A year ago this week, White Bear Lake football snapped a two-year losing streak, rallying to beat Centennial 28-27 in the 2018 opener.

With that win, snapping an 0-16 skid, the Bears launched a return to respectability, posting a 4-1 start before finishing 4-5 as a couple close games went the other way down the stretch.

The 2018 team got program back on its feet and the 2019 squad hopes to keep it upright, beginning Thursday evening with the opener against Anoka at home, 7 p.m.

The Bears return seven starters on defense and three on offense with vacancies filled by players moving up from a 6-2 junior varsity.

“Team strengths are speed and athleticism. Main concerns are depth and injuries,” assessed coach Ryan Bartlett, not one for making predictions. He’s especially wary of depth on the lines.

In Saturday’s scrimmages, he noted, “The kids are getting to their spots quickly. They were flying around on defense and they tackled well.”

Holdovers from the 2018 defense (which allowed 27 points per game) are the leading tacklers, Brad Snook, Grant Napgezek and Mitchell Landsberger, and the top pass defenders, Anders Fischer and Spencer Oxton.

Competing for the quarterback slot are senior Will Menier and junior Braden Berwald, who helmed the junior varsity and sophomore offenses, respectively, last season. Carrying the ball will be Brice Peters (returning starter), Cam Zaleski, and Jeff Odamtten.

“Our backfield is fast. We had some explosive wide receivers last year, but will probably run more this year,” the coach said.

Anchoring the offensive line is senior William LeMire, a returning starter, who, at 280 pounds, is agile enough to be the lacrosse team’s goalie the past two seasons. Bartlett thinks he’s probably as good as any lineman in the conference.

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