Defending state champion Lena-Winslow working to fulfill lofty expectations again

Sports Connection

Only one Stateline team finished last season with a perfect record. That was the 1A state champion Lena-Winslow Panthers. Could another ring be in their future?

Three Le-Win teams have won state titles in the last eight years.

“They know the expectations every year,” says Le-Win coach Ric Arand.

Okay those expectations might not to win State every year, but certainly it’s to contend for an NUIC (Northwest) championship and usually the conference champion is good enough to be in the hunt for a trip to state and maybe some earn more jewelry.

The Panthers are walking that line of having the confidence of champions yet knowing that last year has no bearing on this year.

“It’s a whole different season. 0-0,” says junior tight end/defensive lineman Isaiah Brue. “We have the same chances as West Carroll, Dakota, Forreston, so we’ve just got to keep on grinding like we did last year.”

“You want to kind of forget about it (last year). Push it back,” says lineman Ian Kuehl. “Be like, ‘Hey this season we need to focus. We’ve got new people. New shoes to fill. Big shoes to fill.”

There has never been bigger shoes to fill then the ones left behind by four-year varsity running back Rahveon Valentine the leading rusher in school and conference history. The Panthers also graduated another talented back in Gaige Schwartz and their quarterback Ty Chrisman, but they do return junior speedster Sean Ormiston at one running back spot, and they have high hopes for Keegan Gyland in the backfield too. Plus they feel real good about having senior Cade Benson step in at quarterback a coach’s son who has a feel for the game.

The biggest weapon on offense should be Bruce at tight end. He’s being recruited by major colleges including Iowa. Look for him to have an expanded role in the offense as the Panthers try to find more ways to get him the football.

“You might see me running a little bit,” says Bruce.

He will also be a huge part of what could be one of the best defensive lines in the state. 6’3 Parker Magee and 280 pound all-conference performer Ian Kuehl join Bruce up front. The fourth spot will likely be a platoon deal, but the other three alone make it a formidable defensive front.

How good can that unit be?

“I think we could be the best in the state again,” says Bruce. “We’re just going to do what we did last year and (try to) dominate every game.”

“We try to see who can get the most tackles,” says Kuehl. “Parker had it last year. I think I was second for the d-line. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.”

Most likely it will bring a 20th straight playoff appearance for Lena-Winslow and then…well, we’ll see.

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