Watching a football game at Elkhorn High School is always nostalgic.
The thick, damp autumn grass and the H-style goal posts help stir the echoes of former coaches Paul Yanke and Dean Wilson leading their teams into battle.
But nostalgia must eventually give way to an evolving sports landscape, which is something the Elkhorn community is taking seriously.
Elkhorn recently built a state-of-the-art 50,000-square-foot indoor sports facility and is now adding field turf and modern goal posts that will be ready for Week 1.
“It’s very exciting to see that our community has invested in our program in both sports and scholastics,” Elkhorn coach Tom Lee said. “It’s resulted in a lot more commitment from our kids, and we’ve seen a really productive summer from them.”
The vast improvements come at an ideal time, with the program winning just two games the past two seasons.
Despite the recent struggles and having only 10 seniors on the roster, Lee sees reason for optimism.
“Our senior class has been our smallest class we’ve had in our program in the last seven years, but they are impact players,” Lee said.
Elkhorn will lean on a strong defense to set the tone, with the offense tasked with sharing the load.
Junior quarterback Mason Buelow gets the nod after starting three games late last season.
“Mason’s three starts last year should really help him now,” Lee said. “He’s a talented junior that will play a big role in the offense."
Senior Sage Rushing will be the running back in Lee’s one-back, three-wide-receiver offensive scheme.
Talented 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior Michael Lois, who has received a scholarship offer from Iowa, will be the starting H-back.
“Michael’s scholarship offer from Iowa is for defense, but he should be an impact player for us on both sides of the field,” Lee said. “He’s also received interest from Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, and South Dakota State has also made an offer.”
Senior captain Nick Rockweiler will be tasked with stretching the field as a slot receiver, while 6-foot-5 dual-sport junior athlete Mason Stebnitz provides a large target for Buelow. Fellow dual-sport junior athlete Alec Krakofsky, who missed last season with an injury, will provide speed on the edge as the third receiver.
“This team has the most speed that I’ve had in my 10 years of coaching here,” Lee said. “We finally have some track athletes that we'll be able to utilize.”
The biggest question is the offense line, which lost four starters from last year’s team. Senior AJ Conrady is the lone returner.
The Elks’ defensive line will be anchored by Lois, Conrady, Rushing, and Torren Weidner-Lechner.
The linebackers are led by Clayton and his junior brother Cole Fuller. Rockweiler and Teddy Woyak will start at safety, with Krakofsky and a group of three others battling for the corner spots.
“We have a solid defense, but I expect our offense will more than pull their weight this season,” Lee said. “The Lakes is always tough and we look forward to the challenge.”