FREEDOM — The past two seasons Freedom had the luxury of handing the ball off to Nathan Peters, who accumulated more than 3,500 yards on the ground.
The ground and pound mentality worked just fine as the Irish reached Level 4 of the playoffs in 2012 and Level 3 last season.
After winning 17 total games over the past two seasons, though, Freedom has to figure a way to make up for Peters’ production, which included 46 touchdowns, as he has graduated.
“We’re going to miss him because he did do a lot of the damage running it,” wide receiver Collin Hofacker said. “Now we’re going to have to spread it but we have a good running back coming back.”
“Last two years we were,’ ‘Here we are, line up and we’re going to come after you,’” coach Clint Kriewaldt said. “This year we have to change gears a little bit. We have a lot of talent on this team. We just have to figure out where the best places are to put them that’s going to helps us win some games.”
Kriewaldt said his team will throw more than it did with Peters, but this isn’t going to turn into an aerial show.
“It’s going to be a different look for us, it’s going to be exciting to see,” Kriewaldt said. “All in all we’re still going to run the football. It’s still our mindset here, that’s what I believe in.
“That’s what high school football is, you control the ball and that’s how you win games. You just pound out that clock and you put points on the board that way.”
Junior Isaac Gonnering (511 yards 10 TDs last season) will replace Peters as the workhorse back and Kriewaldt has high expectations for him.
He also has high expectations for his team, which has been impressive the past two seasons, recording a total of five playoff wins. Nonetheless, that’s not enough for Freedom.
“Gold ball, that‘s our goal,” Hofacker said.
Don’t believe Freedom can win a state title without Peters? Just take a look at last year’s Division 4 state champ Winneconne, a team Freedom beat 28-0 last season.
Winneconne won four regular season games and then shocked everybody with a state title.
“Great for them; fifth in our conference and they end up winning state,” Kriewaldt said. “More power to them. They got hot at the right time. What better example to use than them for us this year, next year and the upcoming years, too.”
Kriewaldt is entering his third season as coach and has always talked about not seeing a gold ball in the trophy case for football. Winning the Eastern Valley Conference is a goal, but he really wants a state title.
“That’s always our goal,” he said. “Our mentality is to win that state championship. We just always call it gold ball here. Really, I have high expectations and there is no reason why we can’t be fighting for that this year.”
Freedom’s first conference game is at home against Winneconne. … Freedom’s season ended last year in a Division 4 Level 3 loss to Roncalli, 18-13. … The Irish has to play annual conference powers Xavier and Waupaca on the road. … Freedom is 17-7 under Kriewaldt.
Aug 22 — at Wrightstown (0-0)
Aug 29 — Winneconne (0-0)
Sep 5 — at Waupaca (0-0)
Sep 12 — Berlin (0-0)
Sep 19 — at Clintonville (0-0)
Sep 26 — Little Chute (0-0)
Oct 3 — at Xavier (0-0)
Oct 10 — Fox Valley Lutheran (0-0)
Oct 17 — at Ripon (0-0)
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay