2018 Season Preview
RELOADED HORNETS AIM TO BE FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS COME PLAYOFF TIME
Pardon the pun—this year’s Edina football squad will look especially green.
Entering his second year as the Hornets’ head coach, Derrin Lamker returns just seven total starters. And the new guys have big shoes to fill, as last year’s crop led Edina to an impressive 8-3 record and a trip to the 6A state quarterfinals.
“With a team as young as we are,” Lamker said, “the key is to learn and get better and gain more confidence every week of the regular season, so that when the playoffs roll around, you're playing your best football. I believe these kids are ready to prove they have what it takes.”
Much of the Hornets’ success will hinge on the defense, which last year posted three shutouts but will rely on eight fresh faces in the 2018 campaign.
Fortunately, the unit returns hard-hitting linebacker and safety Matt Cavanagh, a Harvard commit and preseason All-Metro selection according to both the Star Tribune and KARE 11. Lamker is convinced that at the end of the season, Cavanagh will be in the conversation for Mr. Football.
“I’ve had a lot of role models in my time on the defense,” said Cavanagh, who has started since his sophomore year. “There have always been older guys there to help me, and so now it's nice to give back and be the older guy who's helping the new players adjust. They're all quick learners."
In addition to Cavanagh, the Hornets welcome back defensive linemen Rami Sabri, a senior, and Will Davis, an honorable mention All-District pick as a sophomore last year. Joining them along the defensive front will be a speed rusher and special teams standout named Greg Bess.
“Greg is one of the fastest kids on our team,” Lamker said. “He can fly around, and he runs with reckless abandon. He's a kid I like to watch—I expect big things out of him.”
Behind Bess & Co. will be a mostly new linebacking corps, featuring junior Jonathan Bunce and senior Jack Linton, who Lamker says would have been a big contributor last year were it not for a knee injury.
“When it comes to the defensive backfield," Lamker said, "I expect to hear the name ‘Spence’ over the PA system an awful lot this year."
In other words, if it’s not senior Griffin Spence on the tackle, it could well be his twin brother, Russell.
On the other side of the ball, Edina welcomes an entirely new group of receivers, led by senior Anders Freeland. The other targets will likely be seniors Jonah Decker and Tommy Denn, a 6-foot-5-inch tower who’s in his first year of organized football.
“Our quarterback, Ethan Hufendick, will have some promising options through the air,” Lamker said. “But we’ll also be counting on those receivers and our junior tight end, Gus Angelos, to be key blockers for us, because it’s no secret that we plan to run the ball a lot this year.”
Senior captains John Deutsch and Cavanagh, a two-way stud, will shoulder most of that load.
Edina’s leading rusher in 2017, Cavanagh scored seven touchdowns on the ground last year and averaged a healthy 4.2 yards per carry. This season, Lamker plans to experiment with an offensive formation in which the center snaps the ball directly to Cavanagh, who can then immediately start running with the ball.
Most teams call that the “Wildcat” formation. In Edina’s playbook, it’s known as the “Cavy-Cat.”
“Normally, a quarterback would take the snap and hand it off to the running back,” Lamker said. “But then the quarterback is out of the play and doesn’t usually help you as a blocker. When you snap it directly to the guy who’s normally a running back, you can have an extra blocker on the field.”
Blockers, the Hornets have. Edina returns two offensive linemen in senior captains Ben Moss and Quinn Carroll, a Notre Dame commit who also received preseason All-Metro nods from the Star Tribune and KARE 11.
“The theme this year is really that we need to be physical at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Lamker said. “When we struggled last year, it was against some of the power run teams that could also throw a deep ball every now and then.”
One of those teams was Eden Prairie, the eventual state champions. But this year, the Hornets have perhaps a bigger bone to pick with the team that Eden Prairie beat in the 6A state championship: Minnetonka.
“Last year in the regular season, we lost to them by one point,” Deutsch said. “We were so evenly matched—that could have been us in the state title game.”
But such is the trend in the vaunted Metro West subdistrict, wherein the top two teams will surprise no one by meeting in the dead center of the playoff bracket for the final game of the year.
“Coach Lamker has been there before and won it all,” Carroll said. “If we can get hot in October, anything can happen.”