Coach: Tim Mannigel, 12-31 in fifth year.
Last year: 9-4; lost to West Lafayette 25-21 in regional play.
2013 per-game averages: 28.0 points scored; 17.5 points allowed.
Key losses: David Morrison, Tony Perugini, Billy Fairfield, Alex Kunkel, Conner Batchelder, Jon Poore, Jake Minich.
Key newcomers: Peter Morrison, Daniel Sparks, Devin Sparks.
Key number: 97 - Percentage of offensive output gone with the graduation of David Morrison and Jon Poore.
The Pig says: The Cadets surprised many with last season’s nine-victory campaign, but they will not sneak up on anybody this year. Finding replacements for key cogs offensively is the primary focus. If Concordia Lutheran can do that, another solid season should be on tap.
Offense: The immediate question for the Cadets is who will replace David Morrison and his 3,412 yards passing with 29 touchdowns. The competition is between junior Daniel Sparks and sophomore Peter Morrison, David’s brother. The hope is that one of the two separates himself and holds down the position throughout the season, as coach Tim Mannigel would rather not go with a quarterback by committee. Junior wideout C.J. Morris will be a threat on the outside, and junior Devin Sparks should also command attention from defenses. Running back will see some new faces, as will the offensive line, with center Tariq Jackson the lone starter returning.
Defense: Several mainstays on the defensive side are gone, including linebackers Tony Perugini and Billy Fairfield. Senior cornerback Charles Nagy will be looked upon to provide some leadership, as will several offensive standouts who will be asked to play both ways. Overall, Concordia Lutheran will have plenty of new faces on the defense. It is not necessarily a bad thing, provided the newbies provide the type of sound defense and big-play ability that last year’s defense had.
Special teams: Most of the specialist jobs are up for grabs. Andrew Wick was pretty solid as a point-after-touchdown kicker last season, hitting 46 of 49 on the year. C.J. Morris held down the punting duties a year ago.
What to expect: While some pieces from last year’s sectional championship team are back, David Morrison’s departure leaves some huge questions. The defense will be hard-pressed to be as stout as it was a year ago, and the offensive backfield could struggle to be as effective as the Morrison-Jon Poore duo in 2013. Mannigel says there is some concern, but strictly due to the fact that there are new faces in new places.
Big question: Will this Cadets team be able to overcome adversity? The majority of Concordia Lutheran squads in recent years had a tough time recovering when things went south. That was not the case with last season’s nine-win squad. The Cadets routinely fell down early before fighting back into a game and, in many instances, winning. If this year’s team can have that same demeanor and not hang their heads when they fall down a few touchdowns, it will be another solid campaign.