PELLA — Jay McKinstrey is back for his 24th season as head coach of the Pella Dutch. Last year he grabbed his 200th career win and 13th straight playoff appearance. This year the team will have very high hopes as they are the preseason number one in the Radio Iowa Class 3A rankings.

The Dutch lose 18 seniors from last year’s 8-3 team but return a plethora of talent as well.

Pella returns 31 letterwinners including Joe Jansen (WR/DB), Ryan Mace (QB), Silas Vanderhoff (K), Josh Warner (WR/DB), Grant Nelson (LB/TE), Nick De Jong (LB), Izaak LaHue (LB), Kody Huisman (DL/OL), Levi Roose (DL/OL), Ethan Bogaards (OL/DL), Nolan Clayberg (RB/LB), Aidan Pollock (RB/DB), Reece Thoreson (DB) and CJ Smith (OL/DL).

Offensively, Pella should get a nice boost from returning their quarterback and running back from last year.

Mace returns for his second year as the starting QB for the Dutch. Last year he tossed 19 touchdowns and ran for another five. His next step will be improving his accuracy as he threw nine interceptions and completed just 49% of his passes.

Having Clayberg back in the backfield should take some of the pressure off of Mace. The junior running back rushed for 588 yards on 101 carries (5.8 yards per carry) with three touchdowns in 2019. He will look to be more explosive this year and find the endzone a little more often with Aaron Downs and his 14 rushing TDs transferring out of the state.

Mace will also have to look for a new go-to target this year with the graduation of all-state receiver Logan Shetterly. Warner, a senior receiver, might just be one of those targets after catching 21 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns in 2019.

Defensively, Pella will welcome the return of all-state defensive tackle, and North Dakota State commit, Kody Huisman.

Huisman was a force on the defensive line last year, finishing third on the team with 42 tackles to go along with 3.5 sacks and a team-best 21.5 tackles for loss.

He will be happy to see his running mate is back on the line with him. Senior Levi Roose was equally impressive on the defensive line in 2019, finishing with 43.5 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Look out for those two to reck havoc and blow up lots of plays this season.

The Dutch defense looks to be stout this year with the likes of Clayberg, Nelson, Warner and LaHue also returning to the fold.

McKinstrey expects to have several of the younger players step up but for now he is a little worried about his team’s depth while he figures their team speed should be a big advantage.

The preseason number one wanted to have a challenging non-district schedule and they got with a trip to No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes in week one before hosting No. 3 Harlan in week two. Those two games should set the bar for the Dutch and challenge them before heading into district play.

“We have a very challenging schedule,” McKinstrey said. “We start off with two of the favorites in class 3A in DC-G and Harlan. We hopefully will learn to elevate our play early in the season to help us as we move on to district play.”

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at cpeters@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.

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