Last year marked the first time in 28 years that Little Falls hosted a playoff football game.
If the recent strides the program has made are any indication, the wait won’t be nearly as long the next time around.
“Absolutely,” Little Falls head coach Jay DeCann said. “Winning is a habit and it can be very contagious. I think our athletes got a very good taste of it last year and they want to keep moving in that direction.”
To do so, Little Falls will have to replace, among others, two of the top players in the area on both sides of the ball in graduated running back Jalen Wuchko and linebacker Trysten Ross.
Offensively, the Flyers may turn to the air more with the absence of Wuchko, with a team-centered approach to filling in for Ross.
“There will be a little more focus on the passing game this fall,” DeCann said. “We are very confident with our returning running backs to carry the load in the running game. I would expect (senior) Brighton Goodrich, (senior) Michael Orr and (junior) Thomas Miller to all get carries each Friday night.
“Our defense is built on team defense,” he said. “So we will miss Trysten at linebacker, but feel our defense is built on speed and 11 guys running to the football. We feel very good about the athletes we have returning on defense this fall.”
A key for this year’s team will be veteran leadership. The Flyers open with 19 seniors on the roster, and “seniors win high school football games,” DeCann said.
Returning starters on offense will be seniors Kyle Kabanuk (wide receiver), Josh DeCann (wide receiver), Bryce Zawatzke (tight end), Michael Trettel (offensive line), Ian McQuillan (offensive line), Alex Vagle (offensive line), Austin Fenske (quarterback), Good-rich (running back) and junior Braden Backowski (quarterback).
Defensively, returning starters include senior Jake Anderson (nose guard), John Lukasavitz (defensive end), Nik Himley (defensive end), Jeremy Klein (cornerback), Mark Brezinka (cornerback), Zawatzke (linebacker), Goodrich (safety) and Miller (safety).
Among the newcomers vying for playing time are seniors Ben Witt (linebacker), juniors Landon Bjorge (defensive end/tight end), Gage Blechinger (offensive line/defensive line), Mitch Magee (offensive line), Daniel Marod (tight end/linebacker), Dustin Tabatt (offensive line), Wyatt Nelson (wide receiver/cornerback), Alec Stark (linebacker), Joey Horejsi (offensive line) and Trevin Larson (outside linebacker) and sophomores Nick Maslowski (defensive end), Mitchell Nelson (linebacker), Mitch Boros (linebacker) and Hunter Swanson (offensive line/defensive line).
Little Falls is scheduled to open the season at Thief River Falls, Thursday, with its home opener against Albany, Sept. 5.