High School Football Focus: Byron riding high thanks to big boys up front

Sep. 18—BYRON — When Byron running back Adam Glynn peers in front of him, there is nothing but excitement and anticipation for what's next.

Glynn is looking at his offensive line, because there stands 6-foot, 225-pound Payton Jax; 6-5, 240-pound Zach Vanderpool; 6-6, 220-pound Colin Hansen; 6-foot, 245-pound Gabe Mills; and either 6-foot, 210-pound Brennen Larsen or 6-3, 220-pound Cody Swanson.

All of them are big, all of them can move, and all of them do just what standout halfback Glynn appreciates most from them — they open sizable holes for him, over and over again.

In three games, all wins for the No. 5-ranked Bears, Glynn already has 514 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. That includes a 296-yards, three-touchdowns effort on Friday against Winona.

Credit Glynn for having some extraordinary talent. He's fast, elusive, tough and knows where to find daylight. But also credit that offensive line.

Those big boys up front know how to provide for their star senior running back, who next year will play at the University of Sioux Falls.

"There is a lot of talent there on our offensive line," Byron coach Ben Halder said. "(On Friday), we rotated six guys (up front), so we are building depth there. We've got other guys who are capable as well. We have four starters returning there, so that is a group that has played together for two years."

That offensive line takes its cues from its center, Jax. The senior, who also plays nose guard on defense, is everything that Halder looks for in a football player. That starts with his ability to lead.

"Peyton Jax is a great leader," Halder said. "He is super smart and can identify the other team's front. Plus, he's quick and he's physical."

It is the 6-5, 240-pound Vanderpool who's gotten the most attention of these linemen. And rightly so. Also an excellent basketball player, with all kinds of strength and explosiveness, Vanderpool agreed to a scholarship offer from Division I North Dakota State University earlier this summer. With him at one offensive tackle and 6-6, 220-pound Hansen at the other, the Bears have the ideal looking and playing bookends at tackle.

They represent this offensive line well. That is, tall guys who can play.

"Our guys are tall and most of them have (long arms)," Halder said.

They've made things tough on the opposition and have Byron playing at its highest level in years. Halder looks around and sees real talent at nearly every position. He also sees a team full of guys who are playing together and relishing every moment, whatever their role.

"This is a team that loves to play football and really likes each other," Halder said. "We think we have a chance to be competitive every week."

1. Camden Hungerholt, LeRoy-Ostrander

No, LeRoy-Ostrander is not a one-man team. But after examining the numbers that quarterback Camden Hungerholt has put up this season, it's easy to wonder. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior is a solid passer and an unstoppable runner. After three games this season, Hungerholt has already rushed for 753 yards. Friday night was his best effort yet as he dashed for 368 yards and eight touchdowns in a 59-50 win over Houston.

2. Adam Glynn, Byron

Adam Glynn is completely back. After suffering a season-ending collar bone injury in he fifth game of last season, the senior and University of Sioux Falls commit looked better than ever on Friday night in a 36-0 homecoming win over Winona. Glynn rushed for 296 yards, averaged more than 10 yards per carry and mixed in a 75-yard touchdown sprint.

3. Beau Wiersma, Kingsland

At a muscular 5-foot-10, 187 pounds, running a 4.7 40, bench pressing 260 pounds, and with all kinds of ferocity to him, who wants to tackle Kingsland's Beau Wiersma? It looks like nobody. In three games, all wins, Wiersma has already rushed for 684 yards. He might have been at his best on Friday in a 54-14 destruction of Alden-Conger/Glenville Emmons: 245 yards rushing, 20.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns.

4. Harrison Esau, Century

The Century quarterback has had a terrific start to his senior season. The senior kept that up with his best outing yet, passing for 371 yards on 22-for-36 accuracy, with a Century record-tying six touchdowns. It happened in a 63-41 loss to No. 2-ranked Chanhassen. Esau's two favorite targets were Denard Simpson (161 yards receiving, two TDs) and Jacob Wills (146 yards receiving, three TDs).

