Nevada must overcome inexperience

The 2013 season will be a measuring stick for the Nevada football program as the Cubs try to maintain their momentum from a breakout 2012 campaign.

After going over two decades without a winning record, Nevada finished 6-5 last year and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1996 after taking third in Class 2A District 7 with a 3-2 record. Nevada went on to defeat Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove in their opening round 2A playoff contest before falling to traditional power West Marshall in the second round.

The Cubs and head coach John Pelzer will have their work cut out for them this fall since a large group of seniors played a huge role in last year’s success. That leaves Nevada with only two returning starters on the roster.

"Obviously our lack of returning experience is my biggest concern," Pelzer said. "That’s high school football though. We have to deal with it in a positive way. Last year is over and we have a new group of players that need to play together and trust each other."

Thankfully for Nevada, both returning starters are high-quality players in juniors Jake Kapustka and Chase Dobson.

Kapustka will anchor the offensive line after helping the Cubs average 31.2 points and 363.4 yards per game last fall. Dobson topped the 1,000-yard mark in his first varsity year in 2012, compiling 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns on an average of 7.9 yards per carry to make first-team all-district.

Senior Patrick Stephenson was also a valuable contributor for Nevada on offense last year. He ran for 374 yards and two touchdowns on an average of 5.6 yards per carry and was a first-team all-district player on special teams.

Seniors Kyle Chaska, Kody Harrelson, Kyle Coogler, Alex Merfeld, Kody Harrelson and Aaron McCarville, junior Mark Trullinger and sophomore Chris Dobernecker will be counted on to help out on the offensive line. Seniors Jake Barker and Joel Olson will fill in at the tight end spots.

Senior split end T.J. Fey is the only returning Cub to catch a pass outside of Dobson and Stephenson. The Cub quarterback battle to replace talented two-way threat Colynn Black will be between senior Brandon Burke and junior Traye Pelzer.

Seniors Riley Huhn and Dayne Sly, junior Alex Avalos and sophomores Peyton Sharp and Erik Fevold will help out Dobson and Stephenson in the offensive backfield.

"I’m excited to have Jake and Chase back," Pelzer said. "We came on in JV with our line play at the end of last year, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we can mesh a new line with new backs and move the ball."

Nevada will continue to run out of a wing-T on the offensive side of the ball.

On defense the Cubs will operate out of a 3-5-3. Last year Nevada gave up 25.6 points and 327.8 yards per game.

Chaska totaled 11 stops, Kapustka made nine tackles and McCarville one on the defensive line last year. Merfeld, Trullinger and Dobernecker will also help out up front on defense.

At linebacker, the Cubs will have a lot of battling for playing time among Stephenson, Huhn, Barker, Sly, Harrelson, Coogler, Avalos, Pelzer and Fevold. Stephenson is the top returning tackler in the group with 21 stops a year ago, Huhn totaled 13, Pelzer made four and Coogler totaled three.

In the defensive backfield the Cubs will have Dobson, Fey, Olson, Burke and Sharp competing for time.

"We have to replace all 11 starters on defense," Pelzer said. "But this will be our third year in the defense, so our learning curve is shorter. I’m confident we’ll find a new group that can swarm to the ball, tackle and create turnovers."

Pelzer said West Marshall will be the obvious favorites in 2A District 7 as the Trojans have several returning players from their powerful district championship squad from last year. The Cubs will also battle with North Polk – last year’s district runner-up – along with East Marshall, South Hardin and traditional rivals Gilbert and Roland-Story for a playoff berth.

In non-district play, the Cubs will face South Tama, Bondurant-Farrar and Collins-Maxwell-Baxter. South Tama and Bondurant-Farrar will be Nevada’s first two games, and the Cubs host CMB on Sept. 27.

"My goals for the 2013 campaign are: to get better each week, play as a team, have a winning season, make the playoffs and have fun," Pelzer said.

The Cubs open the quest for a return playoff bid against South Tama on Aug. 30 at Cub Stadium in Nevada. The game will start at 7:30 p.m.