicker while Howerzyl and Haveman are working on the punting duties. Kacmarynski said the Eagles’ kicking game is solid.
“We have good team speed and it will be our calling card,” he said.
The Eagles open the 2013 season Aug. 30 at home against Lynnville-Sully in non-district play.