High school football preview: A whole new ballgame at Mayo
There isn't a situation that Mitchell McCarty could face this season that he won't be prepared for.There is no more pressure-packed situation than the last time the Rochester Mayo senior played in a football game.
There isn't a situation that Mitchell McCarty could face this season that he won't be prepared for.
There is no more pressure-packed situation than the last time the Rochester Mayo senior played in a football game.
McCarty was thrown into the fire — after spending nearly three hours standing in the cold on the sideline — in last year's Section One, Class AAAAA championship game at Faribault, his team down by a touchdown with less than 90 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. McCarty needed just 40 seconds to calmly led the Spartans 56 yards in five plays, throwing a score-tying touchdown pass to Alex Engbrecht.
Mayo ultimately lost in overtime, but the 6-foot-5, 190-pound McCarty learned a lot in his brief appearance.
"It didn't go the way we wanted," said McCarty, one of four captains for the Spartans this season, "but I've been put in the biggest of spots. That (tying) drive took a lot of composure from the whole team."
McCarty will bring that poise and composure to the Mayo offense on a more regular basis this season, though it may not be as the team's quarterback. He and 5-10, 160-pound junior Trajan Grimsrud have competed for the job throughout this summer's abbreviated training camp. One of the two will be under center when Mayo opens its season at 7 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year's section final, at Faribault. The other will be a primary target as one of the Spartans' top receivers.
"They're both great athletes who can play multiple positions for us on offense and defense," Mayo head coach Donny Holcomb said. "They're both battling and we'll make that call (on who the starter is) sometime (this) week."
Cooper Ramaker and Nathan Sheridan will also play a lot at receiver, as Mayo attempts to replace two of the best in program history, Michael Michalak (the school's all-time leader with 1,969 receiving yards) and Zach Robertson (seventh in program history in yards and receptions). Jaret Stellmaker, Caleb Marris and Jake Klingele are the team's tight ends.
Either McCarty or Grimsrud will have one of the best running backs in the section to hand off to. Senior Greg Henry brought balance to Mayo's passing-friendly offense last year, rushing for 1,163 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ran for more than 100 yards in six of Mayo's 10 games, including a 258-yard effort in a regular-season win at Owatonna.
"He's 100 miles per hour on every play," Holcomb said of Henry. "He's so physical and has really good speed. You usually see one or the other in a back, but he has both."
McCarty added: "(Henry) plays with a chip on his shoulder. He stays quiet, but he really gets the job done."
Ray Motley, Brody Heinzel and Zach Wolf will also see time in the offensive backfield. They'll run behind a relatively inexperienced line that is anchored by senior three-year starter Jon Lorang. He'll be joined up front by Levi Poppe, Daulton Carlson, Colton Riehle and Jacob Muenkel.
Most of those big guys will play both ways, anchoring the defensive line, as well. Muenkel will shift to a linebacker spot, along with Motley, Heinzel, Klingele and Wolf. They'll attempt to fill the void left by the graduation of all-stater Gunnar Grimsrud and All-Big Nine Conference player Austin Braatz.
McCarty and Grimsrud will lead the defensive secondary and will be joined by Caden Lane, Emilio Green and Dade Mortimer.
"A lot of talk is about the players we lost," McCarty said, "but we have the talent and potential to be just as good. We learned a lot from (last year's seniors) and I learned from (former QB) Jay (Alston), just his leadership skills. He always set a good example. As a team captain, I'm expected to be a leader."
Lorang, Poppe and Sheridan will join McCarty as team captains.