DUBUQUE (KWWL) - They lost some big names over in Dubuque with Hempstead's Josh Lenz going to Iowa State and Wahlert's Eric May becoming a Hawkeye. But the cupboard is not bare.
Ask anyone on the team and they'll tell you, without a doubt, Josh Lenz is impossible to replace. A shrine bowl MVP, possible starter for the Cyclones this year, not to mention his versatility last year for the mustangs. But with 12 returning letterman, they're using everyone to help pull the mustangs ahead this season.
On a rainy afternoon the Hempstead football team is still practicing.
"We just tell teem 'hey you're gonna practice. You're gonna playing the rain so we're gonna practice in the rain and it's a lot of fun anyway to play in the mud," said Coach Mark Ehlers.
With their first game a week away, conditions like this, are helping prepare this year's team.
"We've been meshing real good together. Great group of guys we all get along, it's going pretty good so far," said senior captain and quarterback Mark Ehlers.
And so far, everyone is stepping up to fill the void of Iowa State recruit Josh Lenz.
"You can't replace Josh Lenz, he's a great football player, great person but basically it's been by committee. We've had a lot of different people playing running back," said senior captain Brock Haas.
With 12 returning letterman, including Brock Haas, Matt Ehlers, Ben Henderson, Kyle Reinert, and Dylan Hefel, all who saw playing time last year, coach Ehlers says it's the hard work in the off season that will pay off this year.
"These kids worked so hard after the end of the season last year. We said 'you know what, josh is gone. Now it's your turn.' and they've gone a great job. They're so excited to play. I think people are gonna be surprised," said Ehlers.
Of course it's not surprise this years team wants to make it back to the playoffs - and shoot for a state title. But for now, it's one game at a time.
'You can't get thinking too far ahead of yourself. You start looking past people and that's when you get beat. So you just relax, take it slow and get the job done," said Haas.
12 returning letterman means big things for this years team. They kick off their season on the road against Iowa City West next week. But week two they host cross town rival, Dubuque Wahlert at Dalzell. Wahlert's story is very similar, loosing Eric May to the Hawkeye basketball program. But they've got eleven returning starters. That's a match up worth waiting for.