Tonka Football - Gurley

Carvon Gurley of Minnetonka yanks on the jersey of the Rosemount quarterback to disrupt a pass in a Class 6A playoff game last October.

When your schedule includes St. Michael-Albertville, Eden Prairie, Mounds View, Wayzata, Edina, and Prior Lake, it's natural to think "are we good enough?"

Ask football people and they all think the answer to that question is yes for Minnetonka.

The Skippers will have a new quarterback. They'll have to replace a good portion of a defense that helped them reach the state tournament the past two seasons.

But what they do have is athletes, and when athletes are put in the right position to succeed, wins follow.

"We return six starters on offense and three starters on defense. Our depth is a concern. If we stay healthy we will be competitive," Dave Nelson, in his 18th year at Minnetonka (115 wins, 65 losses), said.

"(If we) keep improving, (I) would be disappointed if we weren’t challenging at the end," he added.

Six-foot, 180-pound Luke Tollefson takes his play-making abilities at wide receiver behind center. He'll have experienced targets in receiver Braden Fiske and tight end Trent Hollings with junior back Ben Tolkinen ready to share more of the rushing duties.

Junior Jaxen Iverson on the outside is a "talented athlete with big play potential," Nelson said.

On the interior, Matthew Galgano anchors the line, having started every game at center as a junior. The 6'3" senior is flanked by Owen Gunderson at guard and a physical blocker in Peter Grefe at tackle.

Minnetonka's most talented player, Elliot Ische, returns to the middle of the defense. Nelson called him "one of the best we've ever had."

Defensive lineman Carvon Gurley and outside linebacker Sandler Tollefson also return in starting roles.

Watch for SMB transfer Aidan Lowery, a 350-pound, 6'6" lineman to play offensive tackle or defensive end for the Skippers.

Minnetonka opens the season at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29 at Eastview in Apple Valley.

Another new face for the Skippers will be offensive coordinator Mark Esch, who spent one year at Prior Lake after leading Class 5A powerhouse Mankato West. Esch was notorious for his spread offense with the Scarlets, a system that fits Minnetonka perfectly.

"He is a great addition to our staff! Good coach and a better guy," Nelson said.

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