Mabel-Canton may be the most experienced team in the section/conference in 2013, having graduated only one senior player last year. The Cougars return two All Southeast Conference standouts (Hunter Johnson and Noah Manning) and an Southeast Conference (SEC) Honorable Mention award winner (Donnie Lind) from its 2012 roster.

Senior Johnson also won the Most Valuable Player award in team voting. Checking in at running back, he led all M-C rushers with 1,568 yards (7.8 yards per carry), 21 touchdowns and three PAT (point after touchdown) runs. Johnson was also the second-leading rusher in the SEC, scoring 134 points while taking handoffs and returning kicks.

Classmate Manning served as punter, led the team in interceptions and punt runbacks, and was the second-leading Cougar rusher in 2012. While at running back, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 114 attempts (624 yards). Those figures include seven TDs and one PAT. Manning also led the SEC in interceptions with five, carrying those back for an additional 141 yards. He earned the Hardest Worker Award in team voting.

Senior quarterback Collin O'Bieglo completed 33 of 81 passes for 520 yards. He had five TD throws, one PAT, and gave up six interceptions.

O'Bieglo's leading receiver was Donnie Lind, who's back for his junior season. He caught 17 passes for 327 yards (19.2 per reception), and scored four TDs. Lind won Most Valuable Defensive Back and also Most Valuable Offensive Lineman in team awards.

Three senior linemen also saw plenty of varsity playing time last year. Returning are Mac Nelson, Mason Henry and Jordan Magnuson, who will hold the line both on offense and defense.

Junior running back Keyser Wenthold won the Most Improved Player award last year. He's joined by classmates Jon Selness (also listed at running back), and linemen Dustin Kerns and Lucas Nordsving.

Sophomore Mitch Kuhn is listed at quarterback. Classmates Parker Henry and Alex Mengis check in as linemen.

Freshmen Jarod Batres and Weston Whalen join the team as linemen, as does eighth-grader Pierce Lind.

Coach Karl Urbaniak is now in his 29th season at the helm. He's joined once again by assistants Doug Wyffels and Paul Tollefsrud. Student managers are Drew Wyffels and Blake Henry.

"As far as Mabel-Canton goes, we have a pretty good number of returning players," Urbaniak said last week. "Guys with experience. More than we usually have."

The Cougars posted a record of 3-6 last year (3-4 in SEC play). They took a number five seed into section play. Urbaniak said it's too early to make any predictions on how well M-C may do this year, but experience can't hurt their chances. A challenge is only having 17 players.

"We get a high percentage of boys coming out for football; it's just that that we do not have a whole lot of boys in our high school right now. Lyle-Pacelli, Glenville-Emmons, Leroy-Ostrander... are all in the same situation," he noted.

The top teams in the conference will likely be Grand Meadow, Houston, Lanesboro and Spring Grove, Urbaniak said, with a wide-open race expected.

M-C opens play on Aug. 30 in Mabel. The Lions of Spring Grove will be their first opponent.