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Franklin football team looks to remain a success despite graduation losses

Sabers will rely on O-line

Aug. 19, 2014

All success comes with a price.

And now the Franklin football team is paying it through heavy graduation losses, though veteran head coach Louis Brown and his staff are looking to keep the high cost of a 2013 WIAA state finals run economical behind a strong offensive line and a healthy tradition.

"We have a lot of questions to be answered, and we'll find them out soon," said Brown. "Our senior class is a little smaller than last year's, but our junior class is bigger."

Of the 19 or so seniors on the team, Brown projects about 14 or 15 of them to be starters. They will be the first to play on the new artificial turf field (see special section for details).

The Sabers, who will open Thursday night (Aug. 21) at Hartford, finished at 12-2 last season after falling to Arrowhead in the state finals. They will build around that powerful offensive line including Northern Illinois recruit and co-captain Vince Hughes (6-6, 260).

He will be joined up front by fellow senior letter winners Bryan Beck (another co-captain at 6-6, 271) and Dan Bartels (6-4, 290) and junior letter winner Yvey Sopiqoti (6-3, 251). The new center will be junior Mike Dobrenski (6-3. 287).

A veteran tight end, senior Sam Ruetz (6-4, 245), will also help out.

Brown thinks so much of this group that he is of the opinion that at least three of the offensive linemen, and probably Ruetz, too, will have college scholarships.

"If everyone stays healthy," he said.

The charge of those veteran behemoths will be to help guide a virtually new crew of skill position people as three-year starter and all-state quarterback Sean McGuire led a large cadre of talent out the door as he headed off to Western Illinois University.

All told, eight first-team all-SEC selections graduated last year.

Senior Josh Frank is prepped to try and fill McGuire's large shoes.

"He's a bright kid who has a really good grasp of the offense," Brown said.

Challenging him for the spot will be sophomore Marcus Lee and freshman Max Alba.

"It's Josh's job to lose," Brown said, "but he's just gotten stronger every time he's gone out. He's done everything we've asked him to."

The team also thought well enough of him to name him a co-captain.

Filling in at running back will be junior Gavin Boeck. The wide receiver corps is even more wide open as senior co-captain Giovanni Flores is the only experienced hand coming back.

"After him, we have about three or four kids fighting for positions," Brown said. "We never have an issue at that position (receiver). We take care of the ball, we'll be OK."

More questions reside on defense as Brown has to take a deep breath as he looks to replace 10 starters, including many All-Suburban and All-Conference quality.

The only full-time starter returning is junior linebacker Kobe Knaak, while senior Casey Davis also saw some time last season.

"We know we're going to take a step back in some areas," said Brown of the defense.

Seniors Gavin Devine, Marcus Grimm and Brian Myers will look to fill in the holes on a depleted front line. Senior defensive back Kyle Cortez is another co-captain.

"I honestly believe that our secondary and outside linebackers will be as good as they were last year," said Brown, "but inside linebackers and defensive line are big question marks.

"Overall, I like the makeup of this group. The junior class is pretty strong. We like a challenge. That's why we do this."

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