The offensive revolution continues for Gladbrook-Reinbeck

The Gladbrook-Reinbeck football team has its eyes on the second round of the 8-Man playoffs. Returning letterwinners pictured are, front row (from left): Caleb Egesdal, Aiden Hunemuller, Ryan Koester, Lucas Hurley, Kadyn Schick, Isaac Baer and Max Anderson; back row: Luke Riffey, Kasey Stanek, Logan Giesking, Henry Mussig, Luke Sienknecht and Isaac Clark. PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Last season was a revelation for Gladbrook-Reinbeck on the offensive side of the ball. After years of being a run-first, run-second offensive team and controlling games by using the clock and keeping the ball.

That all changed with the introduction of Isaac Clark and Drew Eilers to the quarterback position in 2021 — the duo showed a previously not-seen ability to spray the ball deep down the field and find receivers both in open spots and tight windows. Clark and Eilers showed the running ability that prior G-R quarterbacks had also shown, but with an added threat through the air.

The wide receiver corps that the Rebels had (which included senior Ethan Gienger and the now-senior duo of Luke Riffey and Caleb Egesdal) played a big role with their abilities to get open looks and make players miss in the open field. The result was another strong season and playoff appearance, ending with a loss to Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire in the first round.

This season, head coach John Olson said the run-pass ratio for G-R would not be as extreme. But he also said the Rebels would be evolving the new offense rather than making wholesale changes again.

Why? There is more versatility and ability to threaten teams in multiple ways.

“If you wanna be one of those top four teams, you’ve got to both run and pass,” Olson said. “We’re gonna be a lot better at running the ball this year. I think there’ll just be a lot more things we’ll be able to do on offense. We’ve got about 10 players that could probably play every position on the field.

“In practice we’re probably moving around more people than we ever have and we’re doing a lot more skill development.”

Clark and Eilers return along with two of their top three receivers, but one of the most important additions is junior Austin Vaverka. Vaverka transferred from GMG in 2021-22 and was unable to play football in the fall, but Olson said he’ll be an impact player on both sides of the ball.

The offensive line will be slightly different but Henry Mussig returns as a foundational piece.

Numbers are high for G-R this fall — the Rebels have 40 kids going out for football, an incredibly high number for an 8-Man football school. It’s not the highest they’ve ever had, but it gives Olson a lot of wiggle room in terms of who to play, how much to play them and where to move players around.

Versatility again came up when discussing the defense, which lost a lot of key contributors to graduation. Olson said that while he isn’t low on the defense’s prospects, it might not be the team’s biggest strength — something that has rarely been said in the entirety of Olson’s tenure at G-R.

“We’ve always been good on defense,” Olson said. “Not to say we won’t be this year, but we’ll be different. We’re not a team that’s going to blitz, we’ve always sat back and used fundamentals and read the play. But I feel like if we do that against the best teams this year with 150-pound linebackers it’s not gonna work all that great — so we’re going to have to do some different schemes and some things we haven’t done before.”

Other returners who might have key roles in 2022 include Max Anderson, Logan Giesking, Isaac Baer and Ryan Koester, among others.

The schedule begins Aug. 26 on the road against North Iowa before the home opener Sept. 2 against Colo-NESCO. Other notable games include a Sept. 23 home game against GMG and a road fixture with defending district champions Don Bosco on Oct. 7. The Rebels replaced their bye from Meskwaki with a Sept. 29 game against Northwood-Kensett at Wartburg College.