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Bulldog football looks to experience

With 16 returning starters, the UMD Bulldogs football team is aiming to run through a tough schedule with experience. "Our schedule is as good as you're going to see a Division II schedule," said Kyle "Bubba" Schweigert, UMD Bulldogs head footbal...

With 16 returning starters, the UMD Bulldogs football team is aiming to run through a tough schedule with experience.

"Our schedule is as good as you're going to see a Division II schedule," said Kyle "Bubba" Schweigert, UMD Bulldogs head football coach. "Our first three opponents all played in the postseason last year. They're all ranked in the top 20. Later in the year, we have another top 10 team coming to town."

The Bulldogs' first three opponents this season are Bemidji State, Missouri Western State and South Dakota. All of those games will be at home.

Leading the way this season will be the team captains: junior quarterback Ted Schlafke and senior inside linebackers Jon Rufledt and Nate Fears.

"All three of those guys are three-year starters in our program and that is where our leadership starts," Schweigert said.

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According to Phil Longo, UMD's offensive coordinator, junior wide receivers Tony Doherty and Luke Schalekamp, along with sophomores Baylor Radtke and Tim Kennicker, will be helping the offensive cause.

"The landscape is a little different," said Longo in regards to losing five wide receivers from last year's team.

One of those players was Greg Aker. He was the school's third all-time leading receiver.

This loss paved the way for some new blood. Freshman receivers Noah Pauley from Duluth Central and D.J. Winfield from Mountain Iron-Buhl High School are hoping to make an impact.

Giving time for the quarterback to throw to receivers will be a veteran offensive line, including Russel Foster, who made the All-North Central Conference Second Team, along with Matt Horvath, Tobias Lemke and Mitch Cady.

Senior Joe Russel and junior Marek Seta will help lead the running attack. They combined for 180 yards on the ground last season.

According to Schlafke, the offense is getting more mature.

The way they handle themselves in tough situations should be evidence for that this season, he said.

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Other than Fears and Rufledt on the defensive side of the ball, the team will look to a strong core at safety with juniors Jim Johnson and Tyler Yelk.

"We're pretty set at safety," said Jon Steger, the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs. "I think we're really athletic."

The cornerback position may be a different story.

"The biggest question mark for us will be at corner," said Steger. "We (still) have to figure out who the starters will be."

Some of the names vying for corner include senior Eric Castellano, freshman Forest Clements, sophomores Cole Strilzuk and Brandon Wood and junior Stanley Edouard.

The defensive line will have more of a veteran feel. Junior defensive end Dustin Timmersman, senior nose guard Scott Syverson and senior end Matt Beck are projected to be starters.

These players, however, will not have an easy path to becoming a starter.

According to Schweigert, there is some strong talent coming up through the ranks.

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The special teams will also have some experience. The Bulldogs have senior kickers Britt Baumann and Luke Radke returning.

With so many returning players, one should see more leadership on and off the field.

"Our staff worked hard throughout the spring and the summer getting ready for this year," said Schweigert. "The continuity really helps. Obviously, in the first three days of practice, you can see our offensive staff was retained."

Not only did the staff work hard, so did many of the players.

"Our summer training went very well," said Schweigert. "We had the majority of our team here through the summer time and our guys are reporting to camp in shape."

According to a North Central Conference media poll, the Bulldogs are projected to finish fifth in their conference. A coaches poll put them at fourth.

Bulldog's home football schedule

Sept. 1 Bemidji State at 6 p.m.

Sept. 8 Missouri Western State at 6 p.m.

Sept. 15 South Dakota* at 6 p.m.

Sept. 29 Western Washington** at 1 p.m.

Oct. 13 MSU-Mankato* at 1 p.m.

Oct. 27 North Dakota* at 1 p.m.

*Denotes North Central Conference game

** Denotes Homecoming/Hall of Fame game

To buy tickets call 726-8595. Home games are played at Malosky Stadium at UMD.

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