Building lines to key Bears’ success this fall

Bonduel returns top three rushers from 2016
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Leader photo by Chris Caporale Bonduel senior linebacker Eli Mastey tracks down a pass play at practice on Wednesday. Mastey, who is also the team’s leading rusher, is one of many seniors leading the Bears into the fall season.

Although there’s stability in the backfield at Bonduel High School, new offensive linemen are going to be the key to finding success on the ground this fall.

The Bears, with their top three running backs returning, lost Brent Pieper, Josh Richter, Adrien Keiler and Sam Griesbach, all on the offensive and defensive lines, which has head coach James Westrich looking for replacements.

“A lot of competition for those spots right now,” Westrich said. “So that’s definitely our No. 1 priority right now is getting that line secured.”

Eli Mastey and Jacob Banker combined for nearly 1,400 rushing yards last season, while flex player Jordan Boldt rushed for 457 yards and added over 100 receiving yards on the season. Wyatt Erb, who was the team’s fourth-leading rusher with 259 yards, suffered a leg injury and will miss the fall season.

Ball security, however, was an issue for the running back group, which prided itself on running through defenders.

“We got strong runners, and a lot of the time they had fumbles after trying to break tackles,” Westrich said. “We’ve got to make sure we secure the ball, first and foremost, and just play as a group better, so it all looks the same.”

The Bears, who went 7-3 last season overall and 4-2 in the CWC-8, lost 28-0 to Spencer/Columbus Catholic in the WIAA Level 1 playoffs in Division 5. Bonduel’s only other losses came in back-to-back weeks, a 27-14 contest to Iola-Scandinavia and a 42-22 game against Amherst.

Bonduel was 7-0 when allowing fewer than 26 points per game, and the defense could see improvements this fall with the return of the majority of linebackers and secondary.

“We got a good amount of everybody back,” said Mastey, who also plays linebacker for the Bears. “We lost a couple kids to injuries, but I think the main focus is just the fundamentals of the game would help us improve the most on defense.”

Of the eight seniors that graduated this spring, Brandon Olsen was the only player not on the offensive or defensive lines. Olsen led the Bears with 646 receiving yards while no other player had more than 10 receptions all season.

Having more seniors on this year’s team could be beneficial in terms of leadership, Westrich believes. Fifteen juniors played last season, and Westrich has seen a lot of positives out of the group through the first seven days of practice.

“A lot of leadership out of the seniors, and the underclassmen are really responding to that,” Westrich said. “So, hopefully we can continue that.”

Junior Parker Bohm remains at quarterback after his first season under center. Bohm completed just under 45 percent of his passes while throwing for 804 yards and five touchdowns.

“This year, we’re looking to see a little more confidence out of him, making quicker decisions whether he’s going to run or pass, being confident with his decision,” Westrich said.

Bonduel, which moved into the CWC-Large this fall, will only have two nonconference games (Coleman and Peshtigo), as Manawa will now compete in the Large conference. The Bears open their season Aug. 18 at home against Coleman.