2018 Football Season Preview

Posted on August 28th, 2018 by


SAINT PETER, Minn. – After three weeks of preseason camp, the Gustavus football team is set to kick off its 2018 campaign Saturday in nearby New Ulm, Minn. against Martin Luther College. Last season’s pedestrian 5-5 overall record and 4-4 mark in the MIAC for a fifth-place finish, which was hindered by injuries at key positions, are in the rear-view mirror and expectations are high within the Golden Gustie program.

Gustavus vs. Martin Luther | Watch Live | Live Stats

“We are just trying to stay in the moment in getting prepared for the season,” said Head Coach Peter Haugen, who is in his 10th season at the helm. “The winning and losing will take care of itself. We’re not trying to build this around another 5-5 season. The expectations are high. What gives us the most confidence is what took place in the offseason. The level of commitment that our players showed and the level of leadership they demonstrated was great. It looked like a different team when they came back to practice in the spring, both mentally and physically.”

Michael Veldman


Key losses: none

Players to watch: Michael Veldman (Sr., Becker, Minn.), Carter Kopet (Fy., Cleveland, Minn.), and Brett Hufendick (So., Edina, Minn.)


  • Despite missing four games due to injury last season, Veldman earned MIAC All-Conference honorable mention after leading the team to a 4-2 record. He completed 143-of-227 passes for 1,931 yards, 18 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
  • Kopet set Minnesota State High School League records for completions (798), passing yards (11,214), and passing touchdowns (186) playing nine-man football at Cleveland.

Head Coach Peter Haugen’s comment: “Michael had a great spring and came ready to go this fall. Carter Kopet and Brett Hufendick are battling for the backup spot. I’m excited about the depth at quarterback.”

Running Backs

Key loss: Karim Ortiz

Players to watch: Max Kahn (So., Medina, Minn.) and David Peal (Fy., Worcester, Mass.)


  • Ortiz is gone to graduation after leading the team with 577 yards and six touchdowns.
  • Jamison Beulke (Sr., Montgomery, Minn.), a receiver, is the top returning rusher after posting 55 carries for 264 yards last year.
  • Max Kahn starts the season as RB1 after tallying eight carries for 37 yards last year.

Coach’s comment: “The backfield is still in flux, but our tight end, Brayton Finch (Jr., Mount Morris, Ill.), he will get some carries out of the backfield. Between Max Kahn, Rafael Soriano (Jr., Guadalajara, Mexico), Nate Schroepfer (So., Sleepy Eye, Minn.), and David Peal, there’s really been a good competition.”

Brayton Finch

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

Key losses: None

Players to watch: Brayton Finch and Hunter O’Bert (So., Eden Prairie, Minn.)


  • Finch returns as the starter after leading tight ends last season in catches (28) and yards (412), which garnered MIAC All-Conference Second Team honors.
  • Michael Hensch (Sr., North Branch, Minn.), an All-American thrower on the track & field team, returns to the football squad after taking last season off. As a sophomore, Hensch had seven catches for 61 yards.

Coach’s comment: “Brayton Finch will lead this group. He’s very talented as a receiver and has become really good in the blocking game. He’s a guy that we are going to use in a lot of different places. Michael Hensch and Zachary Jakes (Fy., North Mankato, Minn.) will be the primary fullbacks when we are in a two-tight end set.”


Key loss: Hunter Johnson

Players to watch: Brice Panning (Jr., Hamburg, Minn.), Josh Kirk (Jr., Garvin, Minn.), and Jamison Beulke


  • Kirk led the receiving corps last year with 38 catches for 636 yards and six touchdowns.
  • Panning hauled in the most touchdowns with seven, while catching 27 passes for 397 yards.
  • Buelke averaged a team-high 70.8 receiving yards per game in five appearances at receiver last year.

Coach’s comment: “We have some really talented guys and that group is led by Brice Panning and Josh Kirk. They both have had a really great camp. We have a lot of depth there as well. Jamison Beulke is a huge part of that group with experience in the slot and in the backfield. The group behind them is Ellis Hirman (Sr., Zumbrota, Minn.), Charlie Wachtler (So., White Bear Lake, Minn.), and Todd Johnson (So., Minneapolis, Minn.). We have a lot of guys with talent and who know the system well.”

