DELPHOS — This year’s Delphos St. John’s seniors know the exhilaration of winning the 2008 state championship.
They also know what it’s like to ride home after losing 24-21 to Norwalk St. Paul in the 2009 state title game.
As a group, the 15 returning starters have plenty of motivation after riding an emotional roller-coaster the last two years.
“Everyone has had their mindset on this since the last game last year,” Blue Jays middle linebacker Chris Pohlman said. “We’re all hungry and it’s going to show this year.”
Added Delphos St. John’s coach Todd Schulte, “We sure didn’t want to lose the state championship, but hindsight looking back, it sure made motivating these kids pretty easy.
“We had on the bulletin board hanging up a picture of Norwalk St. Paul celebrating with the trophy and it said, ‘Remember the feeling,’ because it was a pretty empty feeling after that game.”
The Blue Jays return their entire offensive line, but there will be one switch. Center Alex Recker (6-2, 240), guard Joey Grubenhoff (6-1, 230), guard Derek Klaus (6-1, 220) and tackle Austin Vogt (6-4, 270) all return at positions they’ve held the last two years.
“Those four guys have started 30 games together and that’s pretty impressive for high school,” Schulte said. “We think that’s a big advantage for us.”
Pohlman will move from offensive tackle to tight end to fill the void at tight end.
Tyler Bergfeld (20 receptions, 509 yards, 6 TDs) was the team’s top receiver last year.
The key question of camp is who takes over at quarterback for the graduated Wes Ulm, who ran the option for 1,072 yards and 14 TDs last year. He also threw for 1,172 yards and 8 TDs.
In the preseason, the job was down between junior Alex Clark, sophomore Mark Boggs and tailback/quarterback Jordan Leininger, who was the backup quarterback last year. Leininger (6-3, 210), who ran for 1,592 yards and 31 touchdowns last year, injured his right thumb in the preseason, but was fine for the scrimmages.
“It’s a toss up right now,” Schulte said. “Alex played JV for us last year and Mark Boggs played freshman for us last year. It’s a matter of them catching up to the speed of the game. … We want to see who takes control of the position.”
If Leininger takes over at quarterback, the tailback spot will be a mix of Evan Burgei and Jordan Bergfeld.
On defense, the line will be a strength with returnees tackle Cody Brinkman (5-9, 170), tackle Recker and end Klaus (79 tackles, 8 sacks). Alex Wehri (5-10, 215) and Kasey Bonifas (6-foot, 255) both were in the defensive line rotation throughout the playoffs.
“We talk experience on both sides of the ball and we think it starts and ends with our offensive line and our defensive line,” Schulte said.
At linebacker are Dylan Dancer (118 tackles) and Pohlman, who was first team all-state and the state’s Division VI player of the year. Pohlman had 146 tackles last year, including 22 in the state title game.
Gone is Pohlman’s brother, Joel Pohlman (126 tackles), the team’s emotional leader.
The secondary returns Burgei at cornerback, Tyler Bergfeld (49 tackles, 4 interceptions) at free safety and A.J. Klausing (80 tackles, 3 interceptions) at strong safety. Wide receiver/cornerback Tanner Calvelage saw plenty of time back there, as well.
At a glance
Coach: Todd Schulte
Years, Record at school: 12th, 113-31
2009 record: 14-1 overall
Returning starters: Alex Recker (Sr., C/DT); Chris Pohlman (Sr., OT/TE/MLB); Joey Grubenhoff (Sr., G), Austin Vogt (Sr., OT); Derek Klaus (Sr., G/DE); Jordan Leininger (Sr., TB); Tyler Bergfeld (Sr., WR/FS); Cody Brinkman (Sr., DT); Dylan Dancer (Sr., LB); A.J. Klausing (Sr., SS); Evan Burgei (Sr., CB)
Returning letterwinners: 19
Key newcomers: Garth Lucius (Jr., DB); Mark Boggs (Soph., QB); Alex Clark (Jr., QB)
Player to watch: Chris Pohlman (6-3, 240), the Lima News’ Dream Team’s defensive player of the year, anchors the defense from middle linebacker. On offense, he moves from tackle to tight end.
Aug. 28 LCC
Sept. 3 at Hillsdale
Sept. 10 at Minster
Sept. 18 ANNA
Sept. 24 at St. Henry
Oct. 1 VERSAILLES
Oct. 8 COLDWATER
Oct. 15 at Fort Recovery
Oct. 22 at Marion Local
Oct. 30 NEW BREMEN