Going back to Class 3A isn’t going to deter the Nevada football team from trying to maintain its recent success as the Cubs eye a third straight trip to the playoffs in 2014.
After a two-year stint in 2A yielded back-to-back playoff appearances - the school’s first trips to the postseason since 1986 - many are expecting Nevada to struggle with the move to 3A.
But Nevada head coach John Pelzer said his players are up to the challenge of maintaining their success going up against a higher level of competition..
“Our ultimate goal is to be the first Nevada team to make the 3A playoffs since whenever it was 20 some years ago,” Pelzer said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable - if we stay healthy - for these guys to make another trip.”
Nevada will be participating in 3A District 6.
Gilbert, a former 2A District 7 rival, and Bondurant-Farrar are also making the jump to 3A in District 6. Nevada will renew a long-time rivalry with Ballard as well.
The rest of the district will be made up of former 4A school Newton, traditional power Grinnell and Benton Community.
“It could’ve been better, could’ve been worse,” Pelzer said. “I’m surprised a little bit about Benton and about Newton and Grinnell being in with us. But I’m not surprised about Bondurant or Gilbert or Ballard - they’re teams that we’ve typically been with before. I remember coaching against Newton when I coached at Ames - they used to be 4A, so that’s interesting. Grinnell’s typically been a strong program, Bondurant and Gilbert had really good years last year, so there are tough teams in the district.”
The Cubs will be helped in their quest for the playoffs by some key returning players from a productive offense last season.
Nevada will continue running a wing-T. The Cubs averaged 22.9 points and 342.5 yards per game last year.
All eyes will be on senior tailback Chase Dobson. Dobson turned in a remarkable junior campaign where he rushed for a school-record 2,057 yards and 18 touchdowns on an average of 8.9 yards per carry.
“I told him he made a hard act for himself to follow,” Pelzer said. “But he’s put in a lot of great work in the weight room in the offseason and he’s proven he can carry the ball well against all kinds of competition. He knows he’ll get a lot of attention, but it’s all about up front and Chase knows that.”
Nevada returns three players with experience on the offensive line in senior center Jake Kapustka, junior guard Alex Peebles and junior tackle Chris Dobernecker. Mark Trullinger will be counted on to help out at the other tackle spot and Bennett Thompson will move into the other guard position.
A.J. Strottman will man the tight end position. and Lane Hillock and Ross Mitchell will see time at split end. All three have yet to catch a pass at the varsity level.
At fullback Nevada will have seniors Alex Avalos and Alex Good. Junior Peyton Sharp will be at wingback after rushing for 60 yards and one touchdown and catching one pass for 41 yards a year ago.
Traye Pelzer will take over for Brandon Burke at quarterback for Nevada. Last year as a junior, Pelzer ran for 24 yards and completed one pass for 41 yards.
On defense the Cubs will continue to operate out of a 3-5. Nevada will be looking to improve its performance on that side of the ball after yielding 33.8 points and 415.1 yards per game in 2013.
Up front Nevada will count on Trullinger, Dobernecker and Kapustka. Kupustka made 17 stops, Dobernecker five and Trullinger four a year ago.
At linebacker Nevada will have Avalos and Dobernecker on the outside and Peebles, Strottman and Thompson inside. All five are inexperienced as Avalos is the leading returning tackler among the group with 13.
Nevada will have more experience in the secondary with Pelzer at safety and Sharp at one cornerback spot.
Pelzer is the leading returning tackler on the team with 55 and he also had one interception last year. Sharp made 30 tackles with one interception a year ago.
Mitchell and Hillock will battle for time at the other corner position.
Nevada will have to go without one key player as senior Erik Fevold - a state track runner - will be out for the year with a torn ACL. Fevold made 47 tackles last year and he also handled the kicking duties - converting 23 of 28 extra points and two field goals.
“He’s a returning second-team all-district kicker and starting defensive back,” Pelzer said. “That’s really tough for us to handle with our low numbers anyway. That’s tough, but it’s life too.”
Pelzer said he is unsure of who will take over at kicker at this point. Dobson and Sharp are both candidates at punter, with Dobson averaging 35.7 yards on 35 punts a year ago.
Nevada opens the season Aug. 29 against I-35 in Truro.