The first official practice day of practice for the 2021 fall sports season was Monday.
Millard South was one game away from appearing in the state championship game in 2020 before falling to eventual champion Omaha Westside. The Patriots return a lot, particularly at the skill positions.
Here are notes and observations from the Millard South practice on Tuesday.
Senior Gage Stenger (6-2, 200), a Kansas State commit, is the unquestioned leader of the team. He has waited his turn to be the full time quarterback and has taken the reins in stride. The trust Stenger has from the coaching staff is evident. He’s almost like another coach on the field bringing along an inexperienced offensive line. It’s always good to have one of your best players and the leader with the ball in his hands on every play. Look for Stenger to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball at safety as well.
The Patriots return a lot of impact players, particularly at linebacker and defensive back. Northern Illinois commit Jake Gassaway (6-2, 195) can be a dynamic pass rusher, is a sure tackler and can drop into coverage with ease from his outside linebacker position. Christian Nash (6-0, 220) at middle linebacker is another impressive athlete that will see time at running back as well. Senior Josh Wilson (6-2, 195) looks as though he will be the outside linebacker opposite Gassaway. This trio should make it hard on offenses to get chunk yards on the ground and through the air.
Not only do you have Stenger at defensive back, Shifty senior Antrell Taylor (5-8, 175) returns and should lock down one of the corner positions on defense. Taylor, the Nebraska wrestling commit, clearly is an explosive athlete. He could be used a variety of different ways on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Brock Murtaugh (6-2, 185) is another athlete that Stenger should find often in the passing game from his wide receiver position. Murtaugh will likely be the starting free safety on defense as well.
It’s not every day you notice a kicker in a high school practice. Junior Simon McClannan certainly is different. Should the coaching staff choose to, he should be a threat to kick touchbacks on every kick. McClannan doesn’t just kick far; he is accurate. Multiple times in practice he was connecting from 40 and even 50 plus yards out straight through the uprights. Recently he was named the No. 3 kicker in the nation by Kohls kicking.
The biggest question is on the offensive line. Losing seven of your top eight offensive lineman to graduation is always a tough task. Can the inexperienced line block well enough for the playmakers the Patriots have on offense will be a huge question. Two players that saw some playing time last season are both at the tackle positions. Senior Phil Meckna (6-2, 210) is the most experienced lineman and should be one of the starting offensive tackles. Junior Zach Flagel (6-0, 225) saw some time last season and will likely be the tackle opposite Meckna.
The same can be said for the defensive line. It is one of the biggest unknowns on the team. One player that is not unknown is junior defensive end Lance Rucker (6-3, 190). Rucker will also be a key target on offense from his tight end position.
Clearly the success of the team will depend on the rebuild in the trenches. The Patriots have more than enough skill position players to compete with anyone in Class A.