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Prep football: Not just some passing fancy at ACGC

Tribune photo by Tom Larson ACGC junior quarterback Taylor Larson (14) and senior quarterback Dylan Hoerchler (3) are main cogs in the Falcons' 2012 offense, which is working more pass plays into a playbook traditionally dominated by run plays.

ACGC head football coach Terry Karlsgodt sighed as he recited the statistics, and even though he was talking on a telephone you could almost feel him shaking his head.

"We threw the ball 15 times, we completed five, we were sacked four times and we threw five interceptions,"" Karlsgodt said. "Dismal."

Karlsgodt was referring to the production of the Falcons' newly minted passing attack in last week's 34-0 season-opener loss to BOLD in Olivia.

Historically, the Falcons have belied their high-flying nickname. Since 2005, they've won 50 games and two West Central South Conference titles, and in 2001 they won the Class AA state championship. They did it all by keeping the ball tucked tightly in a forearm and pretty close to the turf.

But this season the staff recognized some assets that might allow the Falcons to put the ball in the air a little more. The team returned to practice last month with a quarterback, junior Taylor Larson, who wasn't with the team last year. Senior quarterback Dylan Hoerchler -- whom Karlsgodt said may be the team's best athlete -- is a good runner who could also be deployed as a pass catcher. And the team also had senior starters Lee Whitcomb and Logan Jacobs back at tight end. The team's prospects for mixing up their offense were bolstered by some solid showings in preseason scrimmages.

Despite those successes, Karlsgodt and his staff knew that making even a modest change in offensive style can send a football team for a loop at first, even as his players were throwing the ball around pretty well in practice and in scrimmages. If any of the players thought it would just be more of the same on Friday nights, BOLD served up a sobering reality.

"I think we have some kids who can catch the ball and I think we can probably throw it," Karlsgodt said. "It's difficult to gauge right now. It isn't really who we've been over the years. We've done alright in scrimmages but maybe we're not as good as we thought. We're kind of searching for an identity. We may have to go back and work into the passing game gradually."

To be fair, many teams would likely have similar problems against a BOLD team that is a consensus favorite to win the West Central Conference championship this season.

"BOLD was very good," Karlsgodt said. "I don't want to take anything away from them, but we beat ourselves in that game as much as they did."

As such, the Falcons aren't ready to abandon the prospect of mixing up their offense. They will, however, temper the mix, starting this week with another road game at Lac qui Parle Valley.

"We're not giving up on that (the passing game) but I think you morph into what you are in the end," Karlsgodt said. "You can set out to try to be more than that too quickly. We're not ready to protect that (passing game)."

A running attack moves at a faster pace, a more pronounced and predictable rhythm and there are fewer formations to clutter young minds. A passing attack requires more formations, there is motion and more verbiage in play calls, all of which can make it tougher for a youthful team like the Falcons to function efficiently and confidently, Karlsgodt said.

"It takes away the flow," he said.

If the Falcons do swing back in favor of a more run-centered attack, they'll be facing another test this Friday against LQPV, Karlsgodt said.

"They're very big and they have some talented players," he said of the Eagles, who defeated Benson 21-20 last Friday. "We're going to have to be ready to move some pretty stout boys out of the way if we want to run the ball."

Falcons Notes:

ACGC's youth is plain to see from a glance at their roster: half of ACGC's 52 players in grades 9-12 are freshmen and sophomores.

Hoerchler, Jacobs and Whitcomb are joined by fellow seniors Nick Peterson and Frank Wortham as Falcons captains.

Seniors Austin Mueller, Jacob Peterson, Robert Rasmussen and Ryan Roush also are back among the regulars.

Juniors Lucas Damm and Jordan Fester are back starting on the offensive and defensive lines, and Jordan Nelson and Maverick Whitcomb are regulars at the linebacking spots, and Alex Pankratz is back as a running back and cornerback..

Other promising talents on the Falcons' roster include junior running back/cornerback Tyler Berghuis, junior end/safety Erick Cihlar, junior center/defensive end Tyler Copeland, junior end/center Brenden Haley, junior running back/linebacker Jon Hofmann, junior end/defensive end David Kinzler, junior tackle/defensive end Michael Larson, junior quarterback/safety Taylor Larson, junior running back/safety Zach Junkermeier, junior running back/linebacker Mitchell Macik, junior tackle/defensive tackle Jack Walters, sophomore tackle/linebacker Cody Berghuis, sophomore running back/linebacker Brett Buskoll, sophomore tackle/defensive tackle Ty Soine and sophomore tackle/defensive end Colton Minnick.

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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