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Centre Cougars gear up for another year

Staff writer

The Centre football team has grown from 12 players last year to 16 this year.

Seven players are returning starters. Two are seniors.

Kyle Naerebout, at 6 feet, 1 inch and 250 pounds, is expected to lead the defense. He was a leading defensive player last year with 28 solo tackles and 38 assists.

Xavier Espinoza plays on both sides of the ball. He was the leading receiver last year, catching 24 balls for 505 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 48 carries in rushing, for 307 yards and six touchdowns. Defensively, he had 19 solo tackles, 18 assists, and six interceptions, three of which resulted in touchdowns. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds.

Braxton Smith, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, is returning as quarterback. Last year, he threw 34 completions, resulting in gains of 667 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Jensen Riffel, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior fullback, is expected to play a major role. Last year he was leading rusher, with 101 carries for 603 yards and 14 touchdowns. Riffel also was strong defensively, with 24 solo tackles, 38 assists, and one interception.

Dalton Stika, a 6-2, 200-pound junior, returns at center and as a defensive lineman.

The other returning starter is Lane Methvin, a 5-10, 170-pound sophomore.

Coach Kelly Steiner expects Aiden Svoboda to be a contributing player. The 5-11, 170-pound junior saw varsity playing time last year.

Other team members include juniors Jacob Hurd and Darius Huggins; sophomores Devin August, Dakota Gardner, Cameron Spohn, and Matthew Madron; and freshmen Luke Hudson, Quinten Bina, and Kyle Peterson.

Steiner is beginning his ninth year as head football coach. Jason Stika and Tim Vinduska are his assistants.

Steiner said every opponent on the schedule will present its own challenges.

“Our goal is to work together as a team to get better every day,” he said. “It will be important to stay healthy and develop some of the younger players to build team depth.”

He said Centre will be playing in a different district this year and will not have to play powerhouses Burlington and Clifton-Clyde. He hopes to improve on last year’s 5-3 record.

The season will open Friday with a home game against Peabody-Burns. District play will begin Oct. 19 at Marais des Cygnes Valley.

Last modified Aug. 30, 2018

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