Stevenson ready to take over as Warriors' head coach
Cody Stevenson is counting on his 11 returning letterwinners to lead the United North Central football team to another winning season in his first year as the Warriors' head coach.
Stevenson takes over for Jeremy Nordick, who led the Warriors to a 5-4 record last season. Returning to lead the Warriors this fall are seniors Zach Floyd (running back/linebacker), Mason Dailey (wide receiver/defensive back), Blake Schoon (tight end/safety), Brock Kako (lineman), Mason Bradley (lineman), Brady Vry (lineman) and Jared Seibert (lineman); and juniors Brandon Miller (quarterback/linebacker), Tyce Lee (wide receiver/defensive back), Jonah Howard (offensive lineman/linebacker) and Gator Bettin (lineman).
Six starters return on offense with Seibert, Vry, Kako and Bettin on the line; Floyd in the backfield; and Dailey at wide receiver. Floyd (who earned Midwest Blue District honorable mention honors) was second on the team with 383 yards on 59 carries with four touchdowns and had six receptions for 37 yards and a TD. Dailey will be the Warriors' primary receiver this fall after making 10 receptions for 200 yards and a TD last season.
Looking to fill the other starting spots on offense are Miller at quarterback, Lee at wide receiver, junior Kolby Kiser at tight end, and Howard and junior Devin Leritz on the line.
Defensively, UNC returns five starters with Seibert, Vry and Kako playing up front; Floyd at linebacker; and Dailey at defensive back. The other starters will be Bettin up front; Howard, Kiser, Miller and senior Gunnar Hrdlicka at linebacker; and Dailey, Lee and sophomore Charlie Hodge in the secondary.
Miller will handle kickoffs, Kiser will handle the punting duties, and Lee and sophomore Rashad Lincoln will be the primary kickoff and punt returners.
Also competing for varsity time will be seniors Mason Hotakainen (lineman), Kirby Massie (wide receiver/defensive back) and Elliot Mickelson (lineman); juniors Kegun Womble (lineman), Ethan Simon (wide receiver/safety) and Tater Butler (lineman); sophomores Mason Heino (quarterback/safety), Hunter Skaro (wide receiver/defensive back) and Dakota Meech (offensive lineman/linebacker); and freshmen Eion Ness (running back/linebacker), Torrey Carlson (lineman), Isaac Kyllonen (quarterback/linebacker), Ethan Hendrickson (running back/linebacker), Dylan Rasmussen (offensive lineman/linebacker), Mason Palmer (lineman), Cordell Welker (wide receiver/defensive back), Ivan Anderson (running back/linebacker), Connor Korvela (wide receiver/defensive back) and Jacob Brunnell (wide receiver/defensive back).
The keys to success will be replacing last year's 10 seniors, including Section 8AA players James Clark and Owen Anderson and all-district player Justen Berttunen. Clark scored 130 points as the starting quarterback, completing 49 of 119 passes for 810 yards and two TDs and rushing 141 times for 814 yards and 19 TDs. Anderson rushed 68 times for 251 yards and two TDs and was one of the defensive leaders. Berttunen solidified the offensive and defensive lines before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 5.
UNC tied Staples-Motley and West Central Area for third place in the district standings last season with a 3-3 record. Ottertail Central won the district title with a 6-0 record while Pillager finished at 4-2. The Warriors received the No. 5 seed for the Section 8AA playoffs last season and opened with a 26-20 loss to No. 4 Warroad. Barnesville defeated Hawley 29-22 in the section title game.
Stevenson, who was the head 9-man football coach for Midway-Minto in North Dakota for three years and was a football coach at West Fargo for four years, will be assisted by Bill Hodge, Josh Roiko, Kieler Skaro, Kevin Sommers and Mike Dempsey.
"We expect to not only have a great regular season, but we should also be able to make a strong playoff run," said Stevenson. "There are several tough teams in our district and section. It will not be an easy season for us, but I do see us being able to compete with anyone and we are hopeful that we can finish towards the top."