Redwood Valley gridders open up season against WEM

Despite the loss of a strong 2017 senior class, the 2018 Redwood Valley Cardinal football team has the talent to be the team that finally captures a Section 3AA title.

The Cardinals open up the regular season Friday night when they travel to Waterville/Elysian-Morristown. A season ago the Cards defeated the Bucs 25-7 in week one.

It’s been a strong three-year stretch for longtime Head Coach Matt Lundeen’s Cardinals, with the program going 24-8 over that span (17-4 the past two seasons) with three Section 3AA title game appearances. Unfortunately, the Cards have gone 0-3 in those games, last year losing a 20-17 overtime heartbreaker to rival Pipestone Area who would go on to finish as the Class AA state runners-up.

Gone from that team are notable playmakers Mitch Irlbeck (QB/DE) and Logan Josephson (RB/LB). Irlbeck left as the most decorated signal caller in Cardinal history, and Josephson was a standout 1,000-yard rusher and defensive stalwart who is now playing football at MSU-Mankato.

Despite the losses, the Cardinals return a strong cast of characters, most notably on the offensive line where they will be as big and physical as they have been in years. Seniors Michael Mace (C), Corbin Wabasha (LG) and Zach Josephson (LT) join talented juniors Kaleb Haase (RG) and Chad Maddock (RT) to form a strong quintet up front. Austin Berreth, Brian Bucholz, Josiah Hultquist and Holden Runck will also rotate in and give the Cards nice depth.

The Cards could see as many as three players see time under center for the departed Irlbeck, including seniors Colin Wells and Alex Louwagie and junior Bryant Haas. Senior Logan Prouty and junior Adam Bommersbach are back at the running back position after seeing plenty of carries last year. They will join athletic sophomores Jaxon Lang and Carter Johnson in the backfield.

The Cards have plenty of depth at wide receiver led by the senior tandem of Cole Woodford and Kyle Huhnerkoch. Woodford had a breakthrough campaign a season ago, racking up 48 catches for 862 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bronson Smith, Tayte Harazin, Jordan Mertens and Brennan Sander will all see action as well.

Seniors Matthew Muetzel and Omar Arredondo will start at wingback and join Carter Guetter, Connor Josephson, Andy Fischer and Luke Grannes.

The Cardinal defense should be tough up front led by defensive tackles Maddock and Haase and defensive ends Bommersbach and Wabasha. All four were key cogs for the defense a season ago. Muetzel and Guetter will also play defensive end, while Berreth, Mace and Zach Josephson will rotate in at tackle.

Prouty will anchor the linebacking corps along with Hultquist, Fischer, Lang, Johnson and Bryan Amberg. Woodford and Arredondo will start at cornerback with Huhnerkoch, Harazin and Connor Josephson all in the mix at safety. Mertens, Jed Hansen, Haas, Sander and Smith will give the Cards depth in the secondary.

The Cardinals open up the home portion of their schedule Sept. 7 against Blue Earth Area and face Luverne Sept. 14 and JCC Oct. 5 as part of a rugged opening early schedule.