ELK MOUND — Despite significant losses to productive players, excitement still abounds for the Elk Mound football team.

While many impact players from a season ago have departed, plenty of others have waited their turn and are ready to make their mark for the Mounders.

“It’s going to be tough to replace some of those guys, but to be honest with you we’ve got kids that have been in the system now for 3-4 years and they’re really excited about the challenges of the upcoming year,” Elk Mound coach Dave Lew said.

Gone is all-state running back Brady Redwine and all-region honorees Brett Lew, Ryan Zurbuchen, Marcus Kinblom and Rian Flynn. While the offense and defense are each without seven all-conference players from last season Lew is still confident with his team’s depth. He feels strong about the play along both the offensive and defensive line and the competition for playing time at both quarterback and running back.

“We have some positions I definitely think kids are going to compete on and make us better every week,” Lew said.

Taking over as leaders Lew looks for his new senior class to step up. The Mounders are bringing back 17 letterwinners but the team has just five seniors. Blaze Todd, Chase Rhude and Dominic Hall have taken on the responsibility as soon as last season ended Lew said.

“Those three guys have been leaders all summer, all fall so far and this (past) winter in workouts,” Lew said. “Those three young men will be big parts of this program.”

Lew also feels the team’s other two seniors Nate Sweeney and Kyle Deling have developed into guys younger teammates can look up to.

Todd is the leading returning rusher after racking up 287 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the backup to Redwine, according to wissports.net. With the departure of quarterback Colton Ward, Rhude will look to take over that position and command the offense.

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Defensively the Mounders lose their top six tacklers while junior Nate Lew (39 tackles) and Todd (30) are the top returning tacklers.

The schedule provides both challenges and opportunities for the Mounders. Elk Mound opens the season Aug. 23 at Cochrane-Fountain City before a week two battle with St. Croix Central, which has qualified for the Division 4 state championship in three consecutive seasons. While the Panthers provide a tough test Lew is looking forward to challenging his team as it will help prepare the Mounders for what will be a competitive Dunn-St. Croix Conference.

A season ago Elk Mound was named co-champions of the league along with Spring Valley and Mondovi. Lew expects to be right in the thick of the race again this season.

“Dunn-St. Croix definitely has a lot of power football,’ Lew said,” and it’s going to be an exciting race and we’ll see what happens at the end.”

Elk Mound has a scrimmage next Friday at Stanley-Boyd with Abbotsford, Marathon and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser also in attendance.

Conference actions begins Sept. 6 when the Mounders travel to Mondovi. Elk Mound has conference home games with Boyceville, Colfax and Spring Valley while in addition to traveling to Mondovi the Mounders play at Durand and Glenwood City.

The team’s final non-conference game is at Altoona on Oct. 11.

With new pieces ready to play their part in what hopes to be another successful season, the Mounders have embraced the idea of filling holes left from last year with no drop off.

“The biggest thing is our kids are excited for the challenges and they want to really step up but they want to make this a really fun season too,” Lew said.

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