Dakota Preview 8/17/12

Dakota lost the bulk of its state championship team, but the Indians should still be strong again.
Dakota, Illinois-The last time the Dakota Indians finished a football game they were hoisting another state championship trophy. This year the Indians will have almost an entirely new group of kids taking the field.

There is only one starter back. He's senior cornerback Matt Ryan. So head coach Jerry Lano is turning over his lineup.

"Now you're trying to piece together 11 individuals that play together, especially on the offensive line where it's more of a team sport," said Lano.

Dakota will be young this year. Very young at quarterback with Austin Cashman.

"We're going to start a little sophomore that's smart and wants to learn. He'll do a good job for us," said Lano.

He's one of several sophomores that will play a lot on varsity.

"They have a lot of learning to do, but they're on their way. They're improving every day," said Ryan.

One thing the Indians have going for them this year again is size. Big, massive, farm boys as they like to call them in Dakota. Brett Willing and Justin Schweikart are two of them. But the biggest of the bigs is junior Austin Steinke at 6'8, 376 pounds.

"Running behind Austin and those guys I feel pretty protected behind them," said Ryan.

The other thing the Indians have going for them again is that great tradition. They have 14 straight playoff seasons and three state championships in the last seven years. Lano says their success all boils down to...

"Mental toughness. We do things that other teams get to a point then say 'I can't go any farther.' Doing that one more rep or one more sprint or pushing yourself a little bit harder, so that when they walk on the field Friday night that's the easiest part of football," said Lano.

"I think a lot of teams in our conference are a little down this year, so I still expect to be in the running, but it's how fast we learn to play together."
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