Elkhorn retools to take aim at Southern Lakes

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By Tim Wester/Special to the Gazette
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Forget about the last two years.

That’s one of the priorities for Elkhorn High’s football team as it looks to move past the misfortunes of the past two seasons and rekindle the successes of 2014.

Since earning a share of the Southern Lakes Conference championship three years ago, the Elks have posted just one conference victory.

Despite the drought, Elkhorn coach Tom Lee remains optimistic in his team’s chances this fall.

“We want to be able to challenge for that playoff spot this year and get four wins in the Lakes,” Lee said. “I think we have a good opportunity to do it, with a good group of seniors that have already shown good leadership in the offseason and practice.”

The Elks will rely on their trademark running game and improved team speed and athleticism.

“We can match up with teams athletically, but we also have to muscle up, too,” Lee said. “We’ve struggled the past few seasons with faster teams in the conference.”

To help improve team speed, Lee plans to incorporate speedy junior slot receiver Nick Rockweiler in a hybrid-type role on offense.

“Nick is the fastest guy that we have and is really athletic,” Lee said. “He is our backup quarterback, but with his speed we will utilize him in jet sweeps and other plays to take advantage of his physical tools.”

Rockweiler will also back up senior quarterback Braeden Mohr, who was limited by a broken hand early in the season last year.

“Mohr has a huge head start now after last season,” Lee said. “He has quick feet and good instincts that help him see the field well and get to the edge.”

The Elks’ running game will also feature bruising tailback Dakota Biefeld, along with the smaller and faster Sage Rushing and returning wingback Myles Schumaker.

Leading the way for the Elks runners will be senior lineman Evan Blanton, who was a state qualifier in the shot put last spring. Returning starter Nathan Welsh, junior AJ Conrady, and senior Brayden Martin join Blanton on the front line.

The Elks passing game, meanwhile, is buoyed by sophomore tight end Michael Lois, whose 6-foot-4 frame should be valuable in the red zone. Senior possession receiver Colton Loomis and senior James Welsh round out the receiving corps.

On defense, the Elks are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front.

“We had a hard time matching up with tight ends in the 3-4,” Lee said. “We are going to go with a physical and stronger kid on the line, plus we think our personnel this year is more fitted for a 4-3.”

Lois and Schumaker should play big roles as defensive ends, with Martin and Tyler Meyer manning the interior line.

Biefeld and junior Connor Denius will anchor the linebackers, while an experienced secondary should help control opponent’s passing games. Mohr and Rockweiler will man the safety spots, with Welsh and Loomis at cornerback.

“Finding four wins in this conference is never easy,” Lee said, “but we the potential to do it.”

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