Dan Maciejczak always has a goal of building throughout the season and to the future, and this year is no exception.
In fact, it is the rule for his young 2018 squad that features just four seniors and eight juniors.
It’s all about getting back to the success of the program, going back to head coach Dave Broadie’s time at Douglas, said Maciejczak, who added that his players know about it and take pride in the program's past success.
“These are good kids and they are working hard. They are excited about football and they are excited about being a Patriot,” Maciejczak said on Wednesday as they get ready for Friday’s season opener at Huron. “With a little bit of hard work, a little bit of hope and some determination, I think this will be a good building year for us, and then the next couple of years we can get back to what we were doing.”
Maciejczak said this team reminds him of his squad three years ago that was equally as young that showed progress. Douglas lost 16 seniors from last year’s team that finished 5-5, losing to Yankton in the first round of the state playoffs.
One of the four seniors, slot back Noah Vinson, said they are inexperienced, but they show a lot of promise.
“We have a lot of young guys who want to get out here and work,” he said. “As one of only four seniors, I am out here looking to take charge and get these guys ready.”
Vinson added that the more time they spend time together, the more they will click.
“It’s going to take a little more playing time and getting used to each other, each other’s speed and tempo,” he said.
The other three seniors include fullback/linebacker Garrett Hutcheson, wide receiver/defensive back Isiah DuBray and tight end/linebacker Connor Braun.
The Patriot coaches will find out Friday where the inexperience will hit them the most. At this point, Maciejczak said he doesn’t know exactly where that is.
“Our offensive line is very young, but we’re a pretty big line; bigger than in the last couple of years,” he said. “They are all good friends. They hang out together and they communicate well. If they are going to mess something up, they are going to mess it up together.”
The Patriot offense will be quarterbacked by sophomore David Severson, who although young, isn’t necessarily a newcomer. He did get some spot action last year as a freshman, and he had two older brothers star in the program.
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“He’s been around the program for a while, so he knows it. We started grooming him some last year; we knew what was going to happen for him to take this over,” Maciejczak said. “He’s going to have some growing pains, but the best thing about him is he has a great head on his shoulder. He’s a smart kid and a smart football player. He is very thirsty for knowledge."
Former offensive tackle Jaiden Walton has moved to fullback, and is one several running backs vying for playing time. It will be running back by committee, Maciejczak said, with sophomore John Updike, junior Daniel Gleason and freshman Payton DeWitt also looking to carry the football.
“We’ll have five or six running backs that you are going to see,” he said. “I’d like to see all six of them step up. I tell these guys that they can make my job harder each day on deciding who gets the one spot.”
Gleason said he knows about the rich history at running back for the Patriots, but he said it is not about one star player.
“It’s not about us, it is about the team,” Gleason said. “It’s about how good we can be as a unit.”
Defensively, Maciejczak said they are young, but he likes their effort-level. He said they have made big strides since they went to camp this summer.
“We have kids flying around and knowing places, understanding what we have to do. Coach (Nate) Batteen does a great job of coaching the kids and getting us ready,” he said. “It’s the same type of kids, just rolled over in other duties.”
Maciejczak said that while they haven’t have much luck against Huron in the last couple of years, they are excited about playing and getting on the road. He said it will be a good opportunity to see where they are at.
He believes they are ready.
“For us, it will be, ‘Can we stand the AA world of numbers?’ and we haven’t had much success in the last couple of years against Huron at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We hope by midseason that we’re starting to roll. I think it will be good for us to see where we are. If we can get a win, great, but my biggest thing is if we can still be in the game by halftime, we’re going to have a chance.”
Gleason said they are looking forward to getting the season underway.
“We shouldn’t be afraid. They’ve (Huron) won before, yes, but we’re hard hitters and we have been practicing well,” Gleason said.