Prep Football

Alburnett expects to spread the ball around in 2018

Pirates have plenty of skill, including South Dakota State commit Matt Barnett

Alburnett's Matthew Barnett watches a coach at football practice at Alburnett High School in Alburnett on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Alburnett's Matthew Barnett watches a coach at football practice at Alburnett High School in Alburnett on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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ALBURNETT — Diversification is the key to success.

You hear it in investing all the time. It can apply to the gridiron, too. And when one of your options is a Division I FCS commit, your stock tends to soar.

“Our strengths this year are being able to spread out the defense while still pounding the ball,” said Alburnett’s Matt Barnett.

The senior verbally committed to South Dakota State in June, but continues to receive interest from Iowa and Iowa State. Defenses in Class A District 5 certainly will take notice of the 6-foot-3 wide receiver this season.

“It was all kind of slow to start,” Barnett said of the recruiting process. “Then during camps it started to pick up. I earned my stripes there and started talking to coaches and getting to know them. It kind of picked up from there.”

When the opposition focuses on Barnett, the Pirates are just as comfortable on the ground. The departure of Tanner Sloan and his 28 touchdowns stings, but Alburnett remains confident in its run game.

“This year, we don’t have to rely on one guy. We didn’t really last year, but Sloan was a big, tough kid,” said head coach Nick Breuer. “Goal line situations were his forte.

“Now, in my opinion, we have a more diversified attack in guys like Mason Wickman, Matt Barnett and Hunter Caves. These are just some of the guys that we’re going to get a lot of production from.”

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Wickman will lineup on both sides of the ball this season. As a junior in 2017, he racked up 13 sacks on defense. Now, he’ll look to add breaking tackles to his repertoire.

“You have to be tough, no matter what side of the ball you’re on,” Wickman said. “You have to be relentless. No matter what, you just keep pounding through.”

Defense looks to be strong again for the Pirates. Alburnett allowed less than 14 points per game last year en route to a 7-2 record. The Pirates shut out two opponents in 2017 and will look to terrorize offenses again this season.

“We are loaded in the middle, especially in the linebacker position,” Wickman said. “Our defensive line is going to be big and fast. Quarterbacks won’t have time to throw the ball.”

Staying healthy will be key in Alburnett’s run to the postseason. Senior quarterback/defensive back Luke Smith is out for the season with an injury, leaving the signal caller up in the air for the Pirates.

“We need to stay healthy and stay focused,” Breuer said. “We need to take every opponent seriously and not look ahead.”

Alburnett, at a glance

Coach: Nick Breuer (2nd year, 7-2; 35-22 overall)

Last year: 7-2 (5-2 Class A-5, no playoffs)

Top returners: WR/OLB Matt Barnett, RB/DL Mason Wickman, OL/LB Holden Sevening, OL/DL Kanan Morris, OL/DL Calvin Gehring, TE/LB Shane Neighbor

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Key to making the playoffs: If the running game can replicate last year’s success, the Pirates could make a strong run to the Dome.

Games to watch: The big games come quickly with a road trip to Vinton-Shellsburg in the opener and a trip to North Linn on Sept. 7. Back-to-back games against Clayton Ridge (Sept. 25 on the road) and Ed-Co (Oct. at home) will be key.

Schedule

Aug. 24 — at Vinton-Shellsburg

Aug. 31 — Highland

Sept. 7 — at North Linn

Sept. 14 — Northeast

Sept. 21 — at Lisbon

Sept. 28 — at Clayton Ridge

Oct. 5 — Edgewood-Colesburg

Oct. 12 — Maquoketa Valley

Oct. 19 — at MFL MarMac

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.