Under the direction of Andrew Kleeman, the Nevada soccer program has grown from a pushover to a powerhouse.
The Cubs struggled for decades to assemble a winning team before Kleeman took over in 2016. They had a winning season in the 23 years prior to his arrival.
But Kleeman led Nevada to a 6-3 record in 2017. After a 3-6 campaign the following year, the Cubs went 7-2 in 2019 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
Last year they were 6-3, falling one win short of winning a district title.
This season, Nevada is trying to make history. The Cubs are 5-0 and in fifth place in Class 3A, who face rival Ballard in Huxley on Friday.
“The goal this year is to continue transforming the culture of Nevada football,” said Cael Franzen, Nevada middle linebacker. “We put in a lot of work in the off-season to run as far as possible.”
Franzen and the defense are a big reason Nevada suddenly became a juggernaut on the grate.
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In the first five games, Nevada gave up just 10.8 points and 204.2 yards per game. The Cubs have enforced 10 turnovers – five each of fumble recoveries and five interceptions – and lead 3A in sacks of 15.
“We are solid in every position,” said Kleeman. “We have pass rushers, we have tacklers and athletes who can keep up with any team. That’s why we were able to play a very aggressive defense style. “
Nevada is led by an outstanding senior core on the defensive side of the ball.
Franzen leads the team in tackles at 45 and he has a fumble recovery. Free safety Caleb Kooiker is in duels with 44.5 directly behind Franzen.
“Cael played a lot of games for us – there’s nothing he hasn’t seen,” said Kleeman. “Caleb is a great football player. He cleans up so many things for us that people might not even notice. He’s a great downhill defender.”
Caeden DaSilva and Seth Brown occupy the cornerback positions. They have scored three interceptions so far and are excellent at taking down the top threats from opposing teams.
“I think we have two of the best cornerbacks in the state,” said Kooiker. “It’s nice to have them out there so I can focus on my area. I can trust them. ”
Defensive Gavin Melohn anchors the Cub’s defensive line.
Melohn has 18.5 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also returned a fumble last week for a touchdown in a 56-14 homecoming win over Gilbert.
“It’s really nice to be the weak side,” said Melohn. “I’m a bit faster than the offensive linemen and this is my second year playing the position which makes it a lot easier to do routine games.”
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Nevada uses many formations with five defensive backs. Senior Ty Dittmer and Junior Karter Beving occupy the other two security positions.
Dittmer has 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks and Beving has 17 tackles and one interception.
Juniors Noah Mills and Dylan Fritz share the time at the other inside linebacker spot. Mills has 18.5 tackles and Fritz has seven plus a sack.
Senior Connor Schnettgätze stands opposite Melohn on the defensive side of the strong team. He leads the team with five sacks and has a fiddly rest too.
Senior Cam Vincent and Junior Nate Anderson are stuck in the middle of the defensive line.
“On the defensive, we play the best team football that we have played here since I was here,” said Kleeman, playing with difficulty. I am not surprised that they are currently enjoying success. ”
While Nevada is fond of having lots of defensive backs and odd fronts, the Cubs aren’t afraid of changing formations.
“It’s always a challenge for coaches to try to be simple but also to appear complex,” said Kleeman. “We managed to do that pretty well – mixing covers and fronts while remaining simple and personal.”
But their success is always based on the fundamentals.
“The greatest thing is toughness and discipline on the football field,” said Franzen. “Everyone knows their job and has the ability to make plays.”
The Cubs bring a lot of passion to the field.
“I love the energy and the big hits,” said Kooiker. “Everyone is really looking forward to each other.”
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By clicking on the defense, Nevada made an early statement against West Marshall in Week 2. The Cubs traveled to the State Center and beat Team No. 3 in 2A on its own field, 35-12.
But starting this week with Ballard, there are even tougher challenges ahead. The Bombers pounded 28-7 against a crazy Cub team in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
“We sure have a chip on our shoulder,” said Franzen. “We all respect our opponents equally so we know we have to come out and play a good game.”
Then the competition really heats up. Nevada is home to No. 10 Algona (4-1) in two weeks. On October 15, the Cubs travel to Humboldt to take on the No. 7 Wildcats (5-0) before finishing the regular season at home against North Polk.
“Without a doubt we have a lot of tough games ahead of us, including this Friday night,” said Kleeman. “It may sound like a cliché, but our focus is on one game at a time and hopefully getting us into a position where we might be able to run a run.”
The cubs are confident that they can compete with anyone in 3A.
“I’m not worried how our defense will hold up against some of these better teams,” said Melohn. “If we stick to our roles and stay disciplined, we’ll be fine.”