Sioux Falls Lincoln reached the Class 11AA semifinals last season, where they fell to eventual state champion Sioux Falls Washington. With several key players returning, including quarterback Alex Schultz and first-team all-state selections WR Trey Naasz and TE Scott Mulder, the Patriots figure to be back among the state's elite in 2011.
Q. What’s your outlook for the 2011 season?
A. We do have a lot of guys coming back, which is a good thing. And I think we’ve had some younger kids step up in positions that we lost through graduation. We return our quarterback, Alex Schultz. Trey Naasz, Josh Kunzmann, two wide receivers. We also bring back Scott Mulder at tight end, so our skill positions, offensively, we feel really good about. We had an outstanding offseason with everyone, but we’ve really developed some good linemen up front.
Defense will be the question mark going into the season, but we’ve got some boys over there. Through graduation we lost, basically, all of our linebackers. But we’ve got some kids coming back that we feel pretty good about. It’s going to be kind of a battle within the team for a starting position, which is great. We have some depth, something we haven’t had in many years. We’ve been able to put a good product out there with our number ones, but fall off when it comes to number two. That’s not the case for this season. We’ve got quite a few guys that could play at any time, and that’s good.
Q. Alex [Schultz] has had a lot of time in your system and you guys like to throw it. How advantageous is it for you to have a guy that’s so familiar with the way things are done?
A. We give him a lot of things to put on his plate. Over the last few years, he’s gotten better and better. He knows the system, has his checks and reads. He makes good decisions, not all of them perfect, but he makes good decisions and that’s huge with us. We run a lot of things, a lot of different formations, a lot of different looks that we want to get when a certain defense sets up. And to have a kid like him be able to make those adjustments and make those calls at the line of scrimmage is huge. It’s nice to have that, and he’s also doing a great job with the younger quarterbacks.
Q. The President’s Bowl this year is an Eastside-Westside event. You guys get Washington, the team that knocked you out of the playoffs last year. There are a lot of connections between the two teams. How unique is it to have the experience of playing that team on that night?
A. It’s special, special for the kids. That’s what’s awesome about it. We love to say that you get up for every game and every should be treated the same. But, I mean, come on, we know that’s not the case when you’ve got a big bowl game here, and it’s against a team that is very good, well coached, good players over there. Some of these kids live across the street from each other; they’re just wearing two different color uniforms on that given day. It’s going to make it special. Obviously, they knocked us out last year. They’re the defending state champs. We’re just trying to catch up with them, I guess. It’s going to be a fun night. I always cherish those games with Washington. We’ve had some battles in the past and last year they were solid, there’s no doubt about it. We just weren’t there yet. And we feel this year that, I think, the playing field is a lot more even within the city of Sioux Falls.
Q. It seems like the consensus is that the balance of power in Class 11AA is still in Sioux Falls. Do you agree with that?
A. Yeah, I do. I think the four better teams are sitting in this city. These programs have worked really hard to be at that level. It wasn’t long ago that that wasn’t the case. I feel these four programs have just gotten better. They’ve got some coaching staffs in there that put a lot of time into it also. I think we’re seeing the benefits of that hard work also. There are some good teams outside of Sioux Falls, too. Mitchell returns a lot of kids. Last year they dropped like five games, but all of them were a touchdown or less. Watertown is always solid, good looking kids there. Yankton, coach [Arlen Likness] down there does a good job. But I would say this year, yeah, I think the four Sioux Falls teams are top five, top six teams, no doubt about it.
Lincoln will renew its rivalry with defending state champion Washington in the nightcap of the 2011 President's Bowl on Sept. 3. That , along with the opening matchup between Sioux Falls O'Gorman and Sioux Falls Roosevelt, will air live on Midco Sports Network.
- Sept. 3: Lincoln vs. Washington (President's Bowl), 7:30 p.m.
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