Self-confidence will be key to the HMS A-team season

The key to success for the Hillsboro Middle School eighth-grade football team this fall is not so much what happens with legs and arms as with head and heart.

“The main goal I have for this year is to get them to compete hard, gain some confidence in themselves, and believe they can really compete well,” head coach Darrel Knoll said.

“I think we have the talent to do it. We just need to improve and be more consistent. If we can have some success and buy into that, I think we can have a fun year.”

As seventh-graders, this year’s A-team finished 0-7 and managed only three touchdowns all season. But Knoll sees progress in their second year of competition.

“They’ve all improved,” he said. “I’m still trying to convince them that if they would just consistently do a few of the fundamentals we’re asking them to do, and learn to fire off the ball hard and compete as hard as they can, they will compete well. We can win a few games.”

One challenge will be a dearth of players. Only 14 eighth-graders are on this year’s roster.

“There’s not much room for rest there,” he said. “These early games are going to be hot, and conditioning will show up a little bit. Obviously, we can’t afford injuries, either.”

Though Knoll traditionally keeps eighth-grade and seventh-grade players on separate teams, he said he may have to call in a few seventh-graders this year to provide support for the A-team.

Tyler Goldsby and Derek Hamm will direct the Trojan offense at quarterback this season. When they throw the ball, Eric Weinbrenner will be a key target.

“He runs pretty good patterns,” Knoll said. “If we can get him the ball, he can do some good stuff.”

Daniel Deckert and Sammy Espada are leading contenders at running back. Deckert is a returning starter, but Espada did not play last year.

“Sammy has shown a lot of athleticism,” Knoll said. “He is still learning the game. He’s probably the most athletic person on the team as far as speed, size and everything goes. If we can get him headed the right direction, he can be fairly key.”

Bright spots so far on the line have been Michael Roble, who, according to Knoll, “has shown a ton of improvement from last year,” and Dustin Altum, a seventh-grader.

“So far, (Altum) has really gone after it in practice,” Knoll said. “Everyone else is working hard too, but those guys in particular have seemed to work extra hard so far. We just need all of our linemen to step up.”

The seventh-grade team, meanwhile, has 21 players out.

“I’d really like to keep those guys playing together and have as much success as possible because I think they could be a really good team if we keep them together,” Knoll said.

“They’re still learning, but we’ve got some guys who have a lot of potential in that class.”

HMS opens its season Thursday at home against Lyons. The B-team game begins at 5 p.m. and the A-team game at 6:30 p.m.

Helping Knoll again this year are what he calls “the best assistants in the world”: Darrel Kohlman, Corey Burton and Phil Oelke.

“They really are great,” Knoll said. “They work hard and try to help the guys out.”


Eighth grade: Lance Bartel, Kody Borg, Daniel Deckert, Sammy Espada, Tyler Goldsby, Derek Hamm, Ryan Kaiser, Jeremy Klose, Kala Medlam, Cody Penner, Jayce Penner, Michael Roble, Lee Sorensen, Eric Weinbrenner.

Seventh grade: Dustin Altum, Jesse Austin, Andrew Bina, Mike Bodiford, Josh Boese, Peter Fast, David Funk, Tim Funk, Chris Gibson, Chad Hughbanks, Richard Johnson, Robert Jost, Kyle Kroeker, Neil Ollenburger, Aaron Piland, Ben Schaefer, Curtis Shaw, Adam Sheele, R.J. Toal, John Vineski, Wade Wiebert.

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