Matthew Schleich, shown here in 2011, rushed for three Spring Grove touchdowns along with many defensive stops and an interception in Saturday’s preseason scrimmages against Houston and Mabel-Canton.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Matthew Schleich, shown here in 2011, rushed for three Spring Grove touchdowns along with many defensive stops and an interception in Saturday’s preseason scrimmages against Houston and Mabel-Canton.

After graduating both all state and four out of five all-conference players from last season's section championship team, the Spring Grove varsity football team will need to fill quite a few spots in 2012.

Led by two-time SEC Coach of the Year Zach Hauser, the Lions have a fairly short list of players back from last year's 11-1 squad.

Senior standout Josh Olerud will definitely be called upon for leadership. The 5-foot 11-inch, 170 lb. running back/linebacker played left end/fullback/linebacker last year, earning his second all-conference award.

He was the team's second-leading rusher and second-leading receiver, running for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns. Olerud also caught passes for 131 yards and two additional TDs.

Senior Blaine Storlie will likewise be a leading presence. Now in his third year at quarterback, Storlie checks in at 5-9, 160 and will also be a linebacker this fall.

Last year, he passed for 421 yards and seven touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Guard/nose guard Brandon Schuttemeier is also a senior class member. Last year, he earned honorable mention on the All-SEC team, and he will be called upon to anchor the line with his solid 6-1, 250 presence.

Another returning letter winner is 5-10, 160 senior Spencer Dunn. He will line up at cornerback again and is also listed at running back for the 2012 campaign.

Junior Caleb Happel is a returning starter. Playing at left guard/linebacker in 2011, the 5-10, 195 Happel was an important piece of the offensive line that opened the holes that allowed three running backs to each go over 1,000 yards last season.

He will be asked to go back to his accustomed positions on the field this year, Hauser said recently.

Junior Matt Schleich is also a returning letter winner. Listed at wide receiver/safety, the 5-11, 160 Schleich also did some punting in 2011, averaging 29.8 yards.

Fellow junior class member Mitchell Anderson who is a leading candidate for wide receiver/cornerback/backup quarterback will join him in 2012. Anderson is listed at 6-2, 190.

Also on the coach's short list is sophomore Harrison Speltz who is vying for the full-time position of center/linebacker. He is listed at 5-8, 210.

Another strong offensive line candidate is junior C/LB Nick Holty.

Two freshmen are also likely starters: 6-1, 165 tight end/defensive end Alex Engelhardt and 6-3, 180 TE/DE Brady Schuttemeier.

Other players on the 2012 roster include junior running back Jayme Lenning, junior lineman Zach Sanness, sophomore lineman Tanner Sanness, sophomore quarterback/cornerback Keenan Siminski, junior guard Mikal Guberud, junior guard Jacob Lenning, freshman running back Gabe Solum, junior wide receiver Kody Olerud, sophomore running back Nick Doely, sophomore halfback Dustin Vickerman, freshman wide receiver Dylan Kampschroer, sophomore linebacker Matt Mendez, junior center Riley Johnson, junior tight end Larry Schulte and sophomore linebacker Colin Matzke,

Hauser said that speed and a good balance between running and passing abilities should be the hallmarks of this team. Lack of experience is the biggest challenge.

Top teams in the conference will include Grand Meadow and Lanesboro with Spring Grove "somewhere in the mix" in the race for the top.

In his sixth year as head coach, Hauser now sports a record of 29-21. He is joined by fifth-year assistant coach Kevin Klug (no relation to the Tennessee Titan), offensive line coach Heath Olson, and junior varsity coach Brian Anderson.