After the first official practice of the 2012 sesaon, Matt Worzala called the execution of the new offense “crisp.”
Sartell hopes it maintains its crunch under new head coach Scott Hentges as the Sabres try to improve upon last season’s 4-7 record.
“We definitely have a different offense and a different approach,” said Worzala, who’ll play fullback and linebacker. “Coach Hentges is definitely taking a different approach.”
Worzala didn’t play last year because of shoulder surgery after making an impact as a sophomore. He’s optimistic about the Sabres’ altered approach, the first significant change in offense in the program’s history.
“They’ve been coaching it up really well,” he said of the offense.
Hentges calls the new base offense a pro set. It’s a departure from the wing-T that has been run in some way or another dating back to 1969 when hall of fame coach Dean Taylor started the program.
Taylor’s last Sartell squad won a state title in 1994. John Ross, a former Sabre quarterback, took over after a long stint as the offensive coordinator and led Sartell to five state playoff appearances, including two runnerup finishes in the Prep Bowl, before exiting after last season to concentrate on his duties as activities director.
Hentges, a longtime defensive coordinator, has turned the offense over to assistants Mike Holman and Jerome Nemanich, who have added some wrinkles to Sartell’s long-time approach.
“Coach Ross was great. He definitely taught us a lot,” senior quarterback Parker Hagen said. “But, Coach Hentges has definitely filled in well and is filling his role.”
Hagen’s one of the keys. He’s 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and smart. He also has one of the top running backs in the area to hand the ball off to in Erik McAfee.
“He’s one of the top running backs in the conference,” Hentges said.
The Sabres potentially have one of the top receivers in the conference in Patrick Fisher (6-4, 185, Sr.), who also is a top defensive player.
Wide receiver Andrew Voshell is a returning starter and tight end Jacob Wenzel saw some playing time. They’ll work behind a large, strong line that includes Kyle Gross (5-11, 210, Sr.), Anthony Thene (6-3, 300, So.), Nicholas Siemers (6-0, 245, Sr.), T.J. Bevans (6-1, 255, Jr.) and Nicholas Schramel (6-3, 230, Sr.).
There’s good size on the defensive line, too, led by returning end Quinn Anderson (6-4, 250, Sr.).
“It’s going good,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s excited.”
The defense will be similar. And at Sartell, that’s always good. Linebackers Worzala, Andrew Phol-Thelen and Dylan Hollenkamp are all smart and aggressive.
The secondary, led by Fischer, also includes Sam Neeser, Zach Schoonmaker and Voshell. All are good athletes.
“I’m optimistic like everyone else,” Hentges said. “I think that we have a good core of guys coming back and I think the young guys we have coming up can fill in the few holes we have.”
The Sabres wound up playing for the Section 8-4A championship after a 2-6 regular season that saw them lose tough games to St. Cloud Tech (21-20), Sauk Rapids (25-22) and Fergus Falls (14-13). The wins included an 8-3 victory over Brainerd and 21-20 overall Willmar.
Sartell beat Little Falls (42-19) and avenged the loss to Fergus Falls (28-21) in the playoffs before succumbing to eventual state champion Rocori (37-13) in the section final at St. Cloud State.
This season’s schedule includes road trips to Grand Rapids, Bemidji and Big Lake.
“It’ll be interesting because we haven’t seen some of those teams (like Grand Rapids and Big Lake),” Hentges said.
They’ll be new, much like the offense at Sartell.