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BROOKLYN — Taking over at quarterback for a team that finished 11-1 is a tough task.
For BGM senior Jayce Knight, the pressure of repeating that record may be the least challenging part.
Not only is Knight switching from wide receiver, where he led the team with 32 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2015, he’s also coming off shoulder surgery. Knight went under the knife in November to repair a torn muscle in his right shoulder. One shoulder screw and four months of rehab later, Knight was cleared to resume activity.
Now he’s the Bears’ quarterback.
“The biggest transition for me is getting my arm back in shape,” Knight said. “As a receiver I didn’t have to throw, but I did catch some passes where I popped my shoulder out.
“I just want to keep myself healthy this season and keep my shoulder in good shape.”
This isn’t Knight’s first time under center. He played some quarterback as a freshman, but injuries limited his playing time. Knight then switched to receiver as a sophomore and led the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
The change in positions hasn’t been without some help. In addition to the coaching staff, Knight also has received some extra tutelage from his father, Jeff, who played quarterback at Waverly Shell-Rock in the early 1990s.
“One thing I struggled with when I was younger was throwing the ball ahead of the receiver, so we worked on that a lot,” Knight said. “We also worked on my footwork. My footwork has improved a lot over the last couple of years.”
The quarterback position will play a key role in a new offensive style. Head coach Jerrod Burns hopes to employ a new approach to take advantage of team speed.
“It’ll be tough,” Burns said. “It will be a completely new style of offense for us. We probably won’t just line up and run it at people 30 times per game.”
Part of that is because the Bears also will need to replace starting running back Colton Massengale, who finished second in Class A last season with 1,791 yards. Burns said that will not be an easy task this season.
“We’re going to be really green,” Burns said. “We have a lot of kids playing for the first time, but we have some pretty good athletes.
“We had a heck of a track team last season and we had a good JV football team. We have a really solid nucleus and I think we are going to be pretty explosive.”
The Bears will face a brutal schedule this season, with defending state champions Gladbrook-Reinbeck visiting Brooklyn on Sept. 23. The following week, the Bears will travel to Hudson, which finished 8-3 in 2015 in Class 1A. All told, BGM will only face two opponents who had losing records last season (GMG and North Tama).
“Our district is really deep,” Burns said. “We have four or five really good teams and the defending state champions.
“Every win is important. There is no room for error.”
• Coach: Jerrod Burns (13th year, 79-42)
• Last year: 11-1 (Lost in quarterfinals to eventual state champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck)
• Top returning letterwinners: Jayce Knight, Eric Weiss, Vaughn Irlbeck, Christian Sousley, Price Hall, Kalvon Steffen, Dylan Steffen, Kyle Kilmer, David McCammant, Keegan Hames, Kendall Bunn
• Key losses: QB Tanner Jansen; RB Colton Massengale; WR/DB Kaiden Fiebelkorn; RB Dalton Jack
• Key to making the playoffs: The Bears will need to quickly master a new offensive philosophy to remain competitive in a loaded Class A, District 5 field.
• Games to watch: Sept. 23 vs. Gladbrook Reinbeck; Sept. 30 at Hudson. The midseason matchups against defending Class A state champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck and Class 1A playoff qualifier Hudson will test the mettle of the Bears.