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When the Lone Tree defense needs a big play, Cale Yoder is there.
The senior linebacker has been a machine for the Lion defense, with 20.5 tackles for loss so far this year. Cale is among the state’s leading tacklers with 89 total tackles, which is good for third in the state through seven weeks of play.
Yoder made the transition from defensive end to linebacker after coach Aaron Bohr saw his ability on the field. Bohr said the position was about putting Yoder in a position to cover more of the field.
“Last year he played defensive end, but since teams could run away from him more easily from that position, we moved him off the line to linebacker,” Bohr said.
So this offseason Yoder committed himself to the position change. He soaked up information anywhere he could while also improving his physical shape. Yoder said that since weighing in at 255 pounds at the start of his junior season he is down to 200 pounds now.
“I think it helps with quickness a lot and getting to the ball faster,” he said. “I feel just as strong if not stronger.”
That agility is evident when you watch Yoder play as he darts all over the field to make tackles for the Lone Tree defense. In 8-man football, Yoder generally takes on a tougher assignment than linebackers in 11-player football because of the lack of safety help behind him. The defensive assignments often leave Yoder one-on-one with opposing quarterbacks or running backs when they run.
“We are able to do a lot of the things we do because of what Cale brings to the table,” Bohr said. “He knows where everyone aligns, he knows what plays the other team runs, and he understands the nuances of the game.”
Yoder said part of why he has been able to find success at linebacker starts with film. He spends a lot of time each week repeatedly watching every play of video available to him. In that film he searches for tendencies, like if a player leans one way on a certain play and the plays they run out of certain alignments.
It’s a big reason Yoder has been able to cross the 20 tackles for loss mark already, he often knows what play is coming before the snap.
“Through his film study and preparation, he is able to pick up on what the other offense is doing immediately,” Bohr said. “This allows him to play fast and track down ball carriers before they are able to get going.”
It isn’t all stats though with Yoder, who has played an instrumental role in leading the team as a captain.
“As unbelievable as it may sound, his stats don’t show the caliber of player he is because he does so much more than just make tackles,” Bohr said.
As a senior, Cale said he has been gauging whether he wants to continue to play football in college. He said he has visited some NAIA and Division III schools and seen interest from others. He said some colleges he has looked at include Dordt, Graceland, Luther and Wartburg.
Yoder helped organize players-only practices last spring and summer. The Lions sit at a 3-4 record currently but due to a very balanced district still have a shot at a share of a district championship. Yoder said that’s what his focus is on for now.
“I just try and be the best player I can every week and go out and play my best.”