PREVIEW: Tiger seniors ready to leadThe Tigers football team has 15 seniors on its roster this season. Some played significant minutes last year, but most have been patiently waiting for their turn to take over the reins.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The fresh batch of seniors is ready to go at Northwestern High School, and though all are likely to fill starting roles, few will be well-known to opponents.
The Tigers football team has 15 seniors on its roster this season. Some played significant minutes last year, but most have been patiently waiting for their turn to take over the reins.
“We have a long football tradition, so kids want to play football,” said Dennis Scherz, head coach of the Tigers.
Throughout the rest of the Heart O’ North Conference, Scherz said he is amazed to see that numbers are down.
“When you’ve got a team like Bloomer that has 55 kids, that’s not normal,” Scherz said. “A lot of the teams are around 40 kids total. We have that tradition, so our numbers are solid.”
Scherz said Northwestern has about 60 kids in the football program this year. On the varsity squad are 15 seniors, nine juniors, 16 sophomores and one freshman.
“We have some decent depth and we have a crew that seems to really want to work hard,” Dennis Scherz.
For opponents, many names of the Tigers roster will be unfamiliar.
As has been the case for the past few seasons, Northwestern had a high turnover rate from 2011.
The Tigers lost 14 seniors last year, including Justin Alexson. Alexson ran for 1,414 yards in his senior year and led the team in tackles. He also set school records for most touchdowns in a game (6) and most yards rushing in a single game (311).
Mark Pooler, a senior, is the best-know returning player. He’ll play at fullback to bolster the Tigers’ running game and will be joined by senior Nathan Sikorski at running back.
“He’s a fast kid; he’s one of the fastest kids on our team,” Scherz said of Sikorski. “He’s going to be another surprise. Here’s a kid whose never played a varsity down because we had Justin Alexson back there last year.”
Nick Murray, a former Northwood-Solon Springs Evergreen, will fill the two back spot for the Tigers this season.
At quarterback, Peter Lindsay is back for the Tigers.
“I’m going to call him the surprise of the conference,” Scherz said. “He’s way under the radar as a quarterback. … He’s been training like a maniac and he’s going to be one of our big runners. People will see a little different offense than they’ve seen in the past.”
Grant Pearson and Tanner Follis will be Northwestern’s main receiving threats this season.
“People in the past have always criticized us (for not passing),” Scherz said. “A lot of times we don’t have the tools, but now we do.”
“We’re going to mix it up this year,” Pooler said. “It’s pretty much half and half.”
Jordan Orme, a sophomore, will fill the kicker role for the Tigers again this year.
On the offensive line, Scherz is looking to seniors Luke Schulz and Duncan Magerl to provide strength along with junior Jay Karich. Sophomore Logan Moreau will play at center.
“We’ve got big, athletic kids who can move,” Scherz said.
The Tigers will rely on their senior players on defense even more than on offense.
Among the leading seniors back for Northwestern are Johnny Parkins at weak-side end and Justin Miesbauer as the Tigers’ main inside linebacker.
“We’re looking for big things from him,” Scherz said of Miesbauer. “And Johnny Parkins, he’s another team captain. They’re really good football players.”
Senior Brody Pellman will also play at linebacker this season. Magerl will play nose and Pooler and Schulz will spend time at tackle. At corner will be Pearson and Lindsay, with Murray at safety.
Juniors Mitch Graskey and Tyler Blair will vie for positions at outside linebacker.
“Our defense is pretty solid this year,” Parkins said.
“We’ve just got to execute our plan,” said linebacker Micah Olson.
Home field advantage
Since the Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex opened in 2008, Northwestern has had great success playing in front of its hometown fans at Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers have a 19-3 record on their home field in four seasons (including all four playoff games they have hosted). In that time, Northwestern has lost only two HON games on its home turf.
The team’s first loss came to Hayward in 2008. The second came last season to Bloomer, when the Blackhawks defeated Northwestern 25-0. The victory made Bloomer the first team to shut out the Tigers on their new home field.
Bloomer’s shutout last season was a also bit of revenge following Northwestern’s 28-0 victory over the Blackhawks in the 2010 playoffs.
Bloomer advanced deep into the playoffs in 2011, finally falling to Somerset 18-13 in a Level 4 playoff game.
The Blackhawks are expected to be a favorite for the conference title this year. Spooner has also been mentioned as among the top HON teams.
“We’ll call us the dark horse,” Scherz said.