Some of the preseason high school football polls have been released and the Marion Indians don't see their names anywhere.
That's OK with Coach Tony Perkins, who knows how these things work, but it's not OK with some of his players.
"That's huge motivation," senior Ethan Herren remarked. "Everybody is doubting us now. All these preseason rankings ... Marion is nothing now. We're nothing to nobody.
"We have a lot to prove."
Marion is normally a playoff contender and top-10 club in Class 3A, but the Indians took a nosedive last year after starting the season with a 4-1 record. They lost their last four games, finished 4-5 and missed the playoffs, so it's no great surprise they've been snubbed in the rankings.
Perkins shrugs it off. One year, he had a team that was ranked No. 1 and didn't make the playoffs. Other years, they've been unranked and had good seasons.
"I kind of like coming in with no ranking at the beginning of the year and just picking people off," Perkins said. "We're very excited and we're very confident in what we're going to be doing."
The Indians had only eight seniors on the ballclub last year and that inexperience caught up to them as the season wore on. "Absolutely," Perkins said. "We were missing a few key ingredients for last year's team."
Marion has 26 seniors this year and many of them gained valuable experience in 2011. They want to leave as winners.
"Everybody is out there wanting it bad," said Herren, a tight end/linebacker who has a college scholarship offer from North Dakota. "Everyone is working their butts off. We're athletes now. I mean,
everybody wants it."
The entire offensive line returns, including a pair of massive tackles in Zach Borens (6-foot-8, 345 pounds) and Mitch Ross (6-2, 300). Tristan Beghtol and Justin Dolley are the starting guards, and the center could be Kyle Grandon.
Perkins said Borens weighed 395 pounds earlier in his career before getting in much better shape. "He's 6-8 and has dropped down to a little, little tiny 345," he said, smiling. "He runs well now. Quick feet."
Borens, a good-natured guy, said he never weighed 395.
"No, not quite," he said. "Probably around 360 when I got here. Coach likes to exaggerate."
Borens moved to Marion several years ago from Wisconsin and is a big fan of the Badgers. Wisconsin, Iowa and Iowa State have been following his career and he attended their camps this summer, but nobody has made an offer yet.
"He's on everybody's radar," Perkins said. "With linemen, you have to have that killer instinct. If you're a nice kid, you have to prove it on film."
They'll start rolling the cameras again when the Indians open the season at Mount Pleasant on Aug. 24.
"He has a lot of people talking to him," Perkins said. "They've talked to me several times."
Perkins thinks his big, experienced offensive line could be the key to success this year, especially with considerable talent at the skill positions.
He's named Trevor Hardman as the starting quarterback and has Trev Biery working as the No. 1 tailback, followed by Tyler Gunderson. Andrew Davis, Quinn Cannoy and Ben Buckley are the top wide receivers, with Herren and Isaac Frazier at tight end.
Biery weighs 220 pounds and is deceptively fast for a big man.
"He moves extremely well," Perkins said. "He's a lot quicker than people think. He's got some size to him. He's a strong kid, and a big kid."
Colton Storla was the featured tailback last year when he rushed for 1,222 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. Biery carried the ball 57 times for 329 yards, a healthy average of 5.8 yards per crack.
"I'm a bigger kid," Biery said, "but I'd say I have good speed. Not breakaway speed, but I've always had good speed."
The Indians have a big offensive line and a big tailback, which could result in some smash-mouth football.
"We're Marion. We run the football," Perkins said. "With this offensive line it's going to be exciting. They are very powerful."
Biery is also a starting linebacker, and Perkins plans to rotate players to keep all of his two-way players as fresh as possible.
The Indians have to replace all-state linebacker Jake McDonald on defense and fill a few other spots, but Perkins is confident he'll have a strong defense.
Perkins is heading into his 14th season as Marion's head coach with an overall record of 91-32 with six trips to the playoffs. He's anxious to get started so the Indians can't get rid of that sour taste in their mouths from last season's losing record.
"They definitely know that can't happen here," he said. "They understand the tradition."
Part of that tradition is walking off the field after games, two by two, as Perkins chants "We are the Indians!" This past week, the Indians put on their game jerseys and quietly walked two-by-two from Marion High School to a nearby church in support of Justin Dolley, whose father, Scott, died on Aug. 3 at the age of 51.
Aug. 24 -- at Mount Pleasant
Aug. 31 -- Decorah
Sept. 7 -- Anamosa
Sept. 14 -- at Washington (Iowa)
Sept. 21 -- Maquoketa
Sept. 28 -- at Benton Community
Oct. 5 -- Solon
Oct. 12 -- Clear Creek-Amana
Oct. 19 -- at DeWitt Central
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