Jamie LaSalle will be coaching his third team in as many years, but this stop in Miller looks like it is going to last for a long while.
“I am from Miller. That is where I graduated from. Before I got out of college I coached three years (at Miller) with my dad,” LaSalle said. “I plan on building a house in Miller and living there until I die. I have always wanted to coach in my hometown.”
He takes over a program that has won four games in the last two seasons and brings with him wholesale changes. The Cardinals will have a completely new coaching staff along with offensive and defensive schemes for a very young team that has just two seniors out.
“Everything is new and they are very young. We have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing,” LaSalle said. “We want to win as many games as we can this year, but they probably aren’t going to get full understanding of the system until the end of this year. It is going to be a struggle at first to get the plays downs, but not just know the plays but understand what we are trying to do.”
Sophomore Kaul Kleeman will trigger the offense at quarterback after being pressed into service at the position as a freshman due to an injury.
“It is only his second year ever playing the position, but he is a good run threat and a good passing threat. He is cut out for it for sure. It is his natural position in my opinion,” LaSalle said.
Miller will have sophomore Nick Johnson and freshmen Jeffrey Lung and Joel Kleeman split time both running the ball and split out at receiver. Devin Dempster, a 6’4” target who didn’t play last season, will also be a factor in the passing game.
Junior Tyler Franzen is a key leader for the Cardinals on both the offensive and defensive lines. He is a two-year starter who was all-conference honorable mention on the defensive line last season. Logan Brown will also join him up front going both ways. The lines have good size for the Class 1 level according to LaSalle.
The linebacking unit will be keyed by senior Nathan Harlow and sophomore Neilson Hadlock.
LaSalle knows the learning curve will be steep in year one as the head coach of the Cardinals, but hopes are high for his team to pick things up quickly.
“We are going to try to be playing extremely good football by the time we get to districts and being more confident,” LaSalle said. “I could see us improving every week a whole lot because of the youth and the fact that we are inexperienced in a new system.”
Miller will host East Newton, Marionville and Pleasant Hope for a jamboree on Aug. 11.
The Cardinals open the 2017 season on Aug. 18 at Willow Springs.