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Football: B-E ready to make next step

Brandon-Evansville head coach Tim Pattrin runs the linemen through a drill during the team's second practice of the season on August 15. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Echo Press)1 / 3
Keagan Schiele looks downfield during a passing drill on Wednesday, August 15. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Echo Press)2 / 3
Linemen and captain James Strese leads a group through a drill Tuesday, August 15 during the team's first week of practice. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Echo Press)3 / 3

As a team with depth, full returning offensive and defensive lines and a chip on its shoulder, the Brandon-Evansville football team is focused and ready to get the season started.

That was apparent to head coach Tim Pattrin after the first two practices.

"It's great to get going again," he said on Tuesday. "We've had a great start. We had a good camp in July and they picked up right where they left off. We have a really veteran group. They know what they're doing. It's exciting."

The Chargers season ended with a record of 7-3 last fall after dropping the Section 4 semifinal matchup to Verndale 24-14. The team's offseason improvement will be put to the test right away this year, as its week one opponent is at home against the Pirates, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1.

"First one, right away," B-E senior captain and lineman James Strese said. "It's been a rivalry for the last many years. We're both one of the better teams in the conference, and they're always fun to play. They always hit hard, and they're good guys, too."

With every new season, there are question marks, and this year for the Chargers, the main ones are whether they will be able to replace quarterback Kevin Campbell and running back McKenon Plaster, who were lost to graduation.

With how much the Chargers rely on their run game, Plaster left a big hole to fill, but Pattrin said they made the adjustments and have the players to get it done.

"We have our whole line coming back," he said. "Our bread and butter is running the ball. They're a little bit different backs than McKenon was and what Skyler (Quinn) was before that, so we tweaked the offense a little bit to better suit our strengths and we'll go from there.

"(Plaster) was a staple for us as a running back the last couple years, but we have Taylor (Bitzan), we have Nick Thorstad coming up."

Expect Jake Hintermeister to get the ball on occasion, as well.

Bitzan, who is also a senior captain, is coming off an ACL tear that he suffered during basketball season. He was unable to play baseball all spring, but hopes to be on the field for week one.

"It all depends on how I'm doing and what the doctors and trainers think," he said, but he's happy just to be back practicing with the guys.

"It feels awesome," he said. "We just have so much potential and we have depth and we have a good group of guys, good leaders. It's just awesome to be back."

Coach Pattrin is also glad to have his running back able to contribute this season, but realizes it's important to be cautious, especially when they have other viable options at the position.

"We're going to ease him into it," he said. "He says he's going to be ready to go, the docs say he's going to be ready to go by the beginning of the season, but we'll play it by ear. That's the advantage we have right now, we've got a lot of depth. It's something we haven't had around here. We only had 22 guys out last year, we've got 35 out this year."

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers are solid up front but need Hintermeister and Thorstad to step up and take on a somewhat new role at defensive back.

Trey Bosek, a new addition to the team from Fergus Falls, is also expected to contribute to the defensive scheme, Pattrin said.

Whatever strategy adjustments B-E plans to make this year, the team has to learn fast. With Verndale week one, Hillcrest (last year's Section 4 champions) week two and Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (another key section opponent) week three, they can't take any early games off.

Pattrin is confident they'll be ready by September, saying, "We do like to get a couple games under our belt before we get a big slobberknocker like Verndale, yeah, but it's what we're dealt. They're dealing with the same thing. They know that we're coming and we know they're coming, so it'll all work out."

The Chargers have been near the top of the conference each of the past few years, but this year they hope to take the step to winning the conference and get an opportunity to win the section in November.

"We want to take the next step," said Pattrin. "We won (the conference title) a couple years ago. We took a couple steps back and have been second or third the last couple years, so we want to get back in that hunt and win it. We want to get to the Fargodome and see where we go from there."