5. Goodhue's defense

It would be blind to recognize just one person here. Excellent defenses rely on playing as a pack, and nobody is doing that better this season than Goodhue (though Caledonia is darned close). After pitching shutouts in its first two games, the Wildcats finally allowed their first points — six of them, scored against substitutes in the fourth quarter — in a 33-6 win over Rushford-Peterson. There isn't a better foursome of linebackers in these parts than Goodhue's Gavin Schafer, Max Loos, Grant Reed and Jack Carlson.

6. Carter Miller, Stewartville

There wasn't much sample size from Miller, a speedy 160-pound senior. But he sure made the most of his chances on Saturday against Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Miller returned the opening kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown and totaled 94 yards rushing — on two carries. Included in that was a 60-yard TD sprint. Miller also had two catches for 51 yards.

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)

1. Stewartville (3-0)

The No. 3-ranked Tigers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 45-10. To think that they were dropped from Class 4A to 3A this year makes many take pity on all of those 3A teams in their path. It was easy to start taking Stewartville really seriously after Game 2, when it put the hurt on formidable Kasson-Mantorville, winning 40-10. It followed that up Saturday with a 68-6 romp over Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

2. Caledonia (3-0)

Yikes, are the Warriors ever starting to resemble the Warriors of the very recent past. The ones that won one state championship after another. They are burying their opponents. Their first three scores: 61-0, 47-6 and 54-7. No. 1-ranked Caledonia (Class 2A) has a quarterback who is lighting things up in Ethan Stendel. He's already thrown for 572 yards and helped make Caledonia's offense balanced and lethal.

3. Byron (3-0)

The Bears keep creeping up and up in our Power Rankings, from unranked in Week 1, to No. 7 in Week 2 to No. 3 in Week 3. There are some fantastic football players on this team led by college-bound players Adam Glynn (running back/defensive back) and Zach Vanderpool (defensive end/offensive lineman). Glynn dashed for 296 yards on Friday against Winona. Byron is ranked fifth in Class 4A.

4. Cannon Falls (3-0)

The Bombers (ranked fifth in Class 2A) know how to score. They've put up 51, 48 and 49 points in their first three games, all wins. Against Pine Island on Friday, Preston Schoenfelder finished with 129 yards rushing and a 32-yards-per-carry average. Cannon Falls runs the football better than anybody under coach Dan Meyers.

5. Chatfield (3-0)

Nobody has come close against the Gophers, who some thought might come back to earth after the graduation last spring of all-everything running back Sam Backer. That has not been the case, by a long shot. Chatfield — ranked third in Class 2A — has trampled all three of its opponents and done it with an offense (averaging 50 points per game) that has been as powerful as its defense (permitting 6 points per game). Kail Schott and D'Andre Williams are giving the Gophers a heck of a 1-2 punch at running back.

6. Goodhue (3-0)

The Wildcats are playing a brand of defense that is better than anyone's in southeastern Minnesota. For the first time this season, they finally allowed some points, Rushford-Peterson getting a fourth-quarter touchdown on Friday in a 33-6 Goodhue win. Goodhue (ranked eighth in Class 1A) has the best foursome of linebackers in southeastern Minnesota — big, fast and ferocious.

7. Fillmore Central (3-0)

The fourth-ranked Falcons got the toughest test they may face this regular season. That happened on Friday, with Fillmore Central emerging a 26-20 overtime winner over Faribault Bethlehem Academy, a team with great speed and firepower. Kyle Daniels ran for 143 yards.

8. Spring Grove (4-0)

The Lions moved to 4-0 with a win over Lanesboro on Friday, but it was just barely — 13-8. Spring Grove has been really good on defense, allowing just 7, 12, 12 and 8 points this season. Spring Grove has a lofty state ranking, No. 2 in Nine Person.

9. Mayo (2-1)

The jump to Class 6A has been a winning one so far for the Spartans. But things are about to get a whole lot tougher. In order, Mayo plays at No. 9-ranked Rosemount, at No. 2 Lakeville South, at No. 3 Lakeville North and then at No. 1 Eden Prairie.

10. Blooming Prairie (2-1)

Blooming Prairie has a pair of wins against struggling teams Rushford-Peterson and Wabasha-Kellogg, and a loss to No. 4-ranked Fillmore Central (41-18). As usual, Blooming Prairie can really score and is doing it behind another terrific quarterback, Brady Kittelson.