Colors: Green, Black, Silver
Head Coach: Mike Speirs (24th season) (217-45 record)
2018 record: 7-3 (lost to GACC in 2nd round of Playoffs)
Returning Starters: 4 offense 6 defense
The Howells-Dodge Football Team looks to build off last year’s 7-3 season in which the Jaguars reached the 2nd round of the playoffs. Longtime Head Coach Mike Speirs says the offseason went really well as kids were rejuvenated by weightroom renovations.
“We had one of the better summers since in quite a few years I’ve been here. We were lucky our school board put some money into our weightroom and redid our weightroom. And kind of got the kids excited about it. And the kids really did a great job of responding. Our workouts were probably as good as they’ve been in a long, long time, and I feel like that’s really going to help this fall.”
The Jaguars return 4 starters on offense and 6 on defense.
The offensive starters are Darrin Pokorny (6’1, 165 SR QB/S), Trevor Schumacher (5’11, 180 SR TE/LB), Carter Throener (5’11, 220 SR G/NG), and Charlie Dvorak (5’11, 165 SR RB/DB).
Those four along with Luke Rocheford (6’1, 170 SR RB/DB) and Levi Belina (6’0, 175 SO RB/LB) return on defense.
Bob Jensen of the Huskerland Prep Report says the Jaguars return a lot of talent.
“They’ve got a lot of really good players coming back. And the kid that fascinates me on that team…Luke Rocheford. I’m telling you what you can’t kick the ball to him. Kids that can return a kick in high school…there just aren’t a lot of them. Especially an explosive playmaker, he’s going to get the ball more this year. And there’s a couple of kids in that sophomore class that are going to make a big difference. Probably by the end of the year going to be real impact players.”
Speirs says Belina got some very valuable playing experience last year. “Levi was forced into starting due to an injury in week 4. Levi had 97 tackles while only starting 6 games. We did not use him on offense, but this fall will see an expanded role on both sides of the ball. Levi will be in the running to be our starting running back. Levi has the skills to develop into the best player on our team.”
Speirs says Throener has become a really good football player. “Carter has developed into an outstanding lineman on both sides of the ball. He had 75 tackles with 4 sacks from the NG position, and should increase those numbers as we plan to move him to DE. As an offensive lineman, he became the G we tended to run behind by the end of the season.”
He adds Rocheford is that do it all everything player. “Luke is without a doubt one of the top receivers I have coached. He is without a doubt, the best return man. Last year he had 3 Td’s on kick returns, giving him 10 for his career. Teams stopped punting to him by the end of they year. Offensively he had 17 catches for 370yds, and 8 TDs. While not a lot by some teams standards, he did break our school record for catches. We must as coaches find ways to get Luke the ball in space, as he can be a game breaker. Defensively, we always matched Luke up against the other teams best receiver due to his outstanding coverage skills. He finished the year with 4 INT’s.”
Speirs says Pokorny is very valuable at the QB and Safety positions. “Darrin returns as our starting QB and Safety. As a QB he was 43-71 for 807 yds and 11 TDs. He also rushed for 446 yds on 100 carries with 7TD’s. He had 97 tackles with 2 INT’s defensively. He has become a team leader and we will lean on that leadership a lot this fall.”
Others likely to play are Kyle Pickhinke (5’11, 290 SR OL/DL), Logan Nelson (6’2, 240 SR OL/DL), Wyatt Hegemann (6’0, 175 SR OL/LB), Trevor Jedlicka (5’6, 135 JR RB/DB), and RJ Bayer (6’1, 185 SO TE/DE)
The Jaguars must replace Dylan Horejsi at running back.
Speirs has this preseason assessment of his team. “Our biggest needs going into the season are finding replacements at running back (graduated a 3 year starter) and in the offensive line, on defense it will be finding defensive ends. We return a solid nucleus of seniors, with a couple of underclassmen that gained valuable experience. We are looking for some depth at DB to develop. Our schedule will be challenging and we must increase our overall team strength to compete. We will only have 3 Juniors on our roster, so will need freshmen and sophomores to give us depth.”
Howells-Dodge opens up the season on August 30th at home against rival Clarkson/Leigh. Speirs says the Patriots are well coached.
“Clarkson/Leigh is a quality opponent. Their coaches are really solid coaches, and we know that we have our hands full. That they’re going to kind of be able to throw a lot of stuff at us. Their coaching staff is incredibly creative, and that makes it tough the first game when you’re not 100% sure which direction they’re going to be taking their offense and their defense. And so we’ve really got to make sure our kids are prepared for everything they see.”
The Jaguars won last year’s Bacon Bowl 34-16.
Howells-Dodge is in a District with Lutheran High Northeast, Neligh-Oakdale, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Elkhorn Valley, and Madison. Speirs talks about the challenges of going up against the first three.
“Lutheran High won the district last year and they return all their skill kids. And you know that they’ll be tougher than heck. Run a unique offense that gives you a lot of fits. And again they’re a well coached team and very physical. Neligh-Oakdale…Coach Beacom up there heck of an offense, heck of an offensive minded coach, and return a 3-year starter at Quarterback, which is going to make them that much more tougher when the offense runs through him. Laurel-Concord-Coleridge…I think they return virtually everybody other than their quarterback, and we were in a shootout with them last year, it was a scoring battle, and those aren’t the kind of games that we really want to be involved in, that’s not our style.”
Speirs says the Falcons will also be tough as the Jaguars won a close game over them last year, and they return quite a few kids.
2019 Howells-Dodge Jaguars Football Schedule:
09/06/19 @ Guardian Angels Central Catholic
09/27/19 @ Lutheran High Northeast
10/04/19 @ Neligh-Oakdale
10/11/19 Elkhorn Valley
10/18/19 @ Laurel-Concord-Coleridge