Graduations are a way of life for high school football coaches, who are always faced with the challenge of filling the holes left behind by departing seniors.
For McFarland High School football coach Paul Ackley, he will have a difficult job replacing five All-Rock Valley Conference first team players from the 2018 squad that finished 9-0 in the regular season.
Those athletes included quarterback Derek Schwarting, running back/defensive back Tysen White, lineman Drew Mickelson, receiver/defensive back Reece Samuel and inside linebacker Cordell Kloth.
Luckily, Ackley has confidence that this year’s seniors will help the Spartans remain the team to beat in the conference. Two include running back/defensive end Connor Frasier and wide receiver/defensive back Nic Hall, who may also see some time at quarterback.
Frasier, who was named to last season’s all-conference first team defense, had 65 tackles and six sacks in 2018. He said he understands that being a senior means to also serve as a positive influence to the underclass players.
“I try to pick people up if they make a mistake,” said the 5-foot-11, 205-pound athlete. “I feel like they listen to me quite a bit. They respect me as a peer.”
Frasier has been striving on what many football coaches call “the little things” that make players better on the field. Since beginning on varsity as a sophomore, Frasier said he is faster off the ball, has better footwork and better vision of what’s happening on the field, all the result of hard work in the offseason and during regular season practices.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Hall, who is starting his third varsity season, has also been working hard to improve on both sides of the ball. In 2018, he caught 30 passes for 461 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, Hall made nine total tackles, intercepted one pass and recovered a fumble for a touchdown.
Hall believes the Spartans are a great team and could potentially repeat with another conference title and a deep run in the postseason. But he doesn’t want to look that far ahead.
“Our coaches tell us to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, one play at a time,” Hall said. “We’re not too worried about going undefeated and not too worried about beating teams way out in the future. We are concerned about what’s happening now.”
Hall said he has gained a lot of maturity and improved significantly on his speed and strength.
He received an offer to play college football at Bemidji State, but he has not made a commitment with the Minnesota university.
Aside from Frasier and Hall, McFarland will bring back a number of players who received all-conference honors last season including junior defensive lineman Zach Gunderson, senior defensive end Xavier Schreiber, senior lineman Bryce Thompson, senior defensive back Vivek Tara, senior running back Jeremiah Price-Johnson and senior running back/safety Cam Schaaf.