This story first ran in The Cedar Rapids Gazette on August 18, 2017, and can be found here.
MOUNT VERNON, IOWA — Last season was a successful one for the Mount Vernon football team, without a doubt.
The Mustangs went 9-3 overall, making an appearance in the Class 2A state semifinals at the UNI-Dome. They went on a nine-game winning streak in the middle of the season and won another district title.
Quarterback Drew Adams set numerous school records en route to his nearly 2,800-yard season, one where he helped lead the Mustangs to a 78-point performance against Camanche.
So with Adams returning this season, many would think that Coach Lance Pedersen would keep things pretty much the same. After all, it worked very well last season.
That’s just not what Pedersen has in mind.
“Last year we had the most yards of offense in the entire state, and this year I came in and I changed everything offensively,” Pedersen said. “Some people are probably thinking, ‘Well why are you going to do something like that?’ But we think what we’re going to put in this year better fits our personnel and the learning on the run keeps things from being stagnant.”
Pedersen’s team is different enough that it made him realize he needed to change things up. His offensive line looks different, most notably without Tristan Wirfs, who plays for Iowa now and was The Gazette’s 2016-17 Male Athlete of the Year.
So instead of trying to force the players to fit his system, he decided to change it himself.
“At the collegiate level, you recruit players to fit your offense,” Pedersen said. “At the high school level, you have whatever comes through the school. We have some different looking personnel this year, we have a different set of players, and I think what we’re doing this year is going to meet the needs of those players and bring the best out of them.
“I could sit there and be stubborn and say that they have to fit my system, or I can adjust my system to fit my personnel, and I think at the high school level you don’t have any choice but to do the second.”
But after just a week working with the new offense, Adams said the transition has been pretty smooth. Even during practice, Pedersen can be seen observing and coaching very calmly.
The stress level is low for a team ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A preseason poll.
“We have some guys that worked in a little bit last year, so I think that helps it to go a little bit smoother,” Adams said. “But we definitely have a lot of new faces, and it’s a lot of new stuff to learn, but it’s really fun to kind of learn it all together on the go.”
Pedersen said the bulk of the new offense is putting in new formations and different looks, adding every “play has a little something special that gives us an option to get a couple different things.”
After the way things have been going in practice, Adams and Pedersen said they’ll be ready to go when they host Solon right away in Week 1.
And even though it is a new offense with many new faces, Adams said the strengths of the team aren’t going to change too much.
“I think our strengths are going to kind of be the same as they have been in years past,” Adams said. “We’re going to be a team who can run it when we want, and our offensive live should be able to get some good push up front, and we’ll also have the opportunity to throw through the air and really hurt teams that way, too. We should be a dynamic offense like we have been in years past.”