"We have been going at it for two weeks now and we are ready for a game," said Gary Culver, head coach of the Tanagers. Culver, in his 30th season at the helm of the VHS football program, is cautiously optimistic about the season opener.
"We, as a coaching staff, have been very pleased with the great work ethic and positive attitude of the squad during preseason workouts. We have some excellent returning veterans who have provided us with good leadership this fall," Culver said.
Senior members of the team include Paul Hammond, Bobby Dykstra, Harrison Hawley, Ryan Gilbertson, Nick Schaffer, Eric McPherson, Andrew Pearson and Zach Weiss. Junior members include Reid Meierkort, Cody Miller, Jackson Freidel, Jerrod Freidel, Ryan Husby, CJ Haakinson, Luke Heine, Heath Hubert, Alex Anderson-Kahl, Billy Kjelden, Eric Bingen, Tom Mollet, Mike Wilson, Mike Morse, Matt Morse, Josh Johnson, Jordan Moos and Roland Osae-Oppong.
Sophomore members of the team include Greg Anderson, Chris Cameron, Wyatt Hunter, JR Moore, John Noteboom, Tyler Johnson, Andrew Eidem, Cory Taggart, Mike Oberle, Kyle Nemec, Jeff Anglin, Tyler Steele, Tony Thomas, Travis Jerred, Lance Hubert, Grant Lueders, Taylor Clark, Blaine Olson and Tevin Boehrns. Freshman members of the team include Mike Walker, Will Schaffer, Kyler Freidel, Earl Kiertzner, Bennett Johnson, Chris Mart, Jordan Robinson, Mike Millage, Tanner Mart, Cody Merrigan, Nick Mart, Brian Hansen, Marcus Sand, Ben Knutson, Gerrit Heine, Tom Amundson, Nick Anglin, Crosby King, Tylar Solomon, Ryan Kost, Evan Hanson, Ryun Fischbach, Preston Ellenbolt, Chase Allen, Tim Tigert and Josh Thin Elk.
Assisting Culver with the varsity football squad are Roger Heirigs, in his 27th season with the Tanagers, and Jason Huska, a 1989 VHS graduate and former first team all-state player during his tenure in the Tanager football program.
Huska moves up from the freshman team to take the place of long-time assistant coach Jim McGuire. McGuire retired from his coaching duties this fall after 23 years with the Tanager football program.
Assisting with the freshman squad are Jason Gault and Joe Delvaux. Gault moves up from the middle school football program and Delvaux, a familiar face as the assistant wrestling coach, begins his first season in the Tanager football program.
The Tanagers lost to the C-Hawks by a 22-14 score in the first game of the season last year. The Tanagers battled back from a 6-0 halftime deficit to tie the score midway through the third quarter but gave up the next two scores to find themselves down 22-6 late in the fourth quarter. After completing a long touchdown pass to make it 22-14 with three minutes to go the Tanagers could not get the ball back as the C-Hawks ran out the clock to the end the game.
The loss to Canton was the second in as many years after a 14-game winning streak in the series against the C-Hawks dating back to 1990. The Tanagers hold a 38-16-1 edge in the series between the two teams that dates back to 1931.
"This has been a great rivalry throughout the years and we know it will be a tightly contested game for all four quarters!" stated Coach Culver. "We cannot afford to let Canton run the football like they did against us last year. If we can contain their rushing game and not give up the big play on the defensive side and eliminate turnovers and mental mistakes on the offensive side, we know we'll be in the game at the end."
The Tanagers recorded a 2-6 overall record last year as three of their losses were by eight, seven and one point, respectively. Canton finished the 2005 season with a 4-5 overall record. The C-Hawks are ranked third in the KWSN/KSFY Pigskin Preview Class 11A preseason football rankings as they enter this season opener for both teams.