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With fall approaching, some Jamestown teams looking to rebuild; Other teams hoping to reload

Sun File Photo / Chris Aarhus Jamestown’s Scott Nelson gets his helmet twisted by an opposing player in a game last season. Nelson and Ben Hanson give the Blue Jays a 1-2 punch in the backfield1 / 3
Jamestown all-state performer Sierra Bennion leads a roster full of underclassmen into the season. Sun File Photo / John Steiner 2 / 3
Jamestown’s Meghan Orr (2) and Julina Niemeier will compete for the libero job this fall. Sun File Photo / Chris Aarhus 3 / 3

Fall sports are near.

As a sportswriter, it makes me excited and grumpy at the same time. Vacation and rest — and baseball — accompany summers, so the season’s end is bittersweet.

But the other side of that coin lies in the passion for why we do what we do. Teams are re-born, role players become leaders, young stars eke out an existence and veterans get one more shot.

Memories are recalled with fondness, others are preferably forgotten.

For Jamestown High School, the 2012-13 sports year was a good one, headed by the successes of the volleyball, football and girls basketball teams.

Since fall is approaching, here’s a quick look at what to expect:

r The football team is looking for a second straight trip to the playoffs, and this year’s team could be as good as the Blue Jays have been in a while.

Returning quarterback Ross Monson will attempt to fit those long, blonde locks inside of a helmet so he can run the show. Monson is a natural leader who took every chance with me in interviews last year to blame himself for losses, regardless of whether or not he deserved that blame. Taking blame isn’t easy for high school kids, and in my 10-plus years of doing this, putting the blame on their shoulders was a trait of almost every good quarterback I covered.

As much as Monson would probably like to throw the ball, the Blue Jays are a running team. Tailbacks Scott Nelson and Ben Hanson need touches, and they’re likely to get them. If the Fargo North game at the end of the regular season was any indication, these two could do some serious damage. Both can catch passes out of the backfield as well, so it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff utilizes them while they’re both on the field.

From what I recall of last year, Noah Wanzek and Layne Carlson are promising in the wide receiver department, and Logan Anderson should continue to contribute at tight end. The offensive line was veteran. By the end of the year, however, there were a few underclassmen starting. Center Kyle Anderson and starting tackles Alex Zimmerman and Jayden Teckenburg return, as does guard Travis Beach, who started a few games last season.

Zimmerman and Anderson will anchor the defensive line and Scott Nelson will return at cornerback, but the rest graduated. Finding linebackers will be key. Expect Nolan Love to play a big role in the rebuilding effort there.

r The volleyball team had a historic season last fall, winning its first state title.

Gone are first-team all-state seniors Josie Hegerle, Addie Eamon and McKayla Orr. Much like Moneyball, the Blue Jays are looking to replace them in the aggregate.

They may not have a hitter like Addie Eamon, but they should have plenty of balance between Jenna Stilwell, McKayla Keller, Rainey Selvig and Beka Hilgemann. The back row should again be sound, with Meghan Orr and Julina Niemeier competing for the libero spot.

The big question mark is at setter. Finding a replacement for Josie Hegerle won’t be easy. Still, the program is in good enough of shape to overcome inexperience at one position. Expect the nine returning seniors to keep this team anchored.

I see the Blue Jays second or third in the West Region. Bismarck Century has to be considered the favorite, with Bismarck High and Jamestown behind it, though the Demons did lose a fair share. On paper, a Fargo Shanley-Bismarck Century state championship is probably favored. But as we’ve seen the past few years, it never ends up like that.

r The girls swimming and diving team lost six seniors to graduation, meaning it’ll have holes to fill.

It won’t lack star power, though.

Annie Hart is the team’s lone senior, at this point anyway, and she’s been participating in the state meet for quite a while. I’d imagine she’d be at the forefront of Jamestown’s swimming success this fall.

It’s important to remember what we see each swimming and diving season from coach Ben Smith.

What the Blue Jays lack in quantity they try to make up in quality. And there’s always quality, at least in the few years I’ve been here. Unfortunately, winning meets is almost always a numbers game, meaning Smith has to churn out even more quality to make up for that.

I don’t envy him having to face that uphill battle every day, but such is the life of a high school coach in Jamestown. Swimming, perhaps, more so than other sports.

r The boys tennis team lost a strong class including the state-qualifying doubles team of Ashton Johnson and Nick Watne.

Nate Soulis, the team’s No. 2 player, returns as does Ben Harris and Jake Reuther to the starting lineup. The Blue Jays won’t be as experienced this season and will need their veteran players to shine, not just on game day but also in practice.

Jamestown lost a close 3-2 match to Minot at the West Region tournament last fall, and wound up getting swept in a qualifier. Jamestown can be competitive, but the teams ahead of them will likely be more experienced.

r The girls golf team has high expectations, which seems to be in line with all of coach Dean Kraft’s golf teams as of late.

All-stater Sierra Bennion, who will be a junior, had an average of 83 last fall, which was fifth in the West Region. There’s no doubt that Kraft believes she’s better than that, and from what we saw of Bennion in her freshman season, she still has a load of potential to unleash.

She returns as the West Region’s No. 2 golfer and is joined by Sarah Azure, who comes back for her freshman season. Azure was a nice surprise, finishing 13th in the region. Her average 95.9 is eighth-best in the region among returners.

Improved games from Kaitlin Mullowney, Mara LeFevre and Savannah Kramlich will make the most difference in the team scores. There won’t be a senior on the team, so this group will have two years to accomplish something special.

r The boys cross country team showed promise last season, as senior Aaron Ford emerged to challenge Kyle Schumacher as the team’s No. 1 runner.

With Ford gone, Schumacher will likely go unchallenged in that role this season, though Jamestown should have a few good pieces to work with. Schumacher, a junior, has been around awhile, and he’ll likely be pushed by seniors Colt Rasmussen and Hunter Braunberger.

The boys won’t be short on experience, and neither will the girls.

Maya Moltzen, Rachel Morin and Ligia Schulz will be sophomores entering their third year of varsity. Younger runners like Teralyn Coombs and Bailey Heinert, both will be freshmen, found ways to contribute last season.

The experience here should be enough to make Jamestown competitive, though the upper echelon of North Dakota cross country is awfully tough to get into, especially with Bismarck schools holding down most of the top spots.

r The boys soccer team returns its top two scorers in seniors Tyler Gaffaney and Jacob Sherfy, who was named all-West Region and all-state. Both players finished with two goals and an assist on the season.

Jamestown hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2008 and ending that streak will be difficult. With Bismarck High, Century and St. Mary’s always fielding competitive teams, and Minot often being very good, there isn’t much room for error when trying to squeeze into the top four.

Goalkeeper Adam Reiten returns for his sophomore season. The Blue Jays lost just one senior, so the team should be improved. Mark Sherfy will head the Blue Jays this fall.

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or