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Central Cass looks to utilize depth and speed for 2022 football season

Squirrels boast a 9-12 roster of 65 with an emphasis on sprint training.

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Kindred's Jorgen Swenson snares Central Cass' Owen Wiersma at Jerlow Field in Kindred on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
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CASSELTON, N.D. — With a new season comes a change of philosophy for the Central Cass Squirrels and head coach Tommy Butler.

After ending the 2021 season 9-2 overall with a loss in the state quarterfinals against Hillsboro-Central Valley, Butler has made some changes to the way he coaches and the way the team has been preparing for the 2022 season.

Possibly the biggest change comes with practices as the Squirrels have made the departure from two-a-day practices to a single session each day.

The change, Butler said, has created a higher energy at practice.

“This is our first time ever not doing two-a-days,” Butler said. “Our practices are about two hours long. We have an hour where we're either lifting or doing our sprint-training stuff. Then we have our meetings and then we have a two-hour practice. Then we’re done.

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“I think our kids are hungry in the sense that every day they are coming back and they’re ready to go for practice. They’re never dragging. So I really like that.”

Butler — who is also the Central Cass track coach — has brought an emphasis on sprint training to the Squirrels’ football program this season.

With Butler’s focus on speed — and a roster of 65 players grades 9-12 — the team has been able to rev up their intensity at practice.

“The No. 1 thing for us is to get faster as a team,” Butler said. “The faster we get, I believe, we don’t have to do conditioning. Especially, because we have a lot of guys and we’re able to rotate more. It allows us to have an intensity at practice that’s super high with also having our work ethic high.”

Thus far, it seems the sprint training has been paying dividends for Central Cass as Butler believes this is the quickest overall group he's had for football.

“This is probably our fastest team we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve always had really fast athletes, just a couple of them, where this is, overall, our team speed is a lot faster. It should be a good year.”

Though the Central Cass team loses multiple major contributors — including three-year quarterback Brendan Maasjo, all-state player Kade Mckinnon, Will Ellison and Jacob Deutsch, among others — since they last played, Butler isn’t expecting anybody to try filling their shoes.

“Losing those guys is a big thing,” he said. “We love those guys and we wish them the best, but we haven’t talked about trying to fill anybody else’s shoes. It’s just trying to be the best player you can be.”

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Returning to the backfield for the Squirrels will be all-state running back Owen Wiersma who enters his senior year. Backing him up at running back will be junior Isaac Wisnewski.

A pair of juniors — Carter Maasjo and Brayden Mitchell — will highlight the quarterback position left vacant by Brendan Maasjo.

Heading up the offensive and defensive lines will be second-team all-state player Tyler Cruchet. Cruchet is joined on the line by Dylan Sell, Kemper Pearson, Micah Van Hal and Garrett Haugen.

In addition to the returning experienced players, Butler sees the team’s depth as one of their biggest assets this year.

“We have a lot of depth… Our next guy rolling in, at most of our positions, it’s truly a 1A, 1B type deal,” he said. “That’s probably our biggest strength, is our depth, and the fact that we are as big and strong and as fast as we are up front with our big guys.”

Last year, a loss to eventual state-champion Kindred took away the opportunity for Central Cass to host a playoff game. Butler hopes the team can avoid a similar scenario this year to allow for home field advantage come the postseason.

“We just want to take care of the things we can control,” Butler said. “Last year, we were 8-1. We lost to Kindred and that allowed us to not play at home for the playoffs in our second game when we had to play Hillsboro. I think, especially with the team speed we have, playing on turf really helps us a lot. So if we can take care of our business, I think we have a shot at home-field advantage.”

Butler added that support from the Squirrels’ fans will also be a boost for the team throughout their 2022 campaign.

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“I think we have tremendous community support,” he said. “Our fans come out in droves every time. If we can use those things to our advantage, that’s what we want. Hopefully, do that and play ourselves right into the (Fargodome).”

Central Cass opens its season at 7 p.m. Friday against Fargo Oak Grove at Fargo Davies High School.

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