Replacing 10 starters on defense didn't start at the first two-a-day practice Aug. 12 for Chanhassen.

Replacing a two-year starter at quarterback, 45-of-58 caught passes, and more than 2,100 yards of offense -- roughly 80 percent -- wasn't an overnight task.

All of these things began in the weight room. They began with summer camp, off-season training. So when the first two weeks of practice came, Cullen Nelson, the Storm's third head coach in program history, didn't have to reinvent his team.

The former Storm defensive coordinator had an idea of where guys should be, and an idea of what he wanted to see. Now, with week one upon Chanhassen, a road contest at Bloomington Jefferson slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, Nelson is ready to see it all come to life in a real game.

"We're just trying to keep it with the same routine in how we do practice, meeting times and film. Keep it as structured as possible so everybody knows what is expected. Be planned out, and organized and focus on the things we can control. We're just taking it little by little, not get too far ahead," Nelson said.

"We have thoughts and ideas on kids and what they can do, and what their abilities are. We want to give kids the opportunity early in the season to show us what they can do," he added. We feel like we have some solid depth at some of our positions and we want to get those kids experience and see who rises to the occasion."


Rolando Alvarez led Chanhassen in carries in the regular season in 2018, rushing the ball 130 times for 546 yards, six touchdowns, and most importantly, only one fumble lost.

The speedy back who has gained muscle in the off-season figures to be a prominent part of the Storm attack this season.

Only junior Ryan Maschka (20 carries, 163 yards) and senior Hunter Schwimmer (seven carries, 42 yards) -- both listed at linebacker this season -- return from the backfield group last season.

Running back is the position Chanhassen returns the most experience.

Senior quarterback Jack Schaefer will take his first varsity snap under center in week one.

"Here is what I know Jack will do. He'll compete. He'll lead the guys. Like everybody, the ultimate measure of who he is and where he's going to go in life is how he responds when something doesn't go well. As a team, obviously, we'll have something not go well Thursday and I know Jack will respond well to that," Nelson said.

Junior Eli Mau, 31-of-31 on extra points last season, will handle kicking duties again for the Storm.


Senior receiver Landon Smith and junior tight end Kenyatta Brannon were starters in 2018 and give Schaefer reliable targets. Who else will make an impact offensively?

If past years tell us, multi-sport athletes standout in the Chanhassen program. And the Storm are blessed with many.

Hunter Holcomb, Jackson Lakosky, Jason Collins, Blake White, Simon Knauss, and Alex Duea were all members of the section runner-up lacrosse team.

Duea is the lone starter back on defense for Chanhassen at cornerback. Many of these athletes likely will be pushing for playing time on defense as well.

"We love multi-sport athletes, kids that go out and compete and are coached. Really good teammates. ... In 2016, we played 10 games, 110 starts on defense, 106 of them were made by multi-sport athletes. We really think those kids really make our program better. Football probably benefits from it more than anyone along with track," Nelson said.

One area key to success on both sides of the ball will be line play where Chanhassen lists six seniors and eight juniors.

It is an area longtime assistant coach Joe Coenen was fired up about in July workouts.

"Ultimately, we want to run the ball, and throw the ball when we want to. We don't want to have throw the ball. We want to dictate that and that starts up front. ... Joe brings a ton of passion to those guys. He cares about those kids, pushes them to get their best out of them. They work their butts off to make sure they're in the best position to make themselves and our team be successful," Nelson said.


Receiver Manny Montgomery finished with 700 yards and nine touchdowns in seven regular season games last season. He had a career-high nine receptions, two for a touchdown, with 146 yards versus Chanhassen in week two.

So, yeah, Nelson remembers him quite well.

"I think he generated every one of their big plays. He accounted for every point they had or had a hand in with a catch deep in our zone. He's a talented kid. We were right there, we just had to guy and make the play. ... If we put all of our attention on one game, we're going to have some other problems in other areas," Nelson said.

When the defense isn't focusing on Montgomery, they'll be matched up with Roosevelt Cage, a power back that carried the ball nearly 100 times as a sophomore.

"He's a bigger version than his brother. Runs hard, great vision, great balance. You give him a crack in there, he's going to get them five, six, seven yards," Nelson said of Cage.

Pierce Oppong, defensive linemen for Bloomington Jefferson, is also a Northern Illinois University commit and was featured on the KARE-11 Pre-Season All-Metro Team.


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