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All the numbers appear better for Aviano

Aviano's Brandon Heisig goes airborne during a tackling drill at a practice in early September.

KENT HARRIS/STARS AND STRIPES

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 8, 2017

Fifteenth in a series of DODEA-Europe high school football previews.
 
In more than a decade coaching the Aviano Saints, Rick Dahlstrom generally hasn’t looked to his offensive or defensive lines as team strengths.

Aviano has often relied on a short, quick passing game and occasionally speedy backs to generate its offense over the years, due to small rosters and smallish players. On defense, the Saints have pushed team tackling.

But coming off an 0-5 season a year ago with a 27-man roster that featured 15 freshmen, Dahlstrom says his linemen look strong. That’s even with a knee injury to starting center Alex Corona that will keep him away from the field for at least a month.

Brandon Heisig, Matt Robertson, Mitch Farrington and Ben Broome will carry much of the line load and Corona might be back by the end of the season.

Not that Aviano is planning to just run the ball up the middle repeatedly and dare opponents to stop it, similar to Bitburg’s tactics during its dynasty.

Dahlstrom said he plans to have a few surprises for foes and run plays that he wasn’t able to last year.

“They’re more athletic this year,” he said. “And more mature than last year.”
About half the roster this year, which is “pushing 30,” he said, is composed of upper classmen.

Dahlstrom has also got more help on the sidelines this year, with about twice as many assistants helping out this season after deployments thinned the ranks a year ago.

The  Saints will start to find out Saturday if the increases in experience, depth and coaches pays off as they travel north to play the combined team from AFNORTH and Brussels.

harris.kent@stripes.com

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