ELC vs. Sheldon – Line development is key to 2008
Estherville Lincoln Central starts the season with a familiar non-district opponent when Sheldon comes to town today.
The Orabs have won two of the last three meetings between the two teams.
Last year was a tale of two halves when Sheldon took advantage of five ELC turnovers in the first half on the way to a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Midgets rallied to tie the game with Sheldon scoring on a late drive.
This year, both squads lost a good portion of their offensive lines, but return several skilled players.
“They have good team speed and like us, lost a lot of linemen to graduation,” said ELC coach Jerry Shultz. “But I think they feel they’ll be competitive in their district.”
Sheldon coach Matt Meendering pointed out the main difference between the two teams is that ELC returns its 1,000-plus yard rusher-Jordan Eggers-while the Orabs lost theirs-Nick Pulscher-to graduation.
“We have a lot of respect for coach Shultz and his system and we’ve been even-matched,” Meendering said. “Usually it’s a grind it out game, but it may be more wide open this year because of the inexperienced lines.”
Meendering said the first game of the season is always the most difficult for a coach.
“We’re used to looking at tape and knowing what to expect and prepare for,” he said. “For the first game then, our focus isn’t on what ELC will do, but what we need to do to have success in our district.”
Sheldon posted a 7-2 record last season, but missed the playoffs as Boyden-Hull held the tiebreaker over the Orabs in district play.
Going up against Sheldon’s inexperienced offensive line is an inexperienced Midget defense.
“We only return four from last year that started,” said Shultz. “We’re not quite as quick as last year, but we’re bigger.”
Those five returning defensive players are Keith Fandel, who moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker; Justin Blinkmann, who moves from defensive end to inside linebacker, Jordan Eggers at the corner and Chance Moore as the free safety.
“We have experience in the secondary, but we’ll have to work hard at pressuring the quarterback,” said Shultz. “We’ll also have to make sure we run to the football.”
Looking at Sheldon’s defense, Shultz said they run a ‘four-front” and are very aggressive.
“They will blitz and they have good speed,” he said. “They’re always physical.”
With Eggers in the backfield, the Midgets will definitely look to establish the run from the start.
“We’re breaking in a new quarterback with Alex (Arends), but we’re confident he can throw when we need to.”
The key to this game is to avoid mistakes and the big deficit the Midgets faced a year ago.
Also special teams will play a key role as ELC lost a three-year kicker in Chad Prust and Matt Gruhlke as punter.
“I’m anxious to see how we’ll do,” Shultz said.
As always after three weeks of practice, both teams are itching to play someone else.
“We’ve been working since camp on Aug. 6. We’re excited to get started,” said Shultz.