Prep football preseason countdown: #10 CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CADETS
Tim Mannigel is entering his ninth season in charge of the Concordia Lutheran High School football program and the Cadets have developed an identity during his tenure.
Concordia almost always has a potent offense and of late, that offense has led to winning seasons.
“It really is not about winning,” Mannigel told News-Sentinel.com, “but it is more fun. It’s not such a struggle.”
Prior to Mannigel taking over, Concordia had just one winning season in the previous seven seasons. However, Concordia has now executed its way to three winning campaigns in the last five years and this year could be four of six.
“We like our team this year,” Mannigel continued, “but we could go 3-6. These (Summit Athletic Conference) teams are good.”
Yes, they are, but so is Concordia.
The Cadets finished 7-5 last year after winning the 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state championship with a 13-2 mark, which was the first time in Mannigel’s lifetime that Concordia had put together consecutive winning seasons (1972 and 1973).
“It’s weird to say this,” Mannigel continued in making his point, “you could have a good team and go 3-6 and not everyone understands that.”
With some degree of frequency, Concordia has been able to put a really good high school quarterback on the field and last season was no different.
Senior Jake Byrd threw for nearly 1,700 yards and 13 scores before getting injured late in the season.
“He has all of the tools,” Mannigel said. “He has the best arm that we have had at Concordia since I have been here in 1997 and we’ve had some good quarterbacks.”
Now for the rest of the story…
Byrd also threw 17 picks and only completed 99 of 246 throws.
“He is not the best quarterback that we have had at Concordia,” Mannigel said, “but he has the tools.”
Byrd was new to everything a year ago: the school, the offense, and playing in the SAC, all of which contributed to his struggles. However, Mannigel said that “he is a year older, a year more mature, and has had a good summer, so we are expecting that (the interceptions) will be better.”
Byrd is projected to be the starter, however, sophomore Brandon Davis, who replaced the injured Byrd last season and completed 50 percent of his passes with five scores (and seven picks), also returns.
No matter who the quarterback is at any given point, what doesn’t change is the fact that either Byrd or Davis will have senior Kamari Anderson-Drew to throw to.
Anderson-Drew caught 47 balls for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Mannigel said that he isn’t alone.
“We are deep at receiver,” Mannigel said. “I would describe these guys as solid to great.”
Carroll High School transfer Jalen Vanderbosch (junior) will be a threat, according to Mannigel, as will sophomores Tyler Grossman and Cameron Johnson and senior Joseph Chandler.
All of those weapons will rely on senior Kasey Codling to anchor the offensive line along with Will Kammeyer.
As much notoriety as the Concordia offense gets, the Cadet defense allowed just 26 points in the final four weeks of the 2017 season last year.
Now graduated defensive lineman Trey Freeman was a big part of that success, but defensive end Liam Fletcher (61 tackles, 16 ½ for a loss and 7 ½ sacks) is back to bother the rest of the SAC.
“He’s a good player,” Mannigel said of Fletcher. “He’s fast and he’s physical. He’s a really good special team player and he’s not afraid of anything.”
Fletcher will pair with Tristan Chambers along the defensive line, while senior Michael Fairfield (63 tackles) will lead the linebackers.
Kammeyer will also play linebacker and Mannigel believes “we think that we are solid there.”
ABOUT THE CADETS
2017 record: 7-5
2017 storyline: Concordia was 4-5 to open the season, but rode the solid play of Davis to a 3-1 finish before falling to Bishop Luers 20-14 in the sectional title game.
“Our kids had a good year,” Mannigel said of last season. “We were playing Luers and at that point, everyone was favoring them because our quarterback had gone down.”
Coach: Tim Mannigel (41-50 in 9th season)
DL Trey Freeman (73 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, four sacks)
OL Jacob Doll (second team All-SAC)
WR/LB Keaton Koehlinger (22 receptions, 385 yards, two scores)
RB Marcus Morrow (1,339 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns)
DB/RB Preston Kerlegrand (47 tackles, seven for a loss, 365 yards rushing, two touchdowns)