Several years ago now, when Jason Telecky was still relatively new as the head football coach at Monticello High School, he talked about establishing a system program. One of those programs that has such a strong system in place that you can plug in new kids any given year, and continue to replicate past success.
This year, that system will get its tryout. Monti, which has turned itself from an also-ran to a perennially strong football team, is facing the biggest single season turnover the program has seen under Telecky. Monti returns just two full-time starters from last season, as well as a few additional players that started a handful of games for the 2016 Magic.
“It happens, it’s high school football,” said Telecky, about losing 19 starters from last season. “[We have to] make sure the kids believe in what they’re doing, and keep getting better, and we’ll be fine.”
While Monti may lack for experience, they don’t figure to lack for talent at many positions this year.
Anchoring the team will be Kyle Downs. The junior lineman suffered an ankle sprain at team camp this summer, but is expected to be back for the start of the season. He was one of the team’s best offensive lineman as a sophomore last year, and figures to play at left tackle and on the defensive line this season.
“He’s a legitimate Division I potential kid,” said Telecky.
Joining Downs in anchoring the defensive line will be Brandon Loftman, also a returning starter from last season. Telecky said Loftman, a senior, moves extremely well for his size.
The defensive line and secondary are the two most experienced, and deepest, for the Magic. Monti will have several options to fill in around Loftman and Downs on the line, including Kade Lammers, Will Stryker, Bryan Loftman, and Cayden Agre.
In the secondary, Monti returns Shawn Sellner after the junior started the last half of last season at cornerback.
“He’s got all aspects of the game,” said Telecky. “He can cover and he can come up and hit.”
Monti also has Carsten Scherber, Luke Henline and sophomore Jared Pearson as weapons in the defensive backfield.
Telecky said the entire group impressed during Monti’s team camp at Bemidji State University this summer.
“Their defensive backs coach was absolutely in love with our guys,” said Telecky. “They’re good.”
Linebacker is one area where Monti may be trying to get some guys up to speed early in the season. Telecky is confident with the athletes he has in place there, but said they may need some time to learn the position. Jake Friede, a starter for part of last year on the offensive line, and TJ Jassmann, also a part-time starter last year, will be two guys leading the way in the middle.
Offensively, Monti will be trying to replace a lot of weapons from one of the most potent teams in program history.
Telecky said it will certainly be a by-committee approach.
Balance, along with youth, will be the operative word for Monti’s 2017 season.
“I think it will just be a little more balanced. The wings will be involved a little bit more,” said Telecky, comparing it to the season where Ben Schacht, Chase Holum and Birk Olson evenly split carries and yards for a strong Magic team. “[We need] balance in the running game and balance with the running game and the passing game.”
The top tailback figures to be junior Alex Otto, with a number of guys ready to complement him. Jassmann, Scherber, Sellner, and Henline all figure to get touches coming out of the backfield.
Junior Ethan Bosacker will likely be the man running the show for Monticello this year. The strong-armed quarterback was the leading candidate to get the job late in summer camp.
Telecky admits that Bosacker will need to gain some experience at the varsity level, but said the junior has a lot of built-in intangibles.
“He’s got great poise, good leadership,” said Telecky. “He needs the experience. [But there’s] no question about his character, and his will to pick the guys up around him.”
Monti hopes to use a short to mid-range passing attack, utilizing a number of different receivers. Some of the players likely to receive targets in the early going include Pearson, Carson Sawatzke, and Gabe Larrave.
Hoping to provide time for Bosacker and space for the running game is an offensive line that Telecky thinks will catch teams by surprise.
The line will be young, but Telecky does not expect them to play like it. With Downs, Friede, Ryley Moran, Eddy Jordan, and Chris Wallin all expected to start, and sophomore Alex Tack pushing for playing time, Telecky believes it will be a group that really gets after it from whistle to whistle.
“The offensive line has got some kids that really want to be physical in nature,” said Telecky. “These guys are just ripping it up. We’re going to see some road graders out there.”
Needing to gain experience, Monti won’t get a chance to test the waters before diving in this season. But that’s OK with Telecky. The head coach said Monti’s treacherous early schedule, which includes showdowns with Hutchinson and Elk River to start the year, should only make the Magic better in the long run.
“We have to learn how to improve each week. We have to learn how to get better,” said Telecky. “I don’t know what will happen or what the outcome of [those games] will be, but I guarantee you there will be a lot of things we can learn from that game. If we keep learning, then we will be a much different team in Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, then we are in Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.”
Monti opens the season Friday night in Hutchinson at 7 p.m. The Magic will play the first football game in the brand-new Monticello Memorial Stadium on Sept. 8, when the defending Class 5A State Champion Elk River Elks come to town for a 7 p.m. contest.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]