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Thompson opens football practice, prepares to defend state title

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Thompson players run a conditioning drill at the end of the first day of practice Monday, Aug. 7. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service2 / 3
Thompson football coach Brady Schwab high-fives freshman Nick Adam after a good play on the opening day of practice Monday, Aug. 7, at Thompson. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service3 / 3

THOMPSON, N.D.—On Monday, Aug. 7, the first day of practice for the 2017 high school football season, there was little talk here about the undefeated Thompson team that won the 2016 9-man state championship.

"Coach only talked about it at the beginning (of practice), to remind us that it was a great season,'' senior Cole Sorby said. "But he said it's in the past. We have to move on.''

More than 30 athletes were at Monday's opening practice. Absent was a group of seniors who led the Tommies to the program's first state title. The graduation losses included quarterback and state 9-man senior player of the year Calen Schwabe, 1,900-yard rusher and all-state running back Adam Diedrich and the bulk of the offensive line, including all-stater Brett Sutter-Hegg.

The graduation losses provide a challenge for the veterans. "We want to prove ourselves as a new team, hopefully as a dominant team again,'' senior Trey Larimer said.

Thompson isn't without proven talent. In addition to Sorby, also back who were regulars on that 12-0 team are Larimer, Ryan Williams, Jacob Thomsen, Braeden Amborn, Cadyn Schwabe and Marcus Hughes.

"We're a different team,'' Thompson coach Brady Schwab said. "We have to replace a lot of guys who played a lot of snaps, especially up front. Calen and Adam didn't get all those yards they did without the crew we had up front. We have some guys we feel can fill in for the guys we lost. We just have to get them up to speed.

"There's a lot of excitement around from last year. But, as coaches, we're excited every year about the new group we have. It's exciting getting them ready. It's our job to give them direction and to get them in positions where they can do well. It's their (athletes') jobs to learn those positions.''

Williams, an all-region pick last season and the lone returning starting offensive lineman, sees his unit as one that bears a lot of responsibility.

"We're a little different team,'' Williams said. "We're a little raw. We have to get used to stuff, playing together.''

Whether there will be one or two dominant players in the offense remains to be seen.

Cadyn Schwabe, a wide receiver last season, figures to take over at quarterback for his older brother. Sorby, Larimer, Amborn, Nick Reck and Derrick Juve are some of the players who figure in the backfield mix.

"I think (carries and yardage) will be more spread out this year,'' Larimer said. "Cole probably will have the biggest numbers. But we have a lot of people who can do the job.''

Whether the line, the backfield-by-committee and the defense all come together remains to be seen.

Thompson goes into the season playing in the shadow of last year's state championship team. But, Schwab says, the Tommies are also in position to reap the benefits of that success.

"These kids have had a taste of what it's like to be successful after going through the grind to achieve it,'' Schwab said. "The seniors last year set the bar high. But these kids had a good offseason. They did everything we expected of them.''