Newcomers need to step up for Polars

The strength of a football team is often measured by what it has on the offensive and defensive lines. That bodes well for the North High Polars this fall.

The Polars, who qualified for the state tournament in 2015, have plenty of muscle and mass in the trenches. Head coach Eric Longtin listed both lines as a strength of the team this season.

Seniors Alec Babin and Miguel Urbina are returners for North and will be expected to anchor those lines. Other two-way lineman who should help shore up the fronts are senior Ayshon Johnson, junior Corey Guenther and sophomore Vaxayxu Ly Nhia Vu.

The offensive line will have to help protect and block for some inexperienced but talented skill-position players. Senior Josh Steckler steps into the quarterback position and he’ll have the likes of senior Joe Donovan and junior Dallas Hogan to whom to throw. 

Among the running backs that Steckler could be handing off to are seniors Fisaya Oduyemi and Ken Kamoga and junior Luke Jeska.

“We need to improve every week,” Longtin said of his offense. “There is definite potential at the skill positions and offensive line but in all we lack experience.”

On defense, North returns a pair of starting linebackers in Jake Kubiatowicz and Ryan Demuth but there will be new faces in most of the other spots.

“Returning two starters in the linebacking core is a plus but everywhere else will see new faces,” Longtin said. “The new guys will have to step up.”

North went 6-2 through a tough regular-season schedule a year ago and has the same slate of teams on the docket this year. 

“In this district, there are no easy games,” said Longtin. “It should be a great year of football.”

Eight of the 10 programs in the Metro Red District have been in the state tournament within the past seven years and four times a district team has advanced to the state finals in that stretch. 

Longtin tabbed South St. Paul and St. Thomas Academy as the favorites but expects a number of other teams to also be solid. 

“Hastings returns many quality players, Park of Cottage Grove had a great year and will look to build, Mahtomedi has tradition on their side and Henry Sibley returns enough guys to challenge for the title,” said Longtin.

Come section playoff time, Longtin expects Mahtomedi to be the favorite and he said St. Paul Central is also strong and SMB (St. Paul Academy/Minnehaha Academy/Blake) is a tough, gritty team.

North opens the season on Friday with a game at Polar Field against South St. Paul.

 

 

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

 

 

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