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Matt Heinrichs

Matt Heinrichs has been the Sports Editor of the Dickinson County News since January 2014. Since joining the DCN, he has won more Iowa Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest awards than any journalist in the state, with 50 awards in more than a dozen categories. Matt is an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, cycling and kayaking. He also enjoys spending time with his family and his better half, Tessa. Be sure to follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (@mattheinrix).

Pioneers look to climb ladder in top-heavy district

Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Okoboji’s Logan Heller was a First Team All-District selection for the Pioneers last season after totaling 258 yards and a touchdown on 61 carries and catching nine passes for 63 yards. Heller is also the top returning tackler from 2020, when he had 36 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception.
(File photo)

Okoboji struggled to one win in 2020, but the Pioneers hope to improve on that performance this season. They’ll have a chance to pick up a couple of wins in district play — something they haven’t done since 2016 — as Class 2A District 1 is extremely top-heavy.

Returning state runner-up Central Lyon/George-Little Rock and state quarterfinalist West Lyon will be extremely strong once again and should battle for the district crown.

That leaves Unity Christian, Sheldon, Cherokee and Okoboji — who combined to go 9-21 last season and lost many starters to graduation — to sort out the remaining spots.


CL/GLR (11-1)

KEY DEPARTURES: Dylan Winkel, Kalen Meyer, Luke Rasmussen, Josh Riibe

KEY RETURNERS: Zach Lutmer, Cooper Spiess, Kayden Van Berkum, Lyle Moore

The Lions rolled to the Class 2A state championship game in 2020, winning 11 straight games by a combined score of 407-83 before falling to eventual champion Waukon at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Central Lyon/George-Little Rock lost a few key players from that state runner-up squad, but the Lions return much of their offensive and defensive production in 2021, and should be the favorites to win a district title and make another deep run in the postseason.

Class 2A First Team All-State quarterback Zach Lutmer is back for his junior season. The 6-2, 185-pound dual threat completed 72 of 126 passes for 1,1984 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 1,609 yards and 23 touchdowns on 198 carries as a sophomore. He also had 34.5 tackles, two tackles for loss and four interceptions — two of which he ran back for scores.

Lutmer’s top target and First Team All-State defensive back Cooper Spiess will also return for his senior season. Spiess caught 19 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns, and had 26.5 stops and four interceptions on defense last season.

Offensively, the Lions also return seniors Taylor Putnam and Dorian Johnson, as well as junior Kayden Van Berkum. That trio combined for 151 touches, 940 yards and five touchdowns in 2020.

Defensively, CL/GLR will miss First Team All-State defensive lineman Dylan Winkel and First Team All-State linebacker Kalen Meyer. Winkel had 38.5 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Meyer had 56.5 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. They’ll also miss Luke Rasmussen, who had 43 tackles and six tackles for loss, and Josh Riibe, who finished with 21.5 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 2020.

Van Berkum is the top returning tackler. He had 39 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions. Gable Van Beek had 35.5 tackles as a sophomore. Lyle Moore had 34.5 tackles, six tackles for loss and five sacks as a junior.


West Lyon (8-2)

KEY DEPARTURES: Jordan VerMeer, Chase Ter Wee, Tanner Severson, Zach Van Beek

KEY RETURNERS: Easton Fleshman, Dawson Ripperda, Jaxon Meyer, Gabe Ter Wee

West Lyon’s massive offensive and defensive lines mauled opponents en route to an 8-2 finish and a state quarterfinal appearance in 2020.

This year’s squad will not have 6-6, 290-pound First Team All-State offensive lineman Jordan VerMeer or 6-5, 263-pound Second Team All-State offensive lineman Chase TerWee — but they will still be massive, and massively talented.

Easton Fleshman is back for his senior season. The 6-2, 275-pound lineman was a Second Team All-State selection as a junior and will anchor the Wildcats this season.

Dawson Ripperda is back after earning Second Team All-State honors on the defensive line. The 6-3, 215-pounder led the Wildcats with 53 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a junior.

Jaxon Meyer is also back for the Wildcats after earning Third Team All-State honors on the defensive line last season. The 6-4, 210-pounder had 18.5 tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks as a junior.

Offensively, the Wildcats will miss Third-Team All-State selection Tanner Severson, who ran for 835 yards and 13 touchdowns on 137 carries and caught 16 passes for 155 yards and another score.

They’ll also miss quarterback Zach Van Beek, who completed 31 of 56 passes for 523 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions, and ran for 344 yards and five touchdowns on 56 carries. Korey Knoblock is also gone after running for 461 yards and six touchdowns on 75 carries.

Jaxon Meyer is the most accomplished runner back from the 2020 team. He ran for 440 yards and seven touchdowns on 83 carries. Javen Meyer is back after leading the Wildcats with 250 yards and a touchdown on 13 catches.

Defensively, Hunter Jacobson had 28 tackles and a tackle for loss as a junior. Gunner Grems had 25.5 tackles and two tackles for loss as a sophomore. Both will be back this season.


Unity Christian (5-4)

KEY DEPARTURES: Tanner Schouten, Jacob Dragstra, Clayton Bosma, Logan Franken

KEY RETURNERS: Ty Borchers, Jacob Van Donge, Bo Byl, Landon Hofmeyer

Unity Christian had a solid showing against a tough district in 2020. The Knights finished the year 5-4, but played eventual state runner-up Central Lyon/George-Little Rock tough in the postseason, falling 34-27 on Oct. 23.

The Knights lost a ton of talent from that squad, including Second Team All-State defensive back Tanner Schouten, Third Team All-State defensive lineman Jacob Dragstra, starting quarterback Clayton Bosma and leading rusher Logan Franken, but they do return some solid players.

