LAKEVILLE, IN. – The official start of the 2018 high school football season is inside a week. The 53rd edition of LaVille Football is ready for a new season.
The Lancer coaching staff has had two weeks and a pair of scrimmages to help prepare for the August 17 Week #1 contest at Culver Academy.
According to head coach Will Hostrawser, “Each year the seniors automatically take a leadership role just by the way they take part in the daily process – this year is no different. Upperclassmen lead in everything they do – both through their actions and vocally. There is a nice mix of seniors this year with various kinds of leadership styles to give us nice well rounded leadership.
“As a whole, this year’s team has adjusted to all the new members of our coaching staff,” continued Hostrawser. “They respond with great effort to their instructions and respect all the coaches already – there is a trust in the new stuff we are doing under the new leadership of the assistant coaches.
Hostrawser returns for his sixth season as the Lancer skipper. There some changes during the off-season, including a revamped weight room workout, the change of several assistant coach’s, and a new offensive scheme, just to name a few. Hostrawser is 40-19 overall in five complete seasons and is the only coach in LaVille football history to have four consecutive winning season.
The Lancers come off of a 8-5 record a year ago, including a five-game winning streak, and the first IHSAA football sectional title since 2003.
LaVille has seven returning lettermen on both the offensive and defensive side of the football from a year ago.
“This year’s offense has been adjusted to fit the numerous skilled players we have available this season,” said Hostrawser of the offensive side of the football. “All starting positions from last season have basically been scrapped and we have adjust positions of some players. That being said, a lot of these guys have varsity experience – just not necessarily where they were last season on offense.”
Despite being shutout four times, the Lancer offense scored 168 points (12.9 point per game) in 2017. LHS scored 109 of those points during the five-game winning streak that included the sectional title.
Much of that rushing offense came from the duo of junior Kolby Watts and sophomore Andrew Dill.
“It was no mistake these two guys were our leading rushers a year ago – Kolby and Andrew are talented players,” said the LaVille skipper. “Their varsity experience will certainly be a factor in our success this season as well. During the off season we really worked on their core strength and balance and so far they are running a lot stronger. They are working hard each day to improve various parts of their game – I really look forward to seeing them under the lights on Friday.”
Watts led the running game with 596 rushing yards and a 4.9 average. Dill, meanwhile, added 448 yards and a 5.0 average. The LaVille offense rushed for just under 1,800 yards in 2017, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
The Lancers used two quarterbacks last season. Freshman Leyton Czarnecki started the season due to an injury to senior Braxton Sauer. Sauer has since graduated and Hostrawser will continue to utilize Czarnecki as signal-caller. However, with the personnel this year, Czarnecki will be used in other areas.
“Last year Leyton was forced to start early in the year due to an injury to Braxton,” explained Hostrawser of the quarterback situation. “He did a fine job leading us.
“This season, both Ayden Doyle and Leyton will see time at QB. As of now, Ayden is our starter but we would not hesitate to put Leyton in there. When Leyton is not at QB he will see time at WR. Both these guys play quite similar with no noticeable differences as of yet.”
Czarnecki was 15-of-39 for 246 yards, averaging 16.4 yards per completion. The freshman tossed a touchdown pass and seven interceptions. Doyle played split back last year gaining 18 yards on six carries.
Hostrawser has brought in a new offensive coordinator, but that won’t change the run first approach.
“I firmly believe high school football team need to be able to run the football – so this year’s philosophy and approach will mirror that belief – we are just approaching it a little different,” said Hostrawser. “Craig Groves as our new offensive coordinator has brought a new enthusiasm as well as a new approach to things. His guidance has been very well received by players and coaching staff members alike.”
Jacob Good was the leading receiver last year, collecting 204 yards and three touchdowns. Good has since graduated and Hostrawser looks to have found a couple guys ready to step in to lead the passing game.
“Without a doubt Jimmy Fischer and Nathan Nichols-Petersen have stepped into the role of being a standout receiver,” says the LaVille coach. “Both these guys have worked hard in the offseason to be able to play much more physical this season. So far – they have both been standouts on the field.”
Fischer caught a pass for 66 yards and a TD a year ago. Petersen did not catch a pass in 2017, but was a key component on defense.
The Lancer defense allowed 180 points in 2017, a 13.8 average, while posting four shutouts.
“Defensively we have run several fronts due to the variety of offensive schemes we faced last season,” said Hostrawser, who is also the defensive coordinator. “Our familiarity of defensive expectations is a definite asset for us. Right now we are working on playing fast, improving pursuit angles and communication on the field.”
Senior Riley Wagoner returns as the leading tackler (134 tackles and six tackles for loss). Wagoner also picked off four passes. Senior Edgar Albardo also returns as the #3 tackler (92 tackles and four TFL).
“Riley Wagoner is a quiet leader who has incredible instincts,” said Hostrawser. “Don’t be fooled by his height – this kid can flat out play. He has been a 4 year starter for us on the defensive side. He can slip under blocks because her recognizes things so fast and his pursuit hash mark to hash mark is amongst the best I’ve coached in my six seasons here at LaVille.
“Edgar is coming back from an arm injury he sustained in the sectional championship game last season,” continued Hostrawser of Albarado. “He will line up at either CB, SS or ILB for us. He is another player who just has a nose for the football as well as good closing speed. He plays very physical for his size as well.”
Robby Pope and Corbin Brown also return as top tacklers. Pope collected 70 tackles (7 TFL), while Brown finished with 60 tackles (10TFL). Petersen returns with a pair of interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Graduate Dakota Figg was a staple in the special teams game for LaVille a year ago. Figg handled kickoff and PAT duties in 2017, while David King did the punting chores. With the loss Figg and King, where is Hostrawser looking in 2018?
“Leyton Czarnecki will take over these duties for us this season,” said Hostrawser of the new special teams guy. “Dakota left some huge shoes to fill – but he passed his cleats on to Leyton so hopefully that will help!”
The Lancers finished 4-3 in the Hoosier North Athletic Conference, losing to Pioneer, Knox and Triton by a combined 82-14 margin.
“The HNAC has 3 teams in the top 15 in class A in the state (pre-season poll),” said Hostrawser of Pioneer, Triton and the Lancers in the Indiana Football Digest Pre-Season Poll. “I look for the conference to be very competitive – you can’t take a single week off that is for sure! For us to be in the mix during week #9 we must control the controllables and improve each week of the season.”
LaVille Football will open the 2018 high school regular season August 17 at Culver Academy’s Oliver Field. Kick will be at 7:30 p.m. eastern.