In early August, high school students are still very much in summer mode. They’re focused on taking family vacations, working summer jobs to save up spending money, or showing animals at the fair.

Still, Ron Grovesteen has to put together a football team. That process has been a bit more difficult this year thanks to an earlier-than-usual start date. 

“Too early,” Evansville/Albany’s longtime coach said Aug. 7, the second day his team practiced in pads. “We’ll have three games without school in session.”

And after losing 17 seniors to graduation, the Blue Devils need to maximize their preseason training if they want to contend in the deep Rock Valley Conference and make a seventh consecutive trip to the playoffs.

“That’s the major hole,” Grovesteen said of losing a senior class that included seven all-conference players. “Somebody is going to have to step up. The seniors and juniors are going to have to step up and take the reins.”

Grovesteen said a pair of returning first-team all-conference players, Evan Blumer, a senior defensive end, and Malcolm Johnson, a senior inside linebacker, emerged as leaders during the offseason.

“Those are the two that are going to help,” Grovesteen said. “Blumer’s been to several college camps. Malcolm has been organizing the local guys in Evansville.”

Blumer (6-4, 235) is one of the top-ranked senior linemen in the state, according to He made offseason visits to Princeton, Bucknell and Columbia, three NCAA Division I FCS schools, according to his Twitter account.

Johnson (5-10, 195) led the Blue Devils with 110 tackles last season and added three sacks. Junior Carson Hill (44 tackles in 2017) leads what will be a young secondary.

The Blue Devils return just four defensive starters and two offensive starters from the team that finished fourth in the Rock Valley last season and lost to Mount Horeb/Barneveld in a first-round playoff game.

Offensively, the loss of Zach Mielke, a four-year starter at quarterback, and the team’s top six rushers looms large. Grovesteen said junior Gavin Mielke (Zach’s younger brother), sophomore Tyr Severson and sophomore Josh Pappakis are among the players who could take over under center.

Even with second-team all-conference receiver Sulley Geske (601 yards, 9 touchdowns) back, it’s not a stretch to think the Blue Devils will run the ball more this season as they break in a new quarterback to manage their Wing-T offense.

Blumer, senior left tackle Braden Bergum (6-4, 240) and senior Jacob Shotliff (6-5, 250) give the Blue Devils an experienced core on the offensive line. The backfield rotation likely won’t be settled until Evansville/Albany takes the field Friday for its season opener at Brodhead/Juda.

Roster turnover is nothing new for Grovesteen, who’s entering his 37th season as Evansville/Albany’s head coach. The Blue Devils can lean on a small-but-reliable veteran core as young players enter the fold.

Evansville/Albany 2018 football roster


1;Gavin Mielke;Jr.;6-0;140;QB/DB

2;Brayden Jensen;Jr.;6-0;140;QB/DB

4;Adam Adkins;Jr.;5-10;165;LB

5;Davonte McAllister;Jr.;6-0;160;WR/DB

6;Charlie Hennzelman;Jr.;6-0;205;LB/FB

8;Sulley Geske;Jr.;6-2;180;RB/DB

9;Jaden Obel;Jr.;6-1;180;TE/LB

12;Carson Hill;Jr.;6-2;180;RB/DB

14;Tyr Severson;So.;6-1;150;QB/DB

15;Seth Maag;Jr.;6-5;210;TE/DE

16;Gavin Frey;So.;5-7;140;WR/DB

17;Malcolm Johnson;Sr.;5-10;195;LB/RB

19;Josh Pappakis;So.;5-10;175;QB/DB

21;Tyler Johnson;Sr.;6-0;170;WR/DB

22;Matt Kostrom;So.;5-10;160;RB/LB

24;Ryan Borchardt;Jr.;5-11;170;RB/DB

25;Sam Hrdlicka;Jr.;5-10;165;RB/LB

26;Mason Young;So.;5-10;170;RB/LB

28;Noah Hionis;Jr.;5-9;170;RB/DB

29;Ricky Braunschweig;So.;6-0;170;RB/LB

30;Shane Kennedy;So.;5-10;170;RB/LB

31;Austin Scofield;So.;5-7;155;RB/DB

40;Patrick Crull;Jr.;6-0;175;RB/LB

45;Devon Clark;Jr.;6-0;170;RB/LB

46;Matt Forster;Jr.;5-10;175;RB/DB

48;Jesse Sendelbach;So.;6-0;175;WR/DB

52;Luke Trustem;Jr.;6-1;180;C/LB

54;Steven Kopecky;9;6-3;250;C/LB

55;Evan Blumer;Sr.;6-4;235;DE/OL

58;Rob Schroeder;So.;6-3;240;DL/OL

60;Colin Roberts;So.;6-0;220;DL/OL

61;Jacob Shotliff;Sr.;6-5;250;DL/OL

66;Tyler Zastoupl;Jr.;6-0;215;OL/DL

67;Clint Bergsma;Jr.;6-0;270;OL/DL

70;Braiden Bergum;Sr.;6-4;240;OL/DL

71;Mitchell Parr;Jr.;5-11;235;OL/DL

75;Waylon Kleitzman;So.;6-0;275;OL/DL

77;Bryant Malott;So.;6-0;230;OL/DL

82;Jax Sendelbach;So.;6-0;175;WR/DB

83;Alec Moellenbrendt;So.;6-0;175;TE/LB does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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