Ballard head coach Al Christian walks among his players as they stretch before football practice at the high school in Huxley on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.
HUXLEY, Ia. –
Last year’s starting nose guard is now the quarterback.
Two key components on the offensive line are new to the position.
The top two defensive mainstays are known to cuss each other out between plays.
On the surface, the Ballard Bombers might seem like high school football’s version of an overly rambunctious game of musical chairs. Truth be told, though, they think all of their moving parts — no matter how out of place they might seem to others — might be the key to holding the last chair when the music stops in one of Class 3-A’s most competitive districts.
“We can win the district this year,” senior Quinton Erickson said. “With the team we’ve got this year, with the guys we’ve got, I think we can win it.”
Erickson isn’t on a limb by himself with that prognostication. At least two coaches tabbed the Bombers as the team to beat in a district that features five returning playoff squads, including state quarterfinalists Grinnell and Gilbert.
“In the past, we’ve played some teams that … we knew we would need some positive things to happen for us — turnovers — to have a chance,” Ballard coach Al Christian said. “I think this year we have the potential to play with anybody.”
For Ballard to check off some of its preseason objectives, like winning a playoff game for the first time since 2009, it’s going to take some odd pieces fitting together — like a nose guard becoming a quarterback.
The Bombers needed help on the defensive line last year, and they wanted to utilize Erickson’s strength and quickness, so they plugged him in up front as a 5-foot-8, 175-pound nose guard who sometimes gave up nearly 100 pounds to the guy lining up on the other side.
“I was pretty relieved (to move to quarterback),” he said. “I didn’t want to play (nose guard) anymore. I’m glad I can use my talent elsewhere to help this team out. I think this team is going to be pretty good.”
This isn’t some wild experiment, though. Erickson played running back as a sophomore and caught the coaching staff’s eye during a quarterback cameo on the scout team.
“We think he brings some things to the table that people haven’t seen,” Christian said.
The biggest key for the Bombers, though, might be the development of their offensive line. Twins Alex and Adam Silberstein return at two spots, but the strength of the unit could hinge on the development of Carter Dailey, a converted tight end, and Brandon Brown, who played outside linebacker last season.
The core of Ballard’s defense remains intact with the return of linebackers Marcus Johnson and Ben Claussen, who combined for 272 tackles last year when the Bombers went 5-5 and lost to Clear Lake in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We’re best friends,” said Johnson, a second-team all-state pick last year. “We do almost everything together. On the field, if we have a problem we say it to each other. We’re not afraid to say something.”
Claussen admits that their straight-to-the-point comments can “get intense sometimes” and some of their heat-of-the-moment comments aren’t fit for print. Most of the time, though, they work well together and one, if not both, is usually around the football.
Johnson said the main goal for the Bombers is to win a playoff game this season. Claussen said he wants this team to raise the school’s football profile.
They’ll get some help from freshman and junior varsity squads that combined to go 15-2 last year.
“There’s a difference between saying it and doing it,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to perform every game.”
2014 BALLARD SCHEDULE
Aug. 29 vs. Boone, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. ADM (Adel), 7:30
Sept. 12 at Benton Community, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. Gilbert, 7:30
Sept. 26 at Carlisle, 7:30
Oct. 3 vs. Newton, 7:30
Oct. 10 at Bondurant-Farrar, 7:30
Oct. 17 vs. Nevada, 7:30
Oct. 24 at Grinnell, 7:30
THE REGISTER’S ’14 IN 2014′ SERIES
Today marks Day 10 of our 14-day series in the Register on the top storylines in central Iowa entering the 2014 high school football season. See the first nine installments at DesMoinesRegister.com/highschoolinsider