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Lourdes' expectations are high with a lot of 'new' in the lineup in '22

Rochester Lourdes lost 17 seniors from last season's team that reached the Section 1AAA semifinals. And though the Eagles will have plenty of new faces in key spots, Lourdes believes it has the

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Rochester Lourdes' Aidan Jahns carries the ball during a game against Plainview-Elgin-Millville last season. Jahns will rarely leave the field for the Eagles this fall. He's one of the top kickers and punters in the state, and will play extensively on offense and defense.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — New faces across the offensive line. A new tight end. A new quarterback. More than a dozen new starters total.

A lot will be new for the Rochester Lourdes football team this fall, but a lot of new doesn’t mean the Eagles will take a step back. In fact, the Eagles think they’re built to take a step or two forward in 2022 after going 4-6 a year ago, a season that ended with a Section 1AAA semifinal loss at Cannon Falls.

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All of those new faces in new positions — along with a handful of returning veterans — will find out right away what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they need to build toward playing their best football come mid-October and the section playoffs.

Lourdes will get tested right out of the gate, as it travels to defending Class AA champion Chatfield for a 7 p.m. season opener on Friday. The Gophers have at least eight starters back on both sides of the ball from that championship team.

“Our schedule … that’s southeastern Minnesota football,” Lourdes’ 18th-year head coach Mike Kelser said. “Opening up against the defending champs. What I like about that is we’re going to find out where we’re at really fast. And why not? As a coach and players, you look forward to opportunities like that, and what a challenge it’ll be to go down there and play a great program.”

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While Lourdes has plenty of new names starting on both sides of the ball, they’ve all grown up in the program, learning the systems and playing alongside each other.

Taking the reins of the offense in 2022 is junior Adam Sellner, who started most of last season in the defensive secondary. The 6-foot-1, 160-pound junior with a strong arm will flip sides this fall and be in charge of the Eagles’ option offense.

“One thing about Adam, he’s really good at knowing when to give the ball up — when to pitch it — and when to keep it,” said senior running back/linebacker Eli Haight, one of a handful of returning starters. “He has a really good arm, too. We don’t usually throw much, but if we need to or want to, Adam has that good arm.”

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Lourdes’ Adam Sellner (4) tackles Triton’s Owen Garness (28) during a football game Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at RCTC in Rochester. Triton defeated Lourdes 23-8. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Haight will be joined in the backfield by junior Trevor Heindel, who has recovered after a knee injury ended his season prematurely a year ago. Talented freshman Caleb Akinbolu will also be in the mix to run the ball. He saw some spot duty in games last season as an eighth-grader and has good size and speed.

“It’s a great group of guys,” Sellner said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time; it’s just going to come down to execution. Coaches will put us in spots to have success, we just have to go out and execute from Week 1.”

Lourdes’ depth is thin, so it will need to stay as healthy as possible. Up front, the Eagles expect to start senior Kevin Adeng-Kur, juniors Will Roth, Collin Weinschenk and Mardoche Pierson, and freshman Jonathan Bergmann. Roth and Weinschenk will anchor that group, while Pierson has converted from a fullback to the team’s center.

“It starts up front,” Kesler said. “We have a lot of potential, but need to do a good job up front. Our starting five has really come along. They’re jelling, but we’re pretty thin up front.”

Thatcher Bochmann, a versatile and athletic 6-foot-5 junior, will help the line and give the Eagles’ passing game a weapon at tight end. Bochmann has already received some interest from college scouts.

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“We like his size and length,” Kesler said. “There aren’t a lot of 6-5 tight ends around, so he can create some matchup problems.”

Plenty of two-way players

Many of the same athletes are expected to start on defense, a unit that was feast-or-famine in 2021. The Eagles ended the season allowing an average of 18.5 points per game, including three consecutive shutouts late in the season. But those three shutouts were followed by allowing 50 points to Cannon Falls in the section semifinals.

Though the season ended on that sour note, senior do-it-all Aidan Jahns said the team can take some momentum from the back-to-back shutouts it pitched to end the regular season, then the third straight shutout it recorded to open the section playoffs.

“That honestly helps us a lot,” said the athletic Jahns, who will start at receiver and free safety, in addition to being one of the best punters and kickers in the state. “We had a big senior class last year and knowing the determination our team had overall to finish the season the way we did … We can be that good team again this year, just like the way we ended last year.”

Weinschenk, Bochmann and Roth will hold down the defensive line, while Haight and Pierson will be joined at linebacker by a pair of freshmen, Deacon Langsdale and Ed Lovely.

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Lourdes’ Hudson Fix (20) runs the ball during a football game against Triton on Sept. 3, 2021, at Rochester Regional Stadium. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

In the secondary, Jahns and junior Eric Nelson are projected to start at the safety spots, with Heindel and Fix at the corners.

Lourdes’ success will ultimately depend upon how quickly its players in new spots can come together.

“At the end of the year, when you put your pads away, you send off last year’s seniors and it’s just the younger guys left in the room, you say ‘hey, you saw who all walked out of here and we have a lot of spots to fill,’” Kesler said. “Long story short, our kids have been motivated this offseason, knowing that there are spots available and they’ll get to compete for them.”

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Eagles 2022 schedule

Sept. 2 — at Chatfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — St. Charles, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Pine Island, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at La Crescent-Hokah, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — Cannon Falls, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Plainview-Elgin-Millville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — Lake City, 7 p.m.

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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