Cats face unknowns at start of season

HARTINGTON — There are a lot of unknowns surrounding Hartington High School’s 2008 season opener.
The Wildcats enter the new campaign with a new head coach in Scott Miller. The Wildcats will also be playing an unfamilliar team in Pender. The two teams have never met on the gridiron before.
It’s also unknown how the Pendragons will approach the game as they are playing an eight-man football game for the first time in school history, having moved down from C2 this year.
The Wildcats enter the game ranked as the eighth best team in Class D1 by Huskerland Prep Report magazine. HPS also has two athletes listed as Pre-season First Team All Staters.
The Wildcats, who have not been ranked in quite some time, debut in the Huskerland Prep Report pre-season poll in eighth place in Class D1.
The state’s football prognosticators are looking for the Cats to make the Big Dance for this year, for only the second time in school history.
Two players, Ross Eickhoff and Caleb Lammers, are being looked at as the athletes to lead the team to success this season. Both Eickhoff and Lammers received All District and Honorable Mention All State nods last year.
Lammers also turned quite a few heads last year as the Wildcat punter.
Miller said his team’s excellent senior leadership should be one of his team’s reasons for success this year.
The Wildcats return a very experienced line.
The offensive line will be led by seniors  Caleb Lammers,  6-4, 220-pounds, and 6-0, 190-pound senior Ross Eickhoff. Senior guard Miles Methany and senior center Blake Gothier round out the line. Junior Thomas Schumacher is expected to be a valuable member of the line rotation, as well.
HPS also returns three experienced athletes at the skill positions.
Mason Miller returns at quarterback after playing that position much of last year. The starting backfield will include Colten Benson and Zach Bakke, who both saw extensive action last year.
The Hartington defense is expected to be pretty stout this season, as well.
Eickhoff was the team’s leading tackler last year and is expected to lead the defense once again this season.  Also returning are starters Colten Benson  and Mason Miller.
The Hartington linebacking corps  has been rated as one of the best groups in D1 this year by Huskerland Prep Report.
Pender is making a transition to eight-man football this year.
The Pendragons finished out their final year in C2 in style, compiling a 5-4 mark and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Pender is led by an experienced group of skill position players.
Connor Heise, a 6-0, 170-pound senior running back leads the team. He is a highly-heralded running back for Pender.
Also returning to the backfield will be 5-11, 180-pound senior running back Bret Meyer. Chris Schrieber will be the wingback.
Junior Jonathan Smith will be the team’s quarterback in 2008. He is new as the team’s field general, but is not new to being a starter. He started as a defensive back for the team last year.
The biggest question mark for the Pendragons this year will be their line.
The defensive line will be anchored by 6-2, 175-pound senior Nick Crippen. He is the only returning starter in the line.
Pender will feature a very strong linebacking corps in Myer and Heise.