Nevada plans to keep on winning in 2021: Cubs bring back eight starters on defense

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Defensive back Caleb Kooiker is part of an experienced defense returning for the Nevada football team in 2021. The Cubs were 6-3 a year ago.

Nevada's had something special going the past couple of seasons in high school football.

After turning in only two winning seasons in the previous decade the Cubs have now gone 13-5 the last two years. They were 6-3 last year and 7-2 in 2019.

Several players will need to step up to keep the winning ways going for Nevada. But the Cubs are fully capable of a third-straight winning season and challenging for a district title in 2021.

"We are excited about the season," Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. "Our players have put in good work in the off-season.  We return a lot of experience on the field and I’ve been encouraged by the leadership shown so far."

Nevada will compete in Class 3A District 2 this season. They renew rivalries with Ballard, the team that beat the Cubs in last year's playoffs, Gilbert and North Polk and also play Algona and Humboldt.

"I think every team will be strong and has a chance to win the district," Kleeman said. "Humboldt returns a lot of experience and Ballard had a tremendous season last year.  We also return quite a bit of experience.  I think highly of every school we play and I believe we are all capable of winning each night."

Outside of the district Nevada will face Boone, old district rivals West Marshall and Roland-Story and Hampton-Dumont.

"When you look at our schedule, we play mostly teams who are close to us," Kleeman said. "Many of these games are considered rivalries due to the history between the schools. I am excited about our schedule.  I think we’ll be playing in a lot of tough games this year, which will be exciting."

Nevada faces that schedule with a battle-tested group of players, especially on defense.

The Cubs bring back eight starters from a defense that gave up 18.2 points and 213.6 yards per game and forced 21 turnovers a year ago.

Junior cornerback Seth Brown, senior cornerback Caeden DaSilva, junior safety Caleb Kooiker, senior linebacker Ty Dittmer, junior linebacker Cael Franzen, junior defensive tackle Nate Anderson and senior defensive tackle Cam Vincent all started last year. In 2020 Brown tallied 28 tackles and three interceptions, DaSilva 11.5 stops and two picks, Kooiker 96 tackles and one interception, Dittmer seven tackles, Franzen 63.5 stops and two fumble recoveries, Anderson 14.5 tackles and one sack and Vincent 6.5 stops.

Last year's team set a school record by averaging 36.2 points and they also put up an average of 377.9 yards. 

The Cub offense must replace starting quarterback Blake Bottorf and record-setting running back Caden Jones, who ran for 1,047 yards and 21 touchdowns. 

Senior James Edwards takes over at quarterback, becoming Nevada's fourth in as many years after Bottorf, Keaton Fry and Kody Kruschwitz. He will be protected by a line that returns three starters in senior offensive tackle Aden Ballard, senior center Carter Hamilton and junior tackle Colton Leslie.

Junior guards Nate Anderson and Carson Mather fill out the rest of the offensive front. Junior Carson Rhodes and senior Holden Fry will be at tight end and junior Drew Robinson in the slot.

Sophomore Cason Stevenson will step in at running back and senior Colin Memmer will help out at receiver. Nevada's top returning weapon DaSilva at receiver. DaSilva made 43 receptions for 638 yards and seven touchdowns.

Rhodes will handle the punting duties. Junior Aidan Freeman returns at kicker, where he converted 22 extra points with two field goals and a long of 37 yards.

"I hope we continue to build off of our successes," Kleeman said. "I think we’ve made some great strides in our program the last few years, but I know our kids want to take that next step.  The playoffs are a goal, but we know we have to take it one game at a time.  Every week will be a challenge."

Nevada will host Boone in its opener Aug. 27 at Cub Stadium in Nevada. The Cubs go on the road the following week against West Marshall then host Roland-Story and travel to Hampton-Dumont.

In district play the Cubs take on Gilbert at Gilbert, go to Ballard, host Algona, travel to Humboldt and face off against North Polk at home.