The Crusaders return most of their playmakers on offense. Senior quarterback Trent Solsma set school records last season with over 3-thousand passing yards and 39 touchdowns. His main targets return. Connor Niles had over 1-thousand yards receiving with 18 scores, while Phil Jacobson caught 42 balls for over 700 yards and 9 TD's.
"The nucleus is there but we lost a lot of key guys, especially in the line," said Bishop Heelan head coach Roger Jansen. "I'm a firm believer that it all starts up front and we have to find some players there."
On defense, Christian Brobst led Heelan with 115 tackles a year ago. Only three schools in Iowa have more playoff appearances than Heelan's 32. The Crusaders are no strangers to high expectations.
"Actually I kind of like it," said Heelan senior wide receiver Phil Jacobson. "It pushes us. Pushes us to be better and we have to live up to the expectations."
"It doesn't weigh on us," said Heelan senior quarterback Trent Solsma. "The expectations are pretty much the same here every year, win every game and go win a state title. So nothing has changed this year."
"In order to talk about something you've got to do something first and we haven't done anything yet," added Jansen.
Many schools would take a runner-up finish at state. Not Heelan. The 28 point loss in the title game still stings.
"It's definitely fueled a lot of guys this off season," said Solsma. "Again in baseball too, losing in the semifinals two years in a row, that just gives some of us extra motivation to go get it done this fall."
"One of the things that we really talked about a day or so after we got beat in the championship game was that we weren't happy with how we ran the football, especially short yardage," said Jansen. "We've got to hang our hat on two plays, that if we need to get one or two yards, whether they know if it's coming or not, we got to get it."
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