Pella Christian reloading for another playoff berth

Aug. 22—OSKALOOSA — The Eagles made it all the way to the Class 1A quarterfinals last season and finished one win away from a trip to the dome. This year, Pella Christian will try to replace several starters including four all-state players while hoping to make another trip to the postseason.

Starting on offense, it will be a new era at quarterback with Isaac Kacmarynski moving on to play college ball. It's hard to replace the production he had with over both 1,000 passing and rushing last year and 27 offensive touchdowns. Senior Caleb Van Arendonk and sophomore Brecken Ritzert are both options at quarterback for the Eagles this fall but they will likely rely on what should be a pretty good running game.

Benny Schirz returns after rushing for 1,117 yards on 139 carries (eight yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 124 yards. PC has to completely rework their offensive line this season with it being very senior-led last season, but if they can put a good group out there, expect the Eagles to lean heavily on Schirz and will likely end with another 1,000 yard season or more.

The Eagle offense will also have a couple new names at wide receiver but they do return their 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end Trevor Veenstra. Veenstra will not only help the running game but will likely be the number one option in the passing game again after catching 19 passes for 445 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. Isaiah Breems, who caught four passes for 67 yards last year, will be another good big target outside at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds.

Defensively, the Eagles will need to replace a handful of very productive players. PC loses three of their top four tacklers but do return the likes of junior linebacker Cooper Spronk. Spronk finished with 50.5 tackles, one sack and one interception last year and will be key leader of that defense.

Pella Christian has had their fair share of electric edge rushers over the past several seasons. Veenstra had a good year there last year with 42.5 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and four sacks. Teams will likely key on him with doubles teams or running the other way but expect Veenstra to still have a big season and find a way to make plays up front on defense.

The secondary is another area that will need to be completely reworked as the Eagles will hope they can find a way to have somewhat similar production with 12 interceptions last season.

Special teams wise, Schirz is back to return punts after taking one back for a touchdown last season. Veenstra is back to do punts after averaging 36.6 yards per punt. PC will need to find a new kick returner as well as a new kicker with all-stater Jack Fancher graduating. Camden Parker was the second string kicker last season with one touchback and was 6-of-8 on PATs.

The schedule features many familiar faces for the Eagles with Grundy Center, EBF and Colfax-Mingo being the only new teams this season. Grundy Center were the Class A state champions last year and will provide a great road test for PC early in the season. The district is set up to be pretty favorable for the Eagles again this season with their biggest test coming against Sigourney-Keota, who has handed PC both of their only regular season losses in one score-games each of the past two seasons.

The Eagles look to be on track for another trip to the playoffs. How far they go will be decided on the development of their offensive line, passing game and secondary but it should be another fun season on Eagle Lane.

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.