Benny, Jets hoping for an encore

Benny, Jets hoping for an encore

You could have called the 2013 St. Cloud Apollo Eagles “Benny and the Jets.”

(Queue up the old-school Elton John here).

Benny was junior quarterback Ben Alvord, who often would find his two fleet-footed wide receivers, Noel Teigen and Jeremy Koffi, for long touchdowns. Those two were the Jets.

Teigen (St. John’s University) and Koffi (St. Cloud State) have taken their games to the college level and Alvord will soon follow in 2015, but it doesn’t look like Benny will be a solo act this season.

Instead of two Jets, Alvord could have as many as six, head coach Justin Skaalerud predicted.

Four of them are basketball players, a sign that things have changed on the north side, where the Eagles hope to defend their Central Lakes Conference South Division championship.

Benny and the New Jets are hoping for an encore. (“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” or “Candle In The Wind” perhaps?)

“We’ve got a lot of guys who have been waiting for this year,” said Alvord, whose season was cut short to six games because of a broken hand. He still completed 72 of 128 passes for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. He rushed for 141 yards and six TDs.

Alvord has 2,470 career passing yards with 27 TDs, completing 171 of 316 passes.

A healthy season likely means Alvord winds up as the most prolific passer in school history. He’s getting college looks from small Division I and Division II schools.

His receivers will be new. Included are Ethan Novacinski, Cole Johnson, Dillan Bierschbach and Ben Giese at wide receiver and — depending on the formation — tight end Jack Atkinson.

All are basketball players. Novacinski is 6-foot-6, Johnson is 6-3, Bierschbach is 6-2, Giese is 6-3 and Atkinson is 6-4.

Maybe the Eagles should be called “Benny and the Tall Jets.”

Defensively is where Apollo may stand out early as all the new players get used to each other offensively. Ten seniors are expected to start, led by returning linebacker Sean Zyvoloski and defensive linemen Martin Hanson, Swin Sinthavong, Jacob Thralow and Nate Bergherr.

“I’m very pleased with our defense in general,” Apollo head coach Justin Skaalerud said. “The guys up front are looking good.

“We’ve got some options there. And our linebackers are very good. Sean and Hunter were all-area type players.”

The Eagles have 31 seniors and decent depth.

The coaching staff is working on platooning and limiting two-way play. There are only a couple of players who will be going two ways for sure, Sinthavong and Zyvoloski, though others will rotate in.

Skaalerud said using a platoon system was something he felt was needed after last season, when Apollo used a lot of two-way players. Big schools like Brainerd tended to wear the Eagles down.

“Our goal is to platoon and we feel like we’re getting there,” Skaalerud said.

Apollo hopes all that adds up to another division championship.