AUBURN – The Auburn football team returns five starters from last year’s 8-2 playoff team, their most successful season since the Bulldogs won their lone state championship in 2006.
Auburn held their first practice on a sun-drenched, 86-degree afternoon on Monday at the high school, lasting two and half hours. It’s the first day fall sports teams can hold official practices, according to the Nebraska School Activities Association.
Tony Janssen, entering his fourth season as the head coach, says they get back a lot of guys with speed, talent, experience and knowledge of the game.
“Up front, we got some guys that we have some confidence in that can do some good things. We’re just not nearly as experienced there. That’s the big thing we know going forward. If we want to build on the success we had last year, it’s about building the starting five, but also building some depth beyond that.”
The Bulldogs return three starters on the offensive line, including senior center Caden Chapin, senior guard TJ Roybal and senior tight end Branden Lavigne. Sophomores Weston Reiman and Ethan Phillips, and juniors Colton Chapin and Keenan Hamilton are expected to help add depth along the line.
Senior quarterback Drew Dixon, who rushed for 943 yards and 11 touchdowns and threw for 365 yards and two scores last season, eagerly says it feels “alright” to have so much experience back in front of him.
“We got people going hard. They’re putting work in. We’ll be alright.”
Dixon will also have his 1,000-yard rusher back this season. Senior Baily Darnell rushed for 1,156 yards and 20 touchdowns before missing the final two games of the season, including their first round loss to Boone Central/Newman Grove in the Class C1 playoffs. Sophomores Brody Darnell, Cameron Binder and Turner Arban are also expected to get carries this season.
Colton Chapin and Lavigne figure to lead the defensive front this fall. Chapin had 67 tackles a year ago, while Lavigne added 58 and 11 tackles for loss.
Auburn will compete in the Class C1-1 district with Lincoln Lutheran, Lincoln Christian, Ashland-Greenwood, Falls City and Nebraska City. They begin the season on Aug. 24 at Fairbury.
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