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Football preview: Defense key to Agates' 2018 success

Two Harbors senior Ricky Brenna (42) makes a tackle in a 41-14 win over Duluth Denfeld in 2017. (News-Chronicle file)

A funny thing happened to the Two Harbors football team last season.

Just a year after being one of the most porous defenses in Section 7AAA, the Agates turned it around and allowed more than 14 points just once all season: a 20-10 loss to Proctor in the section playoffs semifinal.

The Agates' 2018 squad returns two of the best linebackers in the area, Mason Meyer and Ricky Brenna, and a nasty defensive line anchored by Steven Keech, who verbally committed to play football at the University of North Dakota in July.

"They are just athletic kids and they are so cerebral," coach Tom Nelson said. "Mentally, they understand the game. We're excited about the D-line, our linebackers and our defensive backs. We aren't going to be the biggest team out there, but we hope our athleticism will help us out with that."

The bigger question for the Agates headed into the season is the offense, which has to replace leading rusher Spencer Ross and quarterback Ryan Darsow, who are both playing at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth this season.

Cole Komarek will step into the quarterback role and Brenna, Meyer and Andrew Hulst will split carries in Nelson's double-wing, run-heavy attack. Jayden Ruberg will move from the offensive backfield to tight end. Nelson hopes the tall, athletic senior will be able to catch a pass or two when the time is right.

"We joke about it more than anybody. When are we going to pass more?" Nelson said. "Our recipe for success is running the ball. We will throw, but you've got to be able to protect and throw and you gotta be able to catch it."

The biggest question marks are on the offensive line, where Two Harbors will be most inexperienced. Keech has moved over to offensive tackle this season and fellow senior Jackson Leon will see even more playing time.

If the Agates can get some solid play from an inexperienced offensive line, the defense and offensive skill players are good enough to have Two Harbors playing for a spot in the state playoffs for the first time since 1977.

Two Harbors' season began Friday, Aug. 24, at Crosby-Ironton.

Radio schedule

All Two Harbors football away games will be broadcast live on KTWH-LP 99.5 Two Harbors Community Radio. Coverage begins at 6:55 p.m., with Two Harbors alumnus Will Peterson again providing play-by-play commentary.

Sept. 7 Esko

Sept. 28 Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin

Oct. 1 Eveleth-Gilbert

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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