SLAYTON - Any team that goes winless one season always wants to save face the next. The Murray County Central football team did that last year, posting a respectable 4-5 record following a 2010 season in which the Rebels failed to win a game.
With all but five players back from last year's squad, the Rebels still feel they have something to prove in 2012 to push those memories of the winless season even further back in their minds.
"A lot of my seniors were on that 0-9 team and a lot of them started as sophomores so we have a lot of experience back on paper, but that's on paper and paper doesn't play the ball games," MCC head coach Chris Davis said. "We're going to have to come to play."
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Murray County Central’s Mitch Reinsma, right, looks at an oncoming defender as he makes a run during practice Monday morning in Slayton.
The Rebels only have to replace three starters on defense and two starters on offense, but one of those two on offense was one of the best players in the Little Sioux Conference last season. Chris Halbur led the Marshall area in rushing during the 2011 regular season and finished his senior year with 1,433 yards. He also scored 19 of the team's 34 offensive touchdowns.
Expected to pick up the slack for the Rebels on the ground are senior Jack Thony and junior Mitch Reinsma. Thony, who placed fourth in the 100-dash at the Class A state meet last spring, rushed for 583 yards at a clip of 9.7 yards per carry in 2011, scoring 10 touchdowns. Reinsma added 382 yards rushing.
Davis said the two backs have a different build than Halbur, but he expects them to be effective nonetheless.
2011 Record: 4-5
Little Sioux Conference Finish: 5th (4-4)
38-14 loss to MLBO
(Section 3A first round)
Points Allowed/Game: 28.3
RB Chris Halbur,
DB Austin Kluis
RB Jack Thony,
RB Mitch Reinsma,
LB Devin Miranowski
"Chris had power and speed," Davis said. "Both of these guys are smaller, but they do have some speed behind them. They have that extra gear, especially Jack. If we can get him in some open space, which is what we're trying to do, then hopefully he can do what he does best and that's make people miss."
A team that has done most of its damage on the ground in recent years, the Rebels have been working on getting their passing game going a bit more in 2012. Junior Seth Bass, who has started since his freshman year, threw the ball just 46 times last season and completed 21 passes for 318 yards.
It's not that the Rebels can't or don't want to throw the ball, Davis said. Rather, it's that their defense has dictated a more grinding style of play.
"It's one of those things where we've always been able to run the ball," Davis said, "and with our defense in the past, last year we had trouble stopping people and so we wanted to make the game shorter and ball control was the way to go."
To help shore up the defense, Davis convinced former Fulda coach Brad Holinka to join the MCC staff this season and take over on that side of the ball. The defense is more complicated than in previous seasons, but Davis expects it to help the team cut down on the 28.3 points per game that the Rebels allowed last year.
A lot of the Rebels' defensive work has come from players studying and understanding schemes and learning their roles rather than making hits on the field. Lacking depth at some positions, especially on the offensive line, Davis has decided it's better to try to keep his players healthy for the season than risk injury during practice.
"We don't do a lot of hitting," Davis said. "We will have some live action and have a scrimmage coming up Saturday. We're kind of thin on the O-line and we worry about some of the guys staying healthy throughout the year.
"Going into that playoff game last year we had high hopes and we had the whole right side of the O-line, the guard, the tackle and the tight end, all got injured in the second quarter when we had a lead. With a small school like us, it's not like Eden Prairie where you can bring in a 6-5, 305-pound guys in as a backup."
The Rebels will let loose for their first game of the season, an Aug. 30 matchup with Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in Tracy. Last year, MCC and TMB were involved in a shootout in the regular season finale, with the Rebels claiming a 65-41 win.