Just over 10 months ago the Glenwood Rams paraded around the town following a line of Chevrolet Corvettes and a police escort before rolling up to the UNI Dome for a state semi final game against the Webster City Warriors. After losing that game in a 6-3 heartbreaker, the Rams wanted nothing but to return to the same place a year later. Now, they are less than two weeks away from taking the field and starting the 11-week journey back to the Dome.
Glenwood will be coming off arguably their best year in program history, in which they finished with a 9-3 record after a historic postseason run that ended with a fourth place finish in the state playoffs. While he enjoyed the success of last year’s team, sixth-year Glenwood Head Coach Cory Faust was quick to imply that the focus is on the season ahead.
“Last season was awesome, but every year is different,” he said, “the challenges are always different.”
The team will be sporting brand new, all-black uniforms, as well as a lot of brand new faces. However, there will still be a fair share of returning talent to the Glenwood roster. One of the most notable units for the Rams will be the offensive line, where they will return the heart of the big boys up front. Those players include seniors Caleb Sanders, Dillon Wiser and Cody Sorenson. Sanders earned many accolades in his junior year, and will look to do the same once again. The South Dakota State commit was a first team all-district offensive lineman, and a first team all-state defensive lineman last season. Filling a vacant spot on the offensive line will be senior Keegan Roenfeld. While he didn’t see a lot of the varsity field last year, Faust believes Roenfeld has earned his spot on the line after a summer of intense training.
The offensive backfield will look brand new to Ram fans, as all four of the players that assumed these positions last season have graduated. No starting spots are set in stone yet, but Faust mentioned juniors Cooper Silvius and Colton Schutte as potential starters at slot back. Silvius was given a little varsity time in his sophomore season in which he ran for 93 yards on 10 carries.
“Cooper did a really nice job for us last year at slot and some spot situations,” said Faust, “we feel like he’s ready to have a breakout year.”
It’s a new year, so of course we find senior Andrew Blum at a new offensive position. After playing slot back his sophomore year and wide receiver last season, Blum has returned to quarterback for his senior campaign. He showed flashes of greatness at quarterback when he was younger, and will finally get his shot taking snaps for the Rams. Blum touched on the subject on his episode of “Full Timeout”, Kevin Tucker’s weekly podcast for GlenwoodSports.com.
Blum said, “I feel confident that I can put the ball where it needs to be, especially in those big situations.”
However, he mentioned that returning to quarterback after a few years away from the position will take some getting used to, and that he has been working himself back into the mix all summer.
“It’s a lot about timing and the connection between wide receiver and quarterback,” said Blum. “I’ve been out there with a couple of the main receivers trying to get that timing down, so when it’s game time, we’re ready.”
Blum not only expressed confidence in himself, but also in his teammates: “We have a couple spots to fill, we lost some seniors, but everyone is looking to step up, and there should be some good battles for those positions.”
Anyone that knows football knows that throwing passes is hardly the only job for the quarterback, as most people see the quarterback as a leader. Faust demonstrated nothing but confidence in Blum’s ability to lead the team.
“I think anyone within our program knows that Andrew Blum is a very good leader,” said Faust. “He’s going to play some quarterback for us on offense, and we feel like he’s very capable of that, and I think people just kind of look to that position to be a leader.”
Faust also mentioned Caleb Sanders as someone who has stepped up his vocal leadership, and the Rams will need that with very inexperienced defensive unit.
Glenwood graduated three all-district linebackers and both starting corners with the 2017 senior class, so some rebuilding will need to be done on the defensive side of the ball. Faust mentioned the likes of seniors Jake Murtfeld, Anthony Sherry, Josh Ruth, Kohen Watson and Cody Buresh, as well as sophomore Zach Carr as notable contributors in the defensive secondary. While they are still testing the waters with the new lineup, Faust is confident they will have the talent to fill the gaps.
“We’ve got a lot of guys we really like, we have to see what they look like with pads on still, but we feel like we’ve got some good talent to replace some of those guys that we are missing [from last year]” said Faust.
