When Mark Raetz talks about his first Northview High School football team, the hesitancy in his voice is obvious.
Some of that is because he hasn’t seen the Knights play in a real game yet. Raetz does make it clear he isn’t worried about the character or toughness.
Raetz may sound hesitant because everything is new to the Northview football program. The offense and defense are new to the players. The players and opponents are new to a first-year coaching staff.
After six years of guiding a Terre Haute South program that was an underdog nearly every game in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, Raetz takes over a Northview program that has won eight of the last 11 Western Indiana Conference championships and, as the largest school in the league, is always one of the favorites.
“It’s going to be different to come in and be the bigger school, but at the same time we’re going to focus on the same things [we did at South]. We’re going to focus on our execution, our effort, our preparation. Making sure we’re ready to perform week in, week out at a high level,” Raetz said.
Raetz took some drives this summer just to find out where some opponents are located.
“This is going to be a learning experience for me this season. We’re going to be playing a lot of teams that are new to me. I feel like we’ve had a good summer and I feel like we’ve got a good team, but I haven’t seen our opponents in person [and] it’s hard for me to compare what we’re like relative to who we will be playing,” Raetz said.
Nathan Hopf is the lone returnee of the Northview coaching staff and he works with linebackers and junior varsity. Dennis Raetz, the former Indiana State coach and father of the head coach, is a volunteer assistant working with linemen and will call the defense. John Szabo has been with Mark Raetz since their Ohio coaching days and will work with receivers and quarterbacks.
Aaron Edwards will coach the offensive line and David White the running backs. Marty Hendricks is the freshman coach and Brandon Butcher is his assistant.
“At this time of year we’re optimistic. We feel like we have a good senior class, we got a lot of senior linemen, but we’re going to be young at spots. We’re going to be playing quite a few sophomores,” Raetz said.
Northview played a lot of freshmen last year en route to a 3-7 record and now they will be sophomore starters. There could be as many as five sophomores starting on defense when Northview opens the season at Indianapolis Broad Ripple on Friday.
Most of Northview’s varsity experience is on the offensive and defensive lines. Seniors Logan Mikles (6-foot, 215), Corbin Fretz (6-1, 245), Brock Gardner (6-1, 230), Lucas Cooksey (6-0, 260), Kyle Evans (5-6, 220), Justice Buchholz (6-0, 180) and Daniel Kimball (6-6, 240) are returning starters, as well as sophomore Justin Nevins (6-0, 240).
The Knights will play a multiple offense, sometimes with two backs and two tight ends and sometimes spread all over the field, as they often were under former coach George Gettle.
“I would say we want to establish the run first, but we need to have the ability to throw the ball effectively against some of the teams we play,” Raetz said.
Sophomore quarterback Tucker Stewart (6-0, 160) can run and pass. He went through a baptism under fire as a freshman on the varsity and obviously earned the respect of teammates as he was voted a team captain along with Buchholz, Gardner and Kelly Hawkins
“I think [Stewart] can run the ball effectively. He’s really, in my mind, what you would consider a dual-threat [pass or run] type of quarterback. So our offense will reflect his strengths,” Raetz said
Running back is a multiple question mark. Who will fill the shoes of Jesse Miller, the powerful fullback and linebacker who graduated?
The Knights may rotate among seniors Hawkins (5-8, 170) and Jacob Little (5-10, 165), junior Derek Mills (6-1, 220) or sophomores Ben Girton (5-9, 170) and Jacob Dean (5-8, 215). Little, as one of the fastest Knights, will also return kicks and punts.
Raetz has a lot of confidence in senior tight ends Kimball and Buchhoz.
“We’ve got pretty good tight ends,” the coach said.
Northview’s receiving corp will be made up of senior Tyler Rector (5-11, 140), junior Kade Carter (6-0, 160) and sophomores Hunter Ragan (6-4, 175), Liam Jones (5-9, 160) and Gavin Johnson (5-10, 175).
Nevins, Mikles, Evan and Gardner will share two defensive tackle positions and Kimball, Mills, Buchholz and Fretz will split time at the ends.
Dean will be an inside linebacker with either senior Connor Pierce (5-8, 180) or sophomore Marcus Duregger (5-11, 175). Either senior Austin Vaughn (5-5, 175) and sophomore Levi Riggle (5-11, 160) will be the strong safety with Girton and Hawkins at safeties and senior Chase Haring (5-11, 150), Jones and Rector working at cornerbacks.
Senior placekicker Trey Boor (5-8, 160) returns for his fourth varsity season and may also do some punting. Senior punter Mark Underwood (6-1, 160) will split time between football and soccer.
“The key with us is we got to get better every day and take it one day at a time. Right now we’re focusing on playing Indianapolis Broad Ripple,” Raetz said.
Friday — At Indianapolis Broad Ripple, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30 — Edgewood*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 — Terre Haute North, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — Sullivan* at Lucas Oil Stadium, 11 a.m.
Sept. 20 — Owen Valley*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 — Vincennes Lincoln, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — At South Vermillion*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — West Vigo*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 — At Brown County*, 7:30 p.m.
* — Western Indiana Conference games