HARTINGTON —A year ago, the Cedar Catholic Trojan football team was stuck in an emotional conundrum.
Do they celebrate a strong football season or should it be subdued in the wake of a COVID-19 pandemic?
Ultimately, the Trojans and head coach Chad Cattau were able to at least find something to smile about after finishing 8-3 overall and advancing to the Class C-2 quarterfinals, losing to Oakland-Craig for the second time in 2020.
Over two dozen returnees are set to lead the Trojans into a new season with plenty of expectations to be had.
It all begins Friday night at home against O’Neill.
Cattau is looking to players like seniors Carter Arens, Easton Becker (RB/NT) and Tate Thoene (QB) to take up the mantle for the Trojans.
“Easton has excellent strength, quickness, and work ethic, which is what allows us to use him at that combination of positions,” Cattau said. “He is a returning All-State running back and we expect him to carry the load for us again this season. He is the type of runner that seems to get better as the game goes along, so we really relied on him last season in the fourth quarter, and I am sure we will be doing that again.
Cattau has enjoyed watching Thoene grow throughout his career.
“Last year Tate continued to get better throughout the season so hopefully he can continue from where he left off,” Cattau said. “He has the ability to throw the ball and he is also a running threat, so we will need him to contribute in both of those areas this season. Tate will also be playing defense this season so we are adding more to his plate, but I know he will be able to handle it well.”
Carter Arens played exclusively as an OLB, but this year he will move inside so he will be able to play both spots.
“This should allow us to get more playmakers on the field in certain positions,” Cattau said. “Carter has been a very steady player for us since his sophomore season and we look for that to continue. He seems to have a good nose for the ball and where he needs to be on each and every play.”
Arens looked back on last fall and noted the results were big for the program’s upward trajectory.
“I feel like it set us up for this year too because we had a lot of younger guys who stepped up and played,” he said. “With all those guys returning it looks good for this year. Getting the experience in the playoffs was big: It’s anybody’s ball game no matter what the seed is, and you have to learn from that. We have a lot of guys with experience that know what it’s like. We have a lot of depth at every position too.”
Arens said the team needs to do a better job finishing drives to get into the red zone.
“We need to get first downs and not just four and three-and-out and done,” Arens said. “We have to move the ball. I think we have strength and size, and should be pretty good with that. It looks pretty good: I think we can go all the way.”
Cattau has a lot of reasons to be optimistic even if the roster is a relatively young one.
“I think this team has a lot of talent and there are some good position battles that have been going on since spring, so the daily competition has made a lot of the kids better each and every day,” he said. “We have a lot of things that we need to continue to work on and get better at, but they are things that we feel we can improve upon. The players need to continue to challenge each other throughout practices so we can be as prepared as possible for Friday nights.”
The Trojans will work in multiple offensive formations to keep the defense guessing.
“Our base plays are the same from the formations, but if we can give a variety of looks and make them think, we feel we are at an advantage,” Cattau said. “Our bread and butter is the run game, but we are very confident in throwing the ball on any down and distance because of our skill kids and their abilities to make a play.”
Depth is also a plus, he said.
“We can mix and match a variety of kids throughout the games, and I don’t feel like we have much drop off,” he said.
The Trojans will stick to their base 3-4 and also offer various looks where need be – able to adjust to a 4-3 or 4-4 and even a 6-2.
“We really like to give different looks throughout a game so teams never really feel confident in what they will see from snap to snap,” Cattau said.
The schedule will be daunting as the Trojans will play a number of teams ranked in the preseason.
That is pretty typical in this area of the state though.
“Everyone we play will be physical and play extremely hard, so we need to prepare in a manner that gets us ready for that. I can see quite a few teams on our schedule making the playoffs at the end of the year because of the quality of talent in this area,” he said.
Hopefully, Cedar Catholic and the rest of the state’s schools can enjoy this season and spend plenty of time celebrating without looking over their shoulder at a virus.
“It’s been good to be able to have a normal summer of training where we could work with all of the kids at one time instead of small groups like we did last year,” Cattau said. “We have also been able to return to a normal practice schedule after having to adjust that last season. I am just hoping we are able to have a full season and allow the kids to play each Friday night without having to worry about new guidelines and restrictions from the health departments.”
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