Speedy Ironmen set for ’04 debut

by Tom Coombe

It’s far too early to tell if the Vermilion Ironmen will contend for a conference championship this fall, but one thing seems certain about the community college football team.<BR><BR>They’ll be fun to watch.<BR><BR>With tremendous team speed, a veteran quarterback and a fleet of sure-handed receivers, the Ironmen should put some points on the board during the 2004 season, which starts Saturday (5 p.m.) with a home game against Fergus Falls.<BR><BR>The Ironmen were dogged by inconsistency last fall, mixing strong outings with lackluster ones on the way to a 5-4 record.<BR><BR>That kept VCC out of the state playoffs, and while the Ironmen have to deal with a slew of talented Northern Division teams if they are to get to the postseason, seventh-year head coach Keith Turner likes what he sees thus far.<BR><BR>“Overall, I think it’s the fastest team we’ve had in five years,” said Turner. “I think we’ll be quick, very aggressive and we’ll be able to score. I also think on defense that we have some guys who are so quick that they’ll be able to get to the ball and stop people.”<BR><BR>On offense, Vermilion returns five starters, including second-year quarterback Lenny Serfling.<BR><BR>A native of Oak Harbors, Wash., Serfling started the last two games for VCC a year ago and saw action in several others.<BR><BR>He’ll have several targets to pick from, including returning starter Jason Vinje (Esko), sophomore Weston Santroy (Mckenzie, Mich.) and Milwaukee freshman Anthony Wiggins. Freshmen Ervin Bethea, Dontez Williams and Justin Thomas add depth to the receiving corps.<BR><BR>Together with sophomore running back Keena Turner (Frankfurt, Ken.), the receivers provide a multi-pronged attack.<BR><BR>“I’m very high on our receivers,” said Turner. “And with Keena in the backfield, we should have some versatility.”<BR><BR>Sophomore linemen Darrin Nylund (Esko) and David Christensen (Assumption, Wis.) were starters last year, and VCC may also get a boost from freshman back Evan Nikunen (Esko).<BR><BR>Cory Lassi, a local product who was a three-year starter at Ely, is the first backup on VCC’s offensive line.<BR><BR>“Cory has really come on,” said Turner. “He’ll come in on the line and play some special teams. He’s stepped up.”<BR><BR>Another sophomore returning for Vermilion is 400-pound tackle Di-Wayne Robinson of Heritage, Va.<BR><BR>Vermilion has six starters back on defense.<BR><BR>They are:<BR><BR>• Nose guard Garette Knight (275 pounds, Plantation, Fla.);<BR><BR>• Middle linebacker Edward Wilson (230 pounds, Lee Central, S.C.);<BR><BR>• Defensive end Heath Severson (230 pounds, Brodhead, Wis.);<BR><BR>• Defensive tackle David McCall (315 pounds, Tipton, Okla.);<BR><BR>• Free safety Otis Greenlaw (190 pounds, Detroit, Mich.);<BR><BR>• Corner back Kenneth King (180 pounds, Lake Howell, Fla.).<BR><BR>Other sophomore defensive players for the Ironmen include defensive end Abraham Morales (Lake Howell, Fla.), linebacker Warren Rhodes (Ferris, Wash.), defensive lineman Antoine Chapman (Woodside, Va.) and safety Renaldo Gaskins (Camden, S.C.).<BR><BR>Vermilion’s special teams should get a boost from the addition of kicker Robert Karr of LaCrescent.<BR><BR>VCC has about 50 players in camp, including another Ely graduate -freshman Gavin Bialke.<BR><BR>“I’m very happy with our kids,” said Turner. “They’ve come in in shape and picked up our offense and defense. Part of that I think is due to the fact that we have a smaller number of kids. We didn’t want to bring 60 or 70 kids in.”<BR><BR>The Ironmen have a nine-game regular season schedule, including five home contests. They begin Northern Division play Oct. 2, at Mesabi.<BR><BR>“Everybody is saying Mesabi, Northland and Hibbing are the teams to beat,” said Turner. “We’re just kind of laying in the weeds.”<BR><BR>2004 Vermilion CC Football Schedule<BR><BR>Saturday: Fergus Falls, 5 p.m.<BR><BR>Sept. 11: at Rochester, 3 p.m.<BR><BR>Sept. 18: Ridgewater, 2 p.m.<BR><BR>Sept. 25: at Central Lakes, 1 p.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 2: at Mesabi, 1 p.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 7: Itasca, 7 p.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 14: Hibbing, 7 p.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 22: at Rainy River, 7 p.m.<BR><BR>Oct. 28: Northland, 7 p.m.<BR><BR>Nov. 6: State Semifinals, at home site<BR><BR>Nov. 13: State title game, at St. Cloud