“You have to build off it,” junior lineman Peyton Lotysz said. “You have to think about how you can improve from last year, not repeat history.”
The Roughriders were 0-9 last season. The closest they came to a win was a 35-28 setback against Fargo North; otherwise, every game was decided by 13 or more points.
Red River coach Vyrn Muir said the zero in the win column was more of a topic in the offseason than it has been since fall practices began.
“I think our kids know what our record was last year. We don’t need to keep reminding them,” Muir said. “We used it as a motivation tool in the offseason when we noticed if the guys weren’t doing things we felt they should be. But now that we’re here, we’ve put that season to bed.”
The loss to North was one of only two games in which Red River scored more than 15 points. On the flip side, the defense allowed 24 or more points in every game.
With an 11.7 scoring average last season, Muir said the biggest thing Red River has to do in order to show improvement is make plays more consistently on offense.
Junior Parker Monette is a veteran at quarterback, completing 60-of-137 passes for 600 yards last season. Two experienced receivers return in Cole Benson (11 catches-161 yards) and Ethan Brandvold (9-43).
But Red River will have a new-look backfield, where Nathan Schumacher (16 carries-51 yards) is the most experienced player.
Muir said he’s seen more playmaking potential. At a scrimmage, he said Connor Arel and Zach Topping each broke for long runs and Bryce Enerson made a leaping catch. “We had some explosive plays, big plays we didn’t make last year,” Muir said.
“I think we have better quickness this year.”
That athleticism could be utilized in different ways. Red River has had a string of strong-armed quarterbacks and big-play potential in recent seasons. But the long ball will be emphasized less.
“It will be more of a running and quick-pass offense,” Arel said. “We don’t have a lot of weight up front. But if (the linemen) can get their jobs done consistently, which they’ve done most of the time in practices, getting those quick passes off and the running will be the way we’ll do it this year.”
Red River at a glance
Coach: Vyrn Muir.
2017: 0-9, didn’t qualify for playoffs.
Graduated starters: Landon Haagenson, Matt Hjelmstad, Ethan Borgen, Hunter Deziel, Ben Christian, Liam Ogren, Tyler Burian, Seth Hanson, Sam Schumacher, Nick Stenehjem.
Returning starters: Sr. TE Brett Klefstad, sr. DL Nathan Schumacher, sr. CB Austin Oehlke, sr. LB Jackson Feller, sr. DB Marcelles Sartwell, jr. QB Parker Monette, jr. OT Peyton Lotysz, jr. WR Cole Benson, jr. DB Ethan Brandvold, jr. DB Connor Arel, jr. DB Brady Dvorak.
Potential new impact players: Sr. Daniel Walker, sr. Dawson Hageman, sr. Dawson Brandvold, jr. Bryce Enerson, jr. Justin Erickson, jr. Tanner Bernhardson, soph. George Nyanforh.
Returning rushing leaders: Schumacher 16-51, Monette 13-50.
Returning passing leader: Monette 60-137-9, 600 yards, 6 TDs.
Returning receiving leaders: Benson 11-161, E. Brandvold 9-43, Dvorak 2-38.
Returning tackle leaders (solo-assisted): Schumacher 12-45, Feller 21-22, Dvorak 13-6.
About the offense, coach Muir says: “Parker showed last year that he’s a playmaker as both a passer and a runner. Nathan is our only back with any varsity experience; he has to be the leader for that group. I think we have better quickness this year. The kids have shown they can make plays. Our line should be stronger.”
About the defense, coach Muir says: “Our secondary is coming back with a lot of experience. But our defensive linemen and interior linebackers are all pretty inexperienced. The thing I see is that, across the board, I think we have more athleticism than we had last year.”