Football team struggles with injuries, inexperience, but strong finish still predicted

by Ben Frotscher

Starting off the season with a win over the Washington, Mo., Bears is just what head coach Jay Niemann wanted.

After finishing last season with a 6-4 record, Niemann has a senior led program heading into Iowa Conference play.

With the past week off, Niemann said that Storm had some things to work on before facing one of the three 2002 conference champions, Coe.

Coe, along with Central and Wartburg, won the Iowa Conference last year with a shared 8-1 record. Coe, Central and Wartburg are all favored to be near the top of the conference standings for the 2003 campaign while Simpson is projected to finish in fifth place.

Niemann isn’t too concerned about the preseason polls.

“It will all shake out in time,” Niemann said.

The Storm football squad does not have any goals set in stone, but the team definitely wants to be competitive.

“Obviously, the first thing we want to do is win every game we play,” senior wide receiver Mike Tiedeman said. “We want to be competitive in every game and to physically and mentally beat the other opponent.”

With around 100 men out, Niemann said that the Storm have a pretty balanced attack on offense, defense and special teams. Niemann said that he was very happy with all sides of the ball after Saturday’s win over the Bears.

“We are a balanced football team,” Niemann said. “The offense, defense and special teams all pulled their weight on Saturday.”

On the offensive side of the football, the Storm has many seniors to lead the team. Seniors Mike Donnenwerth at quarterback and punter; Pete Kirwan, Greg Dreyer and John Soenen all at running back and Tiedeman at wide receiver all play a big part in the offense.

Donnenwerth was named a preseason All-American punter and All-American as a punter by On the offensive line, senior Doug Dodds and junior Ross Parker play a big part in the strength of the line with their experience.

On the other side of the ball, the defense’s strength will be a major part of Storm football.

Junior Kyle Westphal leads the way for the Storm at cornerback. Westphal is a returning second team All-Conference selection from 2002 and ended last season fifth in Division III in passes defended with 2.4 pdpg.

Niemann said that there is one weakness, if it can really be called that, on the Storm front-inexperience. The loss of 20 seniors and some unexpected injuries have forced some players to step it up.

Early season injuries hurt the Storm, but players such as back-up quarterback sophomore, Scott McCarty and linebacker junior, Jeremy Scott have resumed practicing with the team.

The Storm football squad has benefited from the record enrollment of students this year. Currently 46 out of the 99 football players are freshman, but Niemann doesn’t consider this unusual.

“We lost a number of seniors and we felt we needed to bring in a large freshman class,” Niemann said.