As a sophomore, Jacob Van Donge proved to be a threat at receiver. He finished the season with 25 catches for 508 yards and four touchdowns. Bo Byl caught 11 passes for 141 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.

Ty Borchers will be back for his senior season. He led the Knights with 72.5 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a sack last year. Byl had 38 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. Van Donge had 35.5 tackles and three interceptions. Landon Hofmeyer had 34 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack as a junior.


Sheldon (2-6)

KEY DEPARTURES: Kaleb Ackerman, Brian Bernal, Tyrel Lindemann, Cole McDonald

KEY RETURNERS: Jacob Enger, Carson Johannes

Sheldon struggled to two wins in 2020. The Orabs earned a 21-0 win over South O’Brien in Week 2 and edged MOC-Floyd Valley 21-14 in early October, but they will be without the majority of that roster this season.

The Orabs return just 13 touches and 114 yards of production from last year’s offense. They lost eight of their top 11 tacklers on defense.

Suffice it to say, there will be a lot of new faces on the field for the orange and black in 2021.


Cherokee (1-4)

KEY DEPARTURES: Cael Wood, Curtis Riedemann, Carson Furhman

KEY RETURNERS: Mason Carver, Levi Pingel, Wil Lugar, Nick Clark

Cherokee was bit by the COVID-19 bug last season, as the Braves played just five total games and earned one win — a 21-7 victory over MMCRU in Week 1.

The Braves will return several players from last year’s squad.

Levi Pingel and Wil Lugar combined to complete 35 of 80 passes for 351 yards, a touchdown and 10 interceptions. Together, they rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 67 carries and caught nine passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

Nick Clark caught 19 passes for 162 yards as a junior. Mason Carver was a Third Team All-State selection at punter and caught five passes for 85 yards.

Defensively, Clark and Carver had 17.5 tackles each. Clark had three interceptions. Carver had a tackle for loss and an interception. Lugar had 14.5 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.


Okoboji (1-7)

KEY DEPARTURES: Dawson Goecke, Brayden Robards, Justin Vaughn, Cody Wintz

KEY RETURNERS: Logan Heller, Austin Harms, Matt Olson, Jesse Bockman

Okoboji struggled mightily last season and lost a majority of its roster to graduation.

Starting quarterback and leading tackler Dawson Goecke is gone. As is leading rusher Austin Simpson and leading receiver Brayden Robards.

First Team All-District selection Logan Heller returns with the most production on offense. As a junior, Heller ran for 258 yards and a touchdown on 61 carries and caught nine passes for 63 yards.

Defensively, the Pioneers will miss Justin Vaughn, Cody Wintz, Jaden Heller and Goecke. Each earned First Team All-District honors and combined for 135.5 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss a year ago.

Heller is also the top returning tackler from 2020, when he had 36 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception. Matt Olson had 22 tackles and five tackles for loss as a junior. Austin Harms had 23.5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception in his junior season. Jesse Bockman had 22 stops and an interception as a junior.

Harms, a leader of the Spirit Lake Park-Okoboji boys soccer team, made all five of his point after attempts and hit a 39-yard field goal last season.


CLASS 2A DISTRICT 1 LEADERS

Touchdowns

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 33

2. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 10

3. Jaxon Meyer (WL) — 7

4. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 5

5. Bo Byl (UC) — 4

Passing TDs

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 8

2. Levi Pingel (CHER) — 1

2. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 1

Rushing TDs

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 23

2. Jaxon Meyer (WL) — 7

3. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 6

4. Kayden Van Berkum (CLGLR) — 2

Receiving TDs

1. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 4

1. Bo Byl (UC) — 4

1. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 4

All Purpose Yards

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 2,900

2. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 704

3. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 671

4. Jaxon Meyer (WL) — 663

5. Taylor Putnam (CLGLR) — 662

Passing Yards

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 1,194

2. Levi Pingel (CHER) — 198

2. Jaxon Meyer (WL) _ 198

4. Wil Lugar (CHER) — 153

5. Nick Clark (CHER) — 39

Rushing Yards

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 1,609

2. Jaxon Meyer (WL) — 440

3. Logan Heller (OKO) — 258

4. Kaden Van Berkum (CLGLR) — 249

5. Gabe Ter Wee (WL) — 84

Receiving Yards

1. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 508

2. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 376

3. Taylor Putnam (CLGLR) — 287

4. Javen Meyer (WL) — 250

5. Nick Clark (CHER) — 162

Total Tackles

1. Ty Borchers (UC) — 72.5

2. Dawson Ripperda (WL) — 53

3. Kayden Van Berkum (CLGLR) — 39

4. Bo Byl (UC) — 38

4. Gabe Ter Wee (WL) — 38

Total Sacks

1. Dawson Ripperda (WL) — 7

2. Lyle Moore (CLGLR) — 5

3. Kayden Van Berkum (CLGLR) — 4.5

4. Jaxon Meyer (WL) — 4

5. Wil Lugar (CHER) — 2

5. Gabe Ter Wee (WL) — 2

Interceptions

1. Zach Lutmer (CLGLR) — 4

2. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 4

3. Nick Clark (CHER) — 3

3. Jacob Van Donge (UC) — 3

5. Kayden Van Berkum (CLGLR) — 2

5. Rex Van Wyhe (CLGLR) — 2

FG Made

1. Austin Harms (OKO) — 1

1. Jordan VanVeldhuizen (WL) — 1

PAT Made

1. Cooper Spiess (CLGLR) — 43

2. Jordan VanVeldhuizen (WL) — 31

3. Sam Eppinga (UC) — 26

4. Austin Harms (OKO) — 5

5. Mason Carver (CHER) — 2

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