Urbandale running back Abdul Mansaray during football practice at the high school on Tuesday afternoon August 12, 2014.
URBANDALE, Ia. –
When a team loses the kind of talent that Urbandale lost following the 2013 season, there would normally be reason for concern.
Sam Anderson doesn’t feel that way.
Despite losing a raft of offensive standouts led by wide receiver Allen Lazard — a U.S. Army All-American, CIML Offensive Player of the Year, three-time Register Elite All-State pick and Iowa State signee — the J-Hawks’ head coach is confident there’ll be no dropoff this fall.
“I think the thing we took from (2013) as a program, the senior leadership we’ve had, it’s transformed to the other kids,” Anderson said. “That’s the biggest thing. (Last year’s seniors) set the bar on the things we need to do to be successful on and off the field, and we hope that continues to carry over.”
Lazard (49 receptions, 1,065 yards, 21 touchdowns in 2013) was the biggest loss, but Urbandale also graduated quarterback Logan Augustine and tailbacks Toren Stewart, Dady Mansaray and Solomon Cooper.
Senior tailback Abdul Mansaray, who had 648 yards rushing last fall while averaging 9.7 yards per carry, returns as the leading rusher; he is also the leading returning receiver with 16 receptions for 327 yards and four touchdowns.
Anderson is counting on a group of players to fill the void Lazard left behind. That list includes senior Ben Moss, junior John Heinrich and senior Heston Steen.
“Football is a team sport, but if you can get three, four guys to lead … ,” Anderson said. “We’re not looking to ask anyone to come out and be Allen Lazard. But we want guys to pick up that slack.”
Senior Dylan Landess (7-for-14, 131 yards, two touchdowns in 2013) takes over as the starting quarterback.
He feels he’ll fit in well with his new first-string teammates. He’ll be protected by an offensive line that includes junior guard Jake Heinrich, who has been offered a scholarship by Iowa State and is receiving interest from Iowa and Nebraska.
“I feel like I’m consistent in the offense and can make all the throws,” Landess said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since my freshman year and know them really well.”
Last fall, Urbandale averaged 54.5 points per game in its eight victories, but defense was the ultimate downfall. Late-season injuries (most notably to defensive back Dalton Coady) exposed the J-Hawks’ lack of depth, which Ames took advantage of in a 72-37 Class 4-A second-round playoff win.
“It was tough, obviously,” senior linebacker Cole Scieszinski said. “You’ve just got to learn to move on. That’s not the way you wanted to see (the 2013 seniors) go out. With all the hard work and talent they put in, it was hard. It rekindled that fire.”
Scieszinski expects Urbandale to play “hard-nosed defense” that emphasizes getting to the football.
“We’ve shored that up and we’re going to be a heck of a lot better back there,” he said.
“We’ve really tried to get better. Guys in the program, we’ve drilled, ‘Just do your job. Don’t worry about being a star, making a play.’ Just do your job, get the job done and worry about every play, and you’ll win the game.”
Aug. 29 at D.M. Hoover, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Dowling Catholic, 7
Sept. 12 vs. Johnston, 7
Sept. 19 at Cedar Falls, 8
Sept. 26 vs. Indianola, 7
Oct. 3 at Waukee, 7:30
Oct. 10 vs. Mason City, 7
Oct. 17 at Marshalltown, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Fort Dodge, 7