Wildfire returners catch a wealth of experience: Mott-Regent’s underclassmen learned valuable lessons, ready to start the season
Wins usually define whether a season was successful or not, but the Mott-Regent football team received something far more important.
With a majority of the roster being sophomores or younger last season, Mott-Regent head coach Ron Benson said the team went through a few growing pains.
“We do have quite a bit of kids back this year and we have some depth,” said Benson, who is entering his 29th season as the head coach of the Wildfire. “You can see the maturity. The juniors are now seniors and sophomores are now juniors. There’s a lot of experience there. You can definitely see the difference. It’s interesting to see that maturity from one year to the next. It’s a big thing for sophomores getting some experience.”
The Wildfire finished last season 2-7 overall and 2-6 in 9-man, Region 4.
Mott-Regent’s two wins came over Bowman County (28-14) and Trenton-Trinity Christian (38-0). With opponents outscoring Mott-Regent by a combined 395-178, Benson said a big problem was turnovers.
“That was the bug for us last year, we had way too many turnovers,” Benson said about the team’s 36 turnovers. “Those are momentum killers. We need to carry the ball better. That was probably the worse in my lifetime. That’s kind of a good indicator on how well the team is going to do with the plus or minus (turnover rate). The good teams are positive as heck with the turnovers and the teams that don’t do so well with it are at the bottom.”
Though the Wildfire just started practice on Wednesday, Benson can already see a calmer demeanor during practice, especially from returning starting sophomore quarterback Brady Wegh. The sophomore quarterback went 80 of 171 for 1112 yards with eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also rushed for three touchdowns.
Wegh lost his main target last season Tyler Zentner, who finished with 31 catches for 597 yards and five touchdowns, to graduation. However, Wegh will have familiar targets in senior Noah Blickensderfer, juniors Brett Messmer, Brodie Ambers, and freshman Josh Wallace. The four combined to grab 41 catches for 460 yards and two touchdowns.
“Throwing a freshman into the fire is pretty tough,” Benson said. “We knew it was a tough year for (Wegh) last year. There were a lot of nerves. For any freshman, it’s tough to play at the varsity level, but we should benefit from that this year. He can relax a little bit and use his athleticism a little bit better. He’s already told me he feels more comfortable in practice. That was a big year for him to go through that, but it’s definitely valuable experience.”
The Wildfire also returns a pair of rushers Wallace and Messmer. The two combined for 64 carries for 338 yards and five touchdowns. The job making holes for the running backs will be up to seniors Blickensderfer, Dane Kruger and Andrew Meier.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mott-Regent is returning seven of its top 10 tacklers, which includes the top three tacklers — junior Dalton Schafer, Messmer and Ambers.
Schafer led the Wildfire with 86 tackles — 52 solo — and four sacks. Messmer posted 81 tackles — a team-high 56 solo — two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Ambers finished with 80 tackles and five fumble recoveries.
“We return four of the top five tacklers,” Benson said. “There’s some experience there that’s coming back. We return some good linebackers that are some pretty quick kids.”
One player which was unable to play last year was junior Carter Honeyman, who injured his knee and sat out his entire sophomore football season. Honeyman started as a freshman for the Wildfire.
“He’s been working hard in the offseason and he’s back,” Benson said.
Since 2003, Mott-Regent is 79-29 — a 73 winning percentage. Over the last two seasons, the Wildfire has a 7-11 record.
Despite seeing hardships over the last two years, Benson believes the underclassmen can return Mott-Regent back into a winning football program.
“We’ve had some pretty good football here for years,” he said. “This group can bring it back a little. We were just so short last year with juniors and seniors. It’s hard to compete with sophomores and freshmen. Hopefully, we’ll get some rewards this year with kids coming back.”
The Wildfire has the goal of reaching the playoffs, but they know it won’t be an easy task. Benson believes Shiloh Christian is the favorite to win Region 4 again, but the rest of the teams have an equal chance of finding its way to the postseason.
“It’s going to be a tough region,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to touch Shiloh, because they are a level above everyone else. We are going to be a better ball team. It’s kind of exciting and fun to watch.”
Head coach: Ron Benson (29th season)
Last season: 2-7
Returning starters: Noah Blickensderfer, Sr., OL/DL/LB; Dane Kruger, Sr., OL/DL/LB; Andrew Meier, Sr., OL/DL; Dalton Schaefer, Jr., OL/DL; Carter Honeyman, Jr., TE/LB; Brodie Ambers, Jr., WR/DB; Brett Messmer, Jr., RB/LB; Brady Wegh, So., QB/DB.
Returning letterwinners: Chance Roth, Jr.; Reed Hintz, Jr.; Josiah Billock, Jr.; Tyler Eggers, Jr.; Cade Blickensderfer, So.; Dylan Ambers, So.; Sam Condon, So.; David Steinke, So.; Jordan Peterson, So.; Josh Wallace, Fr., RB/LB.
Losses: Tyler Zentner QB/WR/RB/DB; Ben Friedt WR/RB/LB; James Warner WR/DB; Jon Friedt, OL/DL; Michael Glover; Justin Wonser; Andrew Erickson.