Despite all the new faces in the defensive backfield, the Rams will bring back a very experienced core up front in seniors Caleb Sanders, Isaac Bales and Dillon Wiser as well as junior Noah Carter. Last season, Sanders and Bales combined for 96 total tackles and seven sacks on the year.
“We feel like we have a strong line on both sides of the ball” said Faust. “Defensively, it all starts at the line of scrimmage.”
The Rams will certainly not be the only team lacking a lot of experience in their district this season. Class 3A District Seven graduated a lot of talent with the 2017 senior class, but it will still be competitive from top to bottom. The Rams kick off the new season with a home, non-district matchup against Class 4A Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, a team which they beat 41-0 last season. Next, Glenwood will take on Thomas Jefferson at Council Bluffs Stadium in week two. Even though the Rams defeated the Yellow Jackets rather handily last season, this could be a fun matchup that pits one of the state’s top running backs in TJ’s Cameron Baker against Glenwood’s stellar defensive front. The Rams will begin district play with a long road trip to Carroll in week three. While it looks like Carroll might not be the powerhouse that they were last year, Faust said that his team cannot overlook the Tigers in the district opener.
“Carroll did graduate a bunch of players, but you can’t sleep on them,” said Faust.
The Rams will return to Glenwood for a home date with rival Harlan in week four. Coming off one of their worst seasons under legendary head coach Kurt Bladt, the Cyclones will look for redemption against the Rams from last season. Glenwood won a 49-41 thriller on the road that snapped a 22-year losing streak to Harlan.
The Cyclones return first team all-district running back Nick Foss and second team all-district quarterback Deren Schmitz to highlight an offensive squad that could bring a lot of firepower. To add to that, Harlan was the first squad Faust mentioned when asked who the toughest teams on the Rams’ schedule will be this season, saying they “will be very tough to beat.” Needless to say, the town of Glenwood will be hopping when the Cyclones roll into town on the night of September 15.
The Rams will follow with a trip to Denison in week five and a homecoming matchup against Atlantic in week six. These are two teams the Rams defeated in blowout fashion last season, and they will look to replicate that this year.
In week seven, Glenwood will travel to Creston for a pivotal late-season battle with the Panthers. The Rams fell to Creston at home last season in a 27-24 nail biter, and will be seeking revenge on October 6. After graduating all-state running back Chase Shiltz, the Panthers will turn to junior quarterback Kylan Smallwood to make the plays in the backfield. Smallwood will have the help of what could be one of the best offensive lines in the state, which will include 6’5” 290-pound Trevor Downing, who recently committed to Iowa State, as well as 6’7” 320-pound senior Tucker Flynn. All in all, this matchup will undoubtedly be won in the trenches.
Glenwood will finish off the season with home games against Winterset and Adel-DeSoto-Minburn in weeks eight and nine. While it might not show on paper, the Winterset Huskies could prove to be a dark horse in District Seven this season. Senior Connor Van Pelt, who ranked first in the district in tackles during his junior year, will look to lead a solid Winterset defense that gave the Glenwood offense fits last season. The Huskies will also be bringing up fresh talent from a junior varsity squad that finished 2016 with a 7-1 record.
Faust noted that the obvious goal for the Rams is to win district and state championships, but he mentioned that they must take it one game at a time and be sure to never overlook any team.
“I think the fun thing about 3A football is that it’s very good from top to bottom,” said Faust. “We have to be ready to play. We’ve got to play nine, one-game seasons and be ready to play our best game like it was for the state championship every week. And if we do that, focus on one game at a time, that will give us our best chance to compete for the district title.”
You can listen to my full interview with Coach Faust here.
The Rams will give the town a sneak peek at the Black and Gold Scrimmage, which is open to the public, on Thursday, August 17 at 6:00pm. A week later, they will take on the Abraham Lincoln Lynx in their season opener at Ram Memorial Field on Friday, August 25 at 7:00pm.
Can’t make it to the game? Listen to a live audio/video broadcast of every Glenwood football game this season at GlenwoodSports.com. Can’t listen/watch? Follow @glenwoodsports on Twitter or “LIKE” GlenwoodSports.com on Facebook for live updates and more coverage of the Rams throughout the season.