Aug. 28—LINTON, N.D. — Only three years removed from winning the nine-man state title, the Linton/Hazelton/Moffit-Braddock-Strasburg-Zeeland Lions are dropping back down from 11-man football to nine-man football for the 2023 season.
Lions head coach Kurtis Walls said his expectations for his team are to immediately return to competing at a high level in the nine-man class.
"Moving back down to nine man, our expectations are an attempt to pick off right where we left off at a few years ago, get back to our foundation of who we are as Linton/HMB (Strasburg-Zeeland), develop that structure and that discipline and to be in every ball game," Walls said. "I think this year is a new year just like every year is, but we have a lot of potential, we have a lot of returning players. It's really just about putting it down on the field and making it happen."
Junior quarterback Gentry Richter said his expectations are to make the playoffs but the team will need to replace all but one player on their offensive line.
Last year, the Lions went 4-4 and ended the season on a two-game winning streak. Over the course of the winning streak, they outscored their opponents 56-30.
Walls said he is expecting big things out of seniors Riley Richter, Jace Jochim, Justin Tschosik and Blake Ketterling. He also wants to see a big season from new starting quarterback Richter. Walls said he is eagerly anticipating seeing his team's rushing attack.
"Kashton Moser, he's gonna be a junior this year, we're looking at him at the tight end position," Walls said. "....Gentry, he's gonna be our first-year starting quarterback, we're gonna look for a big year from him. I'm excited for our run game this year, I think Justin Tschosik at tailback is gonna surprise a lot of people and do a lot of good things for us."
This year, Richter will be taking over at quarterback after backing up Trace King, who had 2,043 yards of offense last season. Richter said he feels a lot of pressure as the new quarterback but as the team practices his nervousness is fading away.
"I learned a lot," Richter said. "He moved really quick. I learned how to drop back. I learned a lot from his reading and how he read."
Richter is not coming in blind, though, as he did play a little bit last year. As he looks to this season, Richter said he wants to gain arm strength and get a tighter spiral on the football. He said he has been working hard this summer to improve his team's performance.
"It helped me a lot because what I was worried about was my reading (the field)," Richter said. "I wasn't doing well reading my receivers and the safety. That helped me a lot because this year, I've been learning a lot, especially watching Trace last year and just seeing how he read the defense and he taught me a lot when I was behind him as a quarterback."
In order to have a good season, Walls said Richter needs to stay calm and not try to be a superhero and carry the team.
On the defensive side of the ball, Richter plays linebacker and had 25 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and two interceptions last year.
"I think the best skill is I can read the guards pretty well and I know which direction they're going to," Richter said.
The Lions opened their season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, when they took on Hettinger/Scranton.
"What I've heard is they have big o (offensive) line and defense but I think our quickness is going to help us out a lot," Richter said. "We have a quick team, a really quick team, and I feel like we can throw some deep balls against them."