The Hancock Owls and Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta football players headline the inaugural Stevens County Times-KMRS/KKOK radio All Area football team announced Tuesday, Dec. 29.
The coverage area for this award consisted of six sports teams, including Morris/C-A, Hancock, Brandon-Evansville, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and West Central Area. Team coaches nominated their players and the final decisions were made by KMRS/KKOK Sports Director Brett Miller and Stevens County Times Sports Editor Brooke Kern.
Morris/C-A and Hancock were represented by seven players on the All Area First Team, including Morris/C-A’s Zach Bruns, Kenny Soderberg, Brady Backman and Jacob Boots and Hancock’s Preston Rohloff, Brandon Kellenberger and Adam Shaw. West Central Area’s Jaden Norby, C-G-B’s Nate Moberg and Wheaton-H/N’s Connor Zych and Grant Dawson rounded out the First Team selections.
The All Area Second Team includes Wheaton/H-N’s Zach Braaten and Gunner Martinek, Hancock’s Matt Thompson, Bryce Hacker, Toby Messner and Isaac Nienhaus, Morris/C-A’s Monte Fehr, WCA’s Jordan Lohse, Brandon-Evansville’s Cade Carlson, and C-G-B’s Isaac Ebnet and Isaac Haanen.
Hancock’s Luke Joos, B-E’s Tyle Bitzan and Kyle Schaffran and WCA’s Shane Wrolson and Tate Christenson earned honorable mention.
Morris/C-A senior quarterback Zach Bruns went 64-for-102 for 1,278 yards and 19 touchdowns. The District Quarterback of the Year averaged 182.6 yards per game through the air and added another 84.9 yards on the ground per game. He finished the season with a team-high 594 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 87 carries to help the Tigers finished 6-1.
Head coach Kevin Pope said, “Zach is a game changing football player… The story of his injury is so critical not because it leaves you wondering what could have been, but because it demonstrates the type of relentless character Zach has. Through all of the difficulties he faced, he didn’t miss practices or offseason workouts. He was a consummate leader and improved everyone around him. The on-field talent is undeniable, but his true value to our team came off the field where his relentless work ethic and positive attitude helped take our program as a whole to another level.”
Hancock senior Preston Rohloff quarterbacked the Owls to a perfect 7-0 section championship in 2020. THe District MVP and all-state selection threw for over 2,000 yards while playing just over half of seven games. He had a 63.7 percent completion percentage with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Head coach Chad Christianson said, “Preston was a three-year starter for us at quarterback. He is able to make any throw on the field and a great leader both on and off the field.”
West Central Area senior Jaden Norby was versed in all facets of the offense for the Knights, which finished 5-2 overall. The All-State selection and University of North Dakota commit finished his senior campaign with 1,224 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on 220 carries, 12 catches for 170 yards, and went 51-for-119 for 680 yards and three touchdowns passing. The Midwest Blue District Player of the Year wrapped up for 128 tackles on defense, most of any area player. He also had 8.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
WCA coach Nate Wood said, “Jaden is deserving in so many ways. He would be a standout player for any team in the area and has been a key contributor to Knights football for 4 years. He is a great player and even better person.”
Morris/C-A senior Kenny Soderberg was a threat every time the ball was in his hands, which made him a sure lock as a First Team selection. As the top receiver for the Tigers, he hauled in 26 catches for 695 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging just under 100 yards per game through seven games. As a kick returner, he averaged 22 yards per return in 11 opportunities and had a 43-yard kick return touchdown against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle in October. Defensively, the all-district player was a consistent corner with 35 tackles and a forced fumble this season.
Morris/C-A coach Kevin Pope said, “Kenny is an explosive player. He impacts the game in all three phases with his ability to return kicks as well make tackles on special teams. Offensively he is a big play threat wherever he is on the field. He is a tough matchup one on one in coverage, and has the ability to take it to the house anytime. Defensively he grew into a force on the backend of our defense. His speed allows him to cover a lot of ground and make plays that many others cannot.”
Senior receiver Brandon Kellenberger was the main target for Hancock this fall. The all-state selection hauled in a team-high 45 catches for over 900 yards, averaging just under 130 yards per game. He was also a menace on defense, leading the Owls with 51 tackles this season.
Head coach Chad Christianson said, “Brandon has been a leader for us for three years and has led us two out of the last three years in tackles.”
Senior Nate Moberg was a workhorse back for C-G-B, which finished 2-4 overall this season. He tallied 109 carries for the Wolverines for 400 yards. Defensively, he was named District Defensive Player of the Year after a team high 73 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and an interception.
Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley coach Ben Blees said, “Nathan Moberg is a once in a lifetime student-athlete for two reasons. For one, he is an incredibly gifted athlete for his size and plays bigger than he is. Two, he is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever met. His constant need for action, and improvement is something I haven’t been around before. It flows to the other players.”
Morris/C-A senior Brady Backman was a force on defense. He had 24 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two pass break ups from the outside linebacker position.
Morris/C-A coach Kevin Pope said, “Brady is a hard nosed football player with a knack for making plays in the offensive backfield from his OLB position. He played his OLB spot with ferocity and was a force that offenses had to be aware of. This season actually saw his stats take a dip on defense not because of a drop in play, but because teams simply refused to challenge him. He also made the transition to offensive line for the first time this year, and was very good. He was tasked with protecting Zach’s blind side, and did an outstanding job while also being a force in run blocking. His impact went beyond the counting stats, which were impressive in their own right, as he was an emotional leader that made everyone around him better.”
Senior Adam Shaw was named District Lineman of the Year as the center for Hancock. The all-state honorable mention pick was the anchor of an offensive line that helped produce over 3,000 yards of total offense this season. Shaw was also solid defensively with 39 tackles this season, second most on the team. He also had two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for the Owls.
Head coach Chad Christianson said, “Adam is a two year starter at center, he is undersized for the position, but watching him play you would never know it.”
Morris/C-A senior Jacob Boots led the Tigers defensively this season with 72 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Morris/C-A coach Kevin Pope said, “Jacob played very strong from his LB position. He made plays all over the field and was constantly disrupting offenses. He plays with a physical hard nosed mentality with a strong nose for the ball. For the second consecutive year he led the team in defensive points. Boots also was very valuable on offense where, despite not starting on the offensive line, he took snaps at all 5 positions in critical fill in duty as our 6th lineman. He also was an anchor on every special teams unit.”
The sophomore wide receiver from Wheaton/H-N, Grant Dawson, proved his worth to the 4-4 Warriors all season long. The all-district player ended up finishing his sophomore season with 41 catches for 553 yards and four touchdowns while forcing four fumbles and picking off two passes defensively.
Wheaton/H-N coach James Paul said, “Grant was our best WR. He is fast, runs good routes, and has exceptional hands. He seemed to make a big play when we needed them most. Defensively he is a great tackler and can cover a lot of ground in the secondary position. He has a knack for the ball and is not afraid to stick his nose in the play.”
Senior Connor Zych has a long frame that quarterbacks love in a target. Wheaton/H-N took advantage of that this fall as the all-district and all-section player caught 28 passes for 322 yards. He was also a force on defense, finishing with 51 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
Wheaton/H-N coach James Paul said, “Connor is an absolute work horse on defense. He has anchored our left side of the D-line for 2 years. He can get into the backfield and make plays and string sweeps all the way to the sideline if he has to. He has an excellent football frame and used his long arms and strength to his advantage on offense and defense. He has been a go to receiver for our QB the past two seasons as well.”