CHERRY — The 2019 season was the first for the Cherry High School football team after a three-year hiatus from the sport.
The Tigers finished 6-3, gaining the No. 3 seed in the section playoffs.
Cherry didn’t win the section title last season, but Tiger coach Jason Marsh is hoping for bigger and better things this season when the Tigers open the 2020 season Friday at Cook County in Grand Marais.
Why the optimism?
“It was a satisfying year,” Marsh said. “It went about as good as we could have hoped. We were playing teams in the state tournament the prior year, in our first year. We worked hard. We competed.
“The seniors led the way. We were pleased with how they performed. We’re looking to take another step this year.”
Whether or not Cherry can do that will fall upon the shoulders of the seniors Nick Peterson, Mason Perkovich, Jacob Barker and Nathan Linder.
Both Linder and Barker are the captains.
“Nathan is a hard-working kid, one of those that leads by example,” Marsh said. “He makes everybody better. Jacob, he started to flourish on the defensive side of the ball. He can sniff out that ball, so he’ll be one of our leaders on defense.”
Peterson and Perkovich will be more noticeable offensively.
“We’re expecting a lot out of them as our running backs,” Marsh said. “They will be playmakers. They will be a big part of our offense.”
The junior class is led by Beau Barry, who will be the Tigers’ quarterback.
“He’s doing a good job of settling in and understanding the offense,” Marsh said. “He handles pressure well. He’s picking up the new things quickly. He’s a hard-nosed runner, which adds a dimension to our offense that will be beneficial.
“I have a lot of confidence in him. I like what he’s doing so far.”
The other juniors are Matt Kloss at wingback; Cole Harrington at fullback; Zach Carpenter, who was injured last year, but he’s back healthy this season; Blaine Fleetwood at guard; Payton Witcher on defense; and Nick and Sam Serna.
Nick will be the back-up quarterback. Sam will play wherever Marsh needs him to play.
Two sophomores, Jacob Koskela at center and Evan Graves at end will see field time as well.
Offensively, Marsh won’t pigeonhole his team into any category.
“We’ll see where the talent is,” he said. “We never have to do this or that, be a running team, a passing team or a smash-mouth team. We’ll play to our players’ strengths. We did that last year, and we’ll continue to do that this year.
“We seem to have good quickness, and we have a few more kids. We should be deeper.”
“We still have guys fighting for spots,” Marsh said. “We’ve come a long way from not having a team to being deeper. Having that depth could prove to be important in this strange sason.”
How efficiently the Tigers’ offense runs will be dependent on the offensive line.
“Our line should be stronger than last year’s,” Marsh said. “We have three starters returning from a young line last year. Even with the young guys last year, we were able to run the ball. This year, I expect more.”
Defensively, seven-of-the-nine starters return.
“You never know until the first game, but at least on paper, we should be improved on defense,” Marsh said. “Our quickness is going to be a strength, and we’ve got a smart team. The kids are picking up the systems quickly.
“That makes it easier to add some wrinkles when the kids are picking stuff up.”
If things work out, the Tigers may just improve on a successful 2019 season.
“Our mantra is underpromise and over deliver,” Marsh said. “We hope and expect to take a step forward from last year.”