It’s the beginning of a new era in Parkers Prairie football.

Longtime head coach John Sieling decided during the 2018 season that the Panthers’ run that fall would be his last on the sidelines. He resigned at the end of the year and went into retirement after 42 years of coaching at different schools. Taking his place is his former defensive coordinator in Mike Johnson, and he jumps into his run as the lead of this program with high hopes for the Panthers.

“Expectations are high,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of returning starters on both sides of the ball. Many underclassmen gained a lot of valuable experience last year. Defensively, we are returning 10 out of 11 starters. We have good size and athleticism up front on both sides of the ball. We have a big senior class, which is always a good thing to have. Our team overall put a lot of hard work into getting bigger, stronger, and faster throughout the offseason.”

Parkers Prairie has 10 letter winners total to replace on a team that went 4-5 a year ago. One of those is Travis Yohnke, a do-everything type of player on both sides of the ball who finished his career with 146 receptions, 3,200 total yards and 42 combined touchdowns. Yohnke is a freshman this fall at North Dakota State University for the Bison.

“We need to work on developing some of our underclassmen to step up and help us out with depth,” Johnson said. “We are looking for some of our underclassmen to be a big part of our team throughout the season and will need them to grow in experience and become contributors for us on the varsity level.”

Johnson looks at a player like junior James Grant (LB/FB) as one of those players after having a good offseason.

“Jake Wagner (sophomore LB/QB/FB) is another underclassmen who will help us out on both sides of the ball,” Johnson said. “We have added four new seniors to the team this year in RB/DB Lucas Kies, TE/LB Jordan Schroeder, RB/LB Devin Krejci, and LB/WR Dominic Doble. Other new prospects looking to compete for varsity time are Wyatt Murray, John Oberg, Brock Peterson, Cole Gesell, Michael Ahlers and Jon Jensen, along with several others.”

The newcomers have the luxury of having 19 letter winners back on this team to blend in with. Twelve of those have starting experience.

Preston Yohnke is a senior two-way player who was all-district and the Panthers’ defensive MVP in 2018. Josh Helling also plays both lines, was all-district and named the Outstanding Blocker for his team last year. Helling has multiple Division II college football scholarship offers to play at the next level.

Brendan Johnson is a junior quarterback and defensive back who set the school’s single-season passing yards and touchdown record. Spencer Yohnke is another senior who was named an all-district player last year. Preston Yohnke, Helling, Zach Olson (RB/LB), Carter Rokes (LB/OG), Lance Smith (FB/DT) and Jayden Gylsen (WR/S) are all senior captains.

“We have a lot of returning starters and role players this year,” coach Johnson said. “We are excited about our size and athleticism up front on both sides of the ball. We have a strong senior class with experience and leadership. We have Josh Helling, Spencer Yohnke and Preston Yohnke who all received all-district honors. Preston is a two-time all-district player. Brendan Johnson gained great experience last year and set our school record for most passing yards and touchdowns. Jayden Gylsen led the team last year with five interceptions, and Zach Olson ran the ball really well and looks to get plenty of carries this year as well.”

Johnson does not expect things to come easy in either the district or section field. The Panthers play in the Mid State (Sub3) District.

“We have a lot of teams who should be very competitive,” coach Johnson said. “Royalton, (Upsala-Swanville Area), (Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) and Browerville are always tough. Our district has added Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Benson this year, as well.”

Lester Prairie, Mayer Lutheran, KMS and Upsala-Swanville are some of the top teams Johnson sees in the Section 4A field this fall.

2019 PARKERS PRAIRIE FOOTBALL ROSTER - SENIORS - Lucas Kies, Jack Marquardt, Spencer Yohnke, Zach Olson, Nathan Willard, Lance Smith, Jayden Gylsen, Devin Krejci, Luke Geiser, Dominic Doble, Josh Helling, Preston Yohnke, Carter Rokes, Eric Klimek, Austin Ruckheim, Dawson Smith, Steven Becker, Jordan Schroeder

JUNIORS - Florian Koep, Brendan Johnson, John Oberg, Wyatt Murray, James Grant, Brock Peterson, Owen Hezlep, Carter Hoppe, Jon Jensen, Lewis Swedal, Harley Pince

SOPHOMORES - Cole Gesell, Jesse LaManna, Jake Wagner, Michael Ahlers, Nick Jirik, Jake Ruckheim

FRESHMEN - Ryder Ashbaugh, Mason Mittag, Chase Thieschafer, Bennet Arceneau, RJ Reigstad, Derek Anderson, Ben Harrington, Jacob Swedal, Caden DeBoer, Blake Adickes, Tyler Carstensen, Gus Johnson

COACHES - Head coach - Mike Johnson - 1st season; Assistant coaches - Eli Gesell, Mike Felt, Andrew Herder, Caleb Horn