Head coach: Jeremy Lowery, first year at La Porte, 21-4 in third year overall
Staff: Austin Epple, Steve Forker, Bob James, Bob Holmes, David Ortiz, Rob Schellinger, Ryan Sosinski, Zach Sliwa, Ed Sliwa, Jeremy Ruff, Louie Kuzdas.
Last year: 4-7, (3-4 Duneland Athletic Conference), lost in Class 5A sectional final to Michigan City, 49-7
Schedule: Aug. 23, New Prairie, 7; Aug. 30, at Penn, 6:30; Sept. 6, Valparaiso*, 7; Sept. 13, at Chesterton*, 7; Sept. 20, Lake Central*, 7; Sept. 27, at Merrillville*, 7; Oct. 4, at Crown Point*, 7; Oct. 11, Michigan City, 7; Oct. 18, Portage*, 7.
* — Duneland Athletic Conference game
Basic formations: Flexbone offense (multiple formations), 3-5-3 defense
Key losses: LB Noah Perez (71 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack); OL Brandon Seibert (Indiana North All-Star), DL Kaleek Biggers (13 tackles, 21 assists, 6 TFL, 2 sacks), RB Caleb Kuzdas (445 yards rushing, 1 touchdown); QB Caleb Kirkham (316 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns), CB/returner Parker Hill (169 return yards, 24 tackles, 3 interceptions).
Returning starters: 10 (6 offense, 4 defense)
Key returners: RB/DB Isaac ‘Sunshine’ Alexander, 5-10, 185, Sr. (755 yards rushing, 7 TDs, 37 tackles, 19 assists, 3 TFL); OL Alex Lewis, 6-3, 320, Sr.; DL Jorden Steinhiser, 6-0, 300, Jr. (22 tackles, 14 assists, 5 TFL); RB Collin Bergquist, 6-0, 180, So. (523 yards rushing, 5 TDs, 134 yards receiving); RB/DB Jeramiah Ruiz, 5-10, 160, Jr. (295 yards rushing, 6 TDs); LB Zach Purnell, 5-9, 200, Sr. (38 tackles, 34 assists, 5 TFL, 1 fumble recovery), LB Austin Buda, 6-4, 205, Sr. (16 tackles, 10 assists, 1 INT).
Key newcomers: RB/DB Jayden Parkes, 5-9, 170, So.; WR/DB Brady Bernth, 5-10, 150, So.; Robbie Kiner, 6-2, 180, Jr.; Jack McGuire 6-2, 145, Jr.; DL Javant Hodges, 6-1, 260, Jr. (Michigan City transfer)
Outlook: With a new coach, a new offense — although somewhat similar to last year — and some fresh player faces, it's largely been a transition period in the offseason and pre-season for La Porte. There's been a time of adjustment for both the players and coaches. They're aiming to set the tone for the whole campaign.
"The big thing we want to get right is the culture,” Lowery said. “We feel like we're doing that. We want our kids to understand who we are, what we stand for, what we're about, how we want to practice, how we want to play. And I really feel like they're starting to figure that out and that's a good start.”
In their flexbone offense, the Slicers will feature several formations and won't prioritize any particular player.
"We will definitely be an offense by committee," Lowery said. "We're not going to be able to line up and knock people off the ball or be faster or be stronger than anybody we play. Our strength is going to be our ability to spread the ball around and to be able to attack different points of the football field. That's what we're working hard at."
La Porte will rely on Alexander as well as Bergquist on offense. "Alexander is a nice returning skill player," Lowery said. "He played a lot of downs and was very successful. Bergquist started a lot of games as a freshman. You can just tell he's ready to take the next step as a sophomore, a physical kid. Lewis is a heck of a football player. He's going to have a great season." Parkes could also be a difference maker as he gains experience. "He's just got a burst," Lowery said. "He was blessed with some wonderful talent on being able to run the football."
Lowery will focus on passing more regularly than LP has previously. "Our basic philosophy is we do like to push the ball down the field in the throw game a little bit more than most flexbone teams," he said. "We're trying to get better at that each and every day." Lowery said the team's really excited about Bernth, adding he's a heck of a receiver, in addition to being in the secondary at times.
Defensively, the Slicers will count on their players up front to lead the charge. "I really like our defensive line," Lowery said. "It's hard to tell this early, but it looks like our defensive line could really be our strength up front.
"Jorden Steinhiser's going to be hard to block inside. He played a ton and had some success from what I've seen on film. We really like (Hodges). (Neff) plays with a high motor and he's got nice leadership. (Ford)'s rotating in there and getting some nice time. Those four guys can really be the anchor of that defense." Purnell and Buda should be stalwart as linebackers.
— Compiled by Zack Eldridge