Wolfpack open the football season tonight at Elkhorn Valley

ELGIN — Having again tasted victory last year, the Elgin Public-Pope John football team is in search for more as the start of the 2019 season approaches.
Heading into the first game of the season (Thursday night at Elkhorn Valley), Head Coach Randy Eisenhauer is optimistic that an increase in numbers and a strong commitment to the weight room in the offseason could translate into more victories this season.
The Wolfpack are coming off a 2-6 season one year ago. The victories were over Elkhorn Valley and Winside. That was last year, this year is a new season with new opportunities.
In an exclusive interview with The Elgin Review at the Eagles’ Nest last week, Eisenhauer outlined his reasons for being optimistic.
Number one — Attitude. Eisenhauer said the goal of the team is to improve every day. “From the very start (of fall practice), it’s shown in practice. The attitude is different, the energy, the motivation from the older kids,” he said.
Number two — Numbers. After suffering through several seasons where the team battled low numbers, this year is different. There are 19 boys out for football. Of that number, just five are seniors. A large freshman class, who enjoyed great success in junior high football, has the team energized about what they can accomplish in the year ahead.
With the increase in numbers, the Wolfpack have scheduled four JV games/scrimmages which should be beneficial to the team. Eisenhauer said the JV games will allow the players new to the team to gain some experience playing against players their same age and size. “Getting playing experience, that’s huge,” the coach said.
Number three — the weight room. “We’ve put on some muscle,” Eisenhauer said about the team’s off-season conditioning program. He was extremely proud that 11 players (six freshmen) took part in 35 days or more in the weight room this summer.
“If you’re not in the weight room, you’re not getting better,” he told the team. “We’re bigger, stronger, faster.”
Five seniors, all who saw extensive playing time last year, will lead the way this year. All five, Eisenhauer said, are focused on having a great season. Conor Ramold, Cory Romej, Austin Bauer, Lane Bartak and Adam Dreger form the nucleus of which the team will be built around.
Together last season, Ramold and Romej rushed for close to 500 yards. With another year’s experience in the line from Bauer, Bartak, Dreger as well as juniors Joey Getzfred and Layne Bullock, the running game could be improved. Other players who may see action on the line include Colton Wright and Carter Beckman. Beckman, the coach said, “works his tail off.”
“We can’t have a stalemate up front,” Eisenhauer said. “In order to be successful we have to move opponents off the line … We’re going to be more physical this year.”
Eisenhauer said two new faces in the backfield, freshmen Jack Wemhoff and Paiton Hoefer, could provide an additional spark. “We’ve got a good blend of youth and inexperience,” the coach said. Two of the hardest workers in the weight room over the summer, look for the duo to make an impact. Hoefer has been working at quarterback and could be the starter Thursday night.
The offense should be able to put points on the board this season. But, a key to the success of the Wolfpack will rest on the other side of the ball.
On defense, Bauer was third on the team in tackles last season. He had three tackles for loss (TFL) and was credited with two quarterback sacks. Joining him in the defensive line will be Dreger and Bartak. If they can hold their own, then a slew of fast linebackers (Ramold, Wemhoff, Romej, Getzfred and Bullock) should be in good position to make tackles. Hoefer looks like a lock at the safety position.
Of all the kids in fall camp, Eisenhauer said Romej has emerged as one of the leaders. “He’s bought into condition, he’s vocal and physical … He’s leading us,” Eisenhauer said. Romej, he added, is focused on having a big senior campaign.
“If our experienced kids can stay healthy and the new kids coming up can contribute, we’ll be ready to play on Friday nights,” the coach said.
“We’ve talked about last season,” he said. “Everybody is improved from last year. We want to take the momentum from those victories last season and build on it.”
Assisting Eisenhauer is Michael Becker. Nick Heithoff is helping as a volunteer.
Tough schedule
This year’s schedule is heavy on the back end against district foes. The last four games are all district match ups, three of which are against teams ranked in the Lincoln Journal-Star D2 Top Ten (Humphrey St. Francis, Osmond and Riverside). The Wolfpack will get top-ranked HSF on Oct. 11.
On a side note, Homecoming will be Friday, Oct. 4, when the Wolfpack host Riverside. Another team on the schedule, CWC-E may have the best offensive line in D2, Eisenhauer said.
“Three wins could get us in the playoffs,” Eisenhauer said. “Confidence is the thing. These kids believe in themselves … They want to be there.”
The goal remains to play the best football they can play. The question is not if the Wolfpack will return to postseason play, but when. The confidence is there, the focus is there, the commitment is there, the future looks bright once again at Elgin Field!