GRANADA - With a new name and a new team, the Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars are busy preparing for a fresh start to an exciting football season.
"It's a challenge to bring kids together from different teams, but so far things have looked good and I'm really impressed with the progress we've made," said Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman head coach Lee Dallager.
A lot of that progress comes from experience as the Jaguars will depend on veteran seniors Jeremy Smith, Dylan Petrowiak, DaMarko Thomas and Jared Wander in order to be successful in the South Confederacy League this fall.
NEW COMBO — Members of the newly-formed Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguar football team kicking off the season against Westbrook-Walnut Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Granada include, front row (l-r): Derek Sloneker, Nathan Wander, Tyler Wille, Chandler Greier, Jericho Pults and Zac Urhammer. Second row: Jared Green, Jared Wander, Lucas Maday, Josh Johanson, Storm Pearson and Dylan Petrowiak. Third row: DaMarko Thomas, Jeremy Smith, Josh Wolter, Ryan Shumski and Logan Pytleski. Fourth row: Weston Ricard, Travis Koon, Rodney Engstrom, Jake Hunter and Jake Wolter. Back row: Eian Denton, C.J. Hodge, Seth Hudson, Tyler Mathiason, Michael Dallager and Jeremy Blakesley. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Petrowiak looks to take the helm at the quarterback spot after a stellar season last year with the Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Martin Luther Mustangs.
The Sentinel All-Area and all-Southern Confederacy League choice completed 57 of 138 passes for 727 yards, in addition to running for 466 more yards.
This season, Petrowiak gains a big offensive threat in the Jaguars' backfield by joining forces with Thomas - another All-Area and all-Southern Confederacy choice. Thomas also earned all-state honorable mention accolades in 2011.
Thomas rushed for 1,209 yards from his quarterback position with the Truman Bluejays, scoring 10 TDs. Defensively, the 6-foot-2 senior collected an area-leading 171 tackles from his linebacker spot and will look to contribute on both sides of the ball this season for the Jaguars.
Jared Green and Jeremy Smith will give Petrowiak even more options on the offensive attack. Green, a junior running back, will help to give the Jaguars a solid ground game, while the 6-1 Smith, a senior wide recieve,r will be a large target through the air.
"Our biggest goal on offense this year is to be balanced," said Dallager. "With Dylan and a lot of the skill players coming back, if we can stay balanced, I think we could do well."
Jared Wander, a 6-3, 275-pound guard, and 5-10, 230-pounder Dustin DeBell will look to give Petrowiak the time that he needs to run successful plays.
"If we can execute well and play solid fundamentally, then we should be good," said Dallager. "We need to do the little things like make and finish tackles and block, and that will help us be successful."
The newly-formed Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman football squad will face its first challenge against Westbrook/ Walnut Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Granada.
The Jaguars later hit the road to Madelia during Week 3 on Sept. 14.
"The Madelia game is always a big game for us because of the proximity, it is a bit of a rivalry. They are returning a good group this year and will be a tough team," said Dallager.
"As the season progresses we will see how we are adjusting to things, like the new systems for the players. Right now everyone is doing well and the kids are working together. When things get tough, you can see really how much they are a team," said Dallager.
With 12 seniors and seven juniors, the Jaguars are feeling good about their chances this season despite some of the challenges they will face.
"For the Truman players to come here and learn a new system, that takes time to make the changes. It's going well so far, but things are still different," said Dallager. "We also have two homecoming weeks this year, so that will be tough with the usual distractions involved in those games."
Granada-Huntley-East Chain's homecoming will be Sept. 21 against Randolph, before the Truman homecoming game against Cleveland on Sept. 28. Both games will be held at their respective high school fields.
The Jaguars will face another tough opponent in Nicollet on Oct. 12 in a game at Nicollet.
"One of the good things about this combination for our team with the schools is that we can have a JV (junior varsity) season and a junior high season," said Dallager.
Fans can get their first glimpse of the Jaguars in a scrimmage starting at 10 a.m. today at Grand Meadow High School.