Flyers switch up their running game
The Little Falls football team has some big shoes to fill with the graduation of running back Jalen Wuchko, who rushed for 1,344 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago and is playing at Division II Bemidji State.
But senior Brighton Goodrich — who will be called upon to help fill that void — doesn’t see it as replacing Wuchko so much as moving in a bit different direction.
“We’ve changed our offensive game plan a lot,” said the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Goodrich, who rushed for 451 yards and two touchdowns.
“Instead of iso and pounding the ball up the middle, we’ll do more outside tosses and things like that. I’m more of a quick, juke-them kind of running back. I’m not going to run through people the way Jalen did.”
Despite the loss of Wuchko and Times’ All-Area honorable mention pick Trysten Ross, who also is playing at BSU, Little Falls returns seven starters on each side of the ball from a team that finished 4-5 in 2013 — its best record since 2010. The Flyers boast 22 seniors on this season’s roster — up from 12 a year ago and eight in 2012.
And Little Falls achieved a big milestone last year by hosting their first playoff game since 1986.
“Our seniors last year were very talented, but they never experienced a lot of success and their expectations maybe weren’t as high as this class has,” said Flyers coach Jay DeCann, who begins his third season at the school.
“They’ve been putting in a lot of time in the weight room this past offseason and they have big goals.” vLittle Falls returns its top two receivers in senior Kyle Kabanuk, who had 19 catches for 372 yards and four touchdowns, and senior Bryce Zawatske, who had 10 catches for 220 yards and five touchdowns.
At quarterback, senior Austin Fenske is back after throwing for 710 yards and eight TDs. But he is being pushed for the starting job by junior Braden Backowski.
“I think we’ll probably throw the ball more this year,” Kabanuk said. “We have some guys who are really quick and have good hands.”
Defensively, three starters are back in the secondary in safeties Goodrich and junior Thomas Miller and senior cornerback Jeremy Klein. Three of four starters return up front, too. And Zawatske returns at middle linebacker.
“If we come together as a team and we get the kind of leadership I expect we will, I think we can contend for a conference title,” Goodrich said.
“We had a few games last year that we lost in the fourth quarter. So we feel like we could have been right there. And that’s the goal we’re shooting for this year.”