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Bureau Valley football coach Jeff Ohlson doesn’t want to use the old cliché that this year’s Storm have good team chemistry.
Only problem, he just can’t avoid it.
“I don’t want to say they have chemistry. They blend well, they mix well together,” said Ohlson, now in his sixth year at Manlius with an overall record of 29-21. “They’re a group that when they were freshmen and sophomores that mixed well and they mix well now. They build off each others strengths and help each other overcome their weaknesses. It’s kind of a unique group.
“You throw ‘chemistry’ out there – I guess that’s kind of what chemistry is.”
Junior Parker Neuhalfen will return to man the quarterback position this fall after spending some time behind center last year as a sophomore when he completed 13-of-27 passes for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns in relief of injured QB Tyler Barnas.
The well-rounded Neuhalfen also rushed for 339 yards and three touchdowns last year on 74 carries and caught 14 passes for 212 yards and three scores.
“Parker finished up the year last year at quarterback after playing halfback and he did a nice job. He had a nice offseason and we’re looking for him to continue his development as a quarterback and a leader,” Ohlson said.
Senior Justin Buckman, an honorable mention All-Big Rivers Conference pick on the defensive line last year, will return to lead the Storm in the trenches on both sides of the ball and be charged with helping protect the junior signal caller on offense.
“Justin’s a kid who works extremely hard. He’s been committed to the program for four years and committed himself to get in good shape,” Ohlson said. “He’s really made himself into a good football player and we look forward to him getting better every day in practice.”
Joining Buckman up front on the O-line will be senior center Andrew Jacobs, who moves over to snap the ball after two years starting at guard. Ohslon said Jacobs has been incredibly apt with his offensive calls so far.
While those two linemen are locked down, the Storm staff is still making final determinations on who will join them up front.
“We’re still figuring that out. Those two are there and there’s several other candidates — we’re not 100 percent sure yet,” Ohlson said.
Also taking some pressure of Neuhalfen will be returning junior halfback Tommy Johnston, who rushed for 226 yards on 50 carries last fall. Josh Mead, who had 21 carries for 51 yards last year, will slide into the other halfback spot, while fullback work will now go to Tucker Schoff, younger brother of former Storm standout Tanner Schoff.
Jake Smith, an honorable mention All-BRC pick at split end last fall who caught nine passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, will be back as Neuhalfen’s primary target, while Ohlson said the other starting end spot may not be fully decided “until Week 3.”
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Martin McMahon will play opposite Buckman at one defensive end spot, junior Garrett Jackson will suit up at tackle and fellow junior Gage Smith will join him at tackle.
Bryan Arteberry, who had 91 tackles last year, will be looked upon to lead the Storm defense at middle linebacker.
“He’s a good football player and he’s got a good head on him,” Ohlson said. “He’s got a lot of responsibility this year being in charge of the defense.”
The Storm will make their debut this fall in the Three Rivers Conference North Division with Amboy-LaMoille, Erie-Prophetstown, Fulton, Morrison, Newman and Riverdale and have crossovers with TRC South opponents Hall, Kewanee and St. Bede in the newly reformatted conference.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.