Tommy Jech

Offensive Line

Key losses: Zach LaFavor, Ethan Stordahl, and Matt VanSomeren

Players to watch: Tommy Jech (Sr., Chatfield, Minn.) and Blake Sikes (Jr., Valrico, Fla.)


  • Jech, a team captain this year, leads the group as the starting center for the second consecutive season.
  • Sikes returns to his left guard position after starting all 10 games last year.

Coach’s comment: “Surrounding Jech at center, Logan Holley (So., Fort Worth, Texas) and Blake Sikes will be our guards with Gunnar Johnson (So., St. Cloud, Minn.) and Tommy Bigaoutte (So., North Mankato, Minn.) at tackle. There are also some young guys that we are excited about in terms of our freshman class.”

Defensive Line

Key losses: Chris Nelson and Kevin Krohn

Players to watch: Sam Jones (So., Jacksonville, Fla.), Zeke Erickson (Jr., Clarks Grove, Minn.), and Tanner Sparrow (Sr., Edina, Minn.)


  • The group lost its top tackler in Krohn to graduation (42 tackles).
  • Erickson is the defensive line’s most experience player having started all 10 games last year with 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Coach’s comment: “The depth on the defensive line is strong. We have about seven guys who we feel will be big contributors on the line.”

Matt Berkner


Key loss: Casey Decker

Players to watch: Matt Berkner (Sr., Sleepy Eye, Minn.) and Jake Boykin (Jr., Las Cruces, N.M.)


  • Gustavus’s lone MIAC First Team All-Conference selection last season in Decker is lost to graduation. Decker led the team with five sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
  • Berkner and Boykin led the team in tackles last season with 69 and 64, respectively. Berkner also led the team with two interceptions. Both Berkner and Boykin are starting middle linebackers for the second-straight season.

Coach’s comment: “Outside of Berkner and Boykin will be Avery Bachman (Jr., St. Peter, Minn.) and Ben Rengel (Sr., Sartell, Minn.). Our linebackers are solid and there is some experience there.”

Defensive Backs

Key losses: Nathan Hajder and Drew Fredericksen

Players to watch: Dutch Claybaugh (Sr., Kaneohe, Hawaii), Brady Miller (Sr., Delano, Minn.), and Jordan Kahlow (Sr., Le Sueur, Minn.)


  • Hajder and Fredericksen led the secondary in tackles last season with 43 and 37, respectively.
  • Claybaugh, Miller, Kahlow, and Matthew Montplaisir (Jr., Buffalo, Minn.) accounted for 123 tackles combined in 2017, led by Claybaugh’s 35.
  • The 2017 secondary made five interceptions.

Coach’s comment: “Dutch Claybaugh has the most experience along with Brady Miller, Matthew Montplaisir, and Jordan Kahlow. Kaleb Scott (Fy., Gardena, Calif.) is an up-and-coming guy at corner who’s had a great camp. Austin Fest (So., West Des Moines, Iowa) and Jake Krull (Jr., Plymouth, Minn.) are coming back from knee injuries at safety.”


Key losses: Brenden Boche and Casey Decker

Players to watch: Brayton Finch and Avery Bachman


  • The starting kicker and punter the past two seasons (Boche and Decker) are both lost to graduation. Boche owns seven school kicking records.
  • Finch will serve as the starting punter and kickoff kicker to start the season.
  • Bachman will return kicks and punts. He led the team in kick returns last year with 17 for 370 yards (21.8 average).

Coach’s comment: “We still have a lot to learn in the kicking game. Brayton Finch is the punter with Bachman as a backup. Finch will handle kickoffs and extra points are still being decided between Sawyer Johnson (Jr., Mounds View, Minn.), Xander DuMoulin, and Jacob Lamb. We are a work in progress.”



2017 STATS


One Comment

  1. Gregg Aamot says:

    Enjoyed reading this season preview. Have a great season, Gusties!