Fort Calhoun senior Tyler Strauss can tell you why he plays football.

“I've had a love for the game since I was young,” he said Wednesday before practice. “Me and my family, like, bonded over it. Every Saturday we'd watch college football and I wanted to grow up and be like the players I saw on TV.”

The returning all-state honorable mention receiver can also tell you what he enjoys about the game.

“You get to make the play. You get to be the star,” Strauss said. “It's in your own control.”

But he and his teammates, most importantly, can also tell you what to expect out of their offense in 2019 after it showed glimpses of excellence during a 1-8 2018 campaign.

“Last year, we had a pretty good passing game, I would say,” Strauss said. “And this year, we're looking for the Dierks brothers to step up and have two good seasons running the ball. That'll just open up the game for the pretty talented wide receivers that we have.”

Clint and Dillon Dierks will be running behind an offensive line unit that includes senior Cole Klabunde.

“I'm excited to see how it goes every year, but this year it seems like we have a lot more potential than we've had lately,” the veteran lineman said. “From line to quarterback, running back and wide receivers, I think there's just a lot more talent there than we've had.”

Klabunde has high expectations of his position group, which includes Billy Coon and Malachi King. But he, in particular, has his eye on the guys blocking with him on the interior — sophomores Jayce Douchey and John Doyle.

“They're young, they're big and they're athletic,” Klabunde said. “They've looked real good all offseason.”

Those lineman will play in support of an experienced group of Pioneer skill position players. Quarterback Grant Halford and Strauss connected in the passing game for more than 500 yards, while Kaden Therkildsen and Michael Shirley are also expected to contribute as pass catchers.

“Having experience with the quarterback is big,” Strauss said, speaking to the trust between he and Halford. “Me and him are established.”

Klabunde, meanwhile, said he has no problem having those guys produce the headlines this fall.

“I just like knowing for myself that everything good that happens wouldn't have happened without me,” he said.

While improving from 1-8 stands as a large goal for the Fort Calhoun squad, it doesn't hurt having additional motivation. It begs one more question of Strauss. Who does the Pioneer play for?

“Me and my dad,” he said “(Football) was our biggest bond.”

Steve Strauss died in 2015 before his son became a high school standout.

“That's the goal, to make him proud,” Tyler said. “He wished he could've played college football. He just didn't have the grades.”

Though he also wants to win games and reach the Class C1 playoffs, one of the receiver's biggest goals is to earn his own college scholarship. But does he have the academic scores to play at the next level?

“I wouldn't say a 4.0, but … ,” the receiver said, the smile on his face growing.

They'll keep studying, but Tyler and his Fort Calhoun offense are out to prove they have the skills on the field, too.

Fort Calhoun Football

Pioneers football coach Andrew Christensen talks to his team Wednesday during a rainy practice at Fort Calhoun High School.

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