Friday Night Lights Returns: One more for Gladbrook-Reinbeck football

Gladbrook-Reinbeck football returning letterwinners including (front row l-r) Michael Boyd, Hudson Clark and Drew Eilers; and (back row, l-r) Austin Vaverka, Landyn Brubaker, Isaac Clark and Austin Gehring. PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER

GLADBROOK – The Rebels got over a major program hurdle last season, advancing to the state quarterfinals for the first time as an 8-man squad.

This year’s group hopes to push it one step further.

“One more rep, one more play, whatever it is for one more game,” said head coach John Olson.

The Rebels graduated 11 seniors from a 9-2 team last season that bowed out to Newell-Fonda in a 46-36 loss in the quarters.

“That last senior class was special to us,” Olson said. “We never could get past that hump and last year was one of those years where they accomplished a lot.”

This year’s upperclassmen – four seniors, nine juniors – carry forward the confidence of what the seniors before them accomplished in the 8-man game.

“These guys are young enough where they don’t quite remember what happened in 2015, 2016 [winning the Class A 11-man titles],” Olson said. “They were really little when that happened. And now they see that it’s not just given to them, it’s something they’ve got to work for. They’ve worked really, really hard this last year in the weight room and made some huge progress there.”

Olson feels stability coming into the Rebels program vis-a-vis playcalling offensively, too. Isaac Clark, who accounted for 45 total touchdowns between passing and rushing and 1,000-yard rusher Austin Vaverka, who scored 20 times on the ground and eight through the air, are among the offensive returners for the Rebels.

Clark and Vaverka were both second-team all-state picks on the IPSWA/IFCA teams last fall.

“With the personnel we have, this is the first year where I know this team can run or pass for sure, and there’s a reason why we pick one or the other,” Olson said. “And we’ve got some guys that can really run.”

Sophomore Hudson Clark (12 total TDs last season) and junior Drew Eilers (7 TDs) also give G-R some offensive depth.

The offensive explosiveness should carry over defensively, too. The Rebels return their top three tacklers in Vaverka, Eilers and Isaac Clark.

“We’re a physical team, we’re going to be really aggressive defensively,” Olson said. “Last year we didn’t know who’d be our linebackers and the two that ended up playing linebacker for us quickly became all-state type guys.”

“… So many of these guys are back and their confidence is already up. We’ve just got to figure out as a coaching staff how to use these guys.”

Olson also acknowledged his team’s coaching depth chart that has carried G-R through the first few years of the 8-man transition, including defensive coordinator Brett Bengen, offensive coordinator Darren Trunck and a stable of other talented assistants.

The Rebels welcome Don Bosco for the home opener on Aug. 25.

“I just want today’s practice to be good, tomorrow’s practice to be good,” Olson said. “And if we think conceptually about being a fast, physical team, the rest will take care of itself. And our kids want to play really hard, so they’re gonna be a tough team.”