At the 9-man level, New Salem-Almont is one of the early favorites to contend for a state title.

The Holsteins return more than half of their starters this season with all of them playing in a state semifinal game in 2021. That experience is already helping the Holsteins get a head start. Now, they’re focusing on building more depth with guys who haven’t played in real game situations.

“When you have experience — first day we went team,” Head coach Steve Kleinjan said. “Second day of practice boom we hit the ground running. The line calls were there, everybody understood their assignments and things like that.”

“Right now we’re miles ahead of where we thought we were going to be with our freshman class,” senior lineman AJ Heins said. “There’s a lot of kids that are stepping up and want to do it. It’s hard to get kids that want to play as freshman when they’re coming back to a group like we have this year. It’s really just fun watching them come out here and compete.”

The Holsteins open the season on the road at Beach on Friday, August 19.