A year ago, Freeman’s football theme was “redemption” after suffering through a 1-8 season in 2015.

Now the key word for the Class C-2 No. 9 Falcons is “finish.” In 2016, Freeman started 4-1, only to lose three of its last four games, including a 56-0 beating at the hands of eventual Class C-2 state champion Wilber-Clatonia in the season finale.

“Last year we had a pretty strong start, and then we didn’t finish,” said standout running back Lane Cacek, one of 13 seniors on the Falcons’ roster. “This season we’ve talked about going hard for four quarters and making sure we’re as strong at the end of the season as we are at the beginning.”

One factor a year ago was that Cacek played in just four games before breaking a bone in his shoulder. Freeman (2-0) is already ahead of last year’s pace with its 15-0, season-opening win over preseason No. 2 Hastings St. Cecilia, which downed the Falcons handily in the 2016 opener.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Cacek, a three-year starter, has been the workhorse so far with 247 yards on 48 carries and four touchdowns. He also has a pass reception for a TD.

Cacek works behind a veteran offensive line that is led by three-year starter Colton Beebe, a 6-3, 250-pound senior guard. The other four linemen — Brady Bloom (6-3, 265, junior), Austin Adams (6-0, 225, junior), Jacob Neil (5-10, 210, senior) and Jacob Dorn (5-11, 175, senior) — also were in the lineup a year ago.

“We put him in different positions in our various formations to try to make it difficult for the defense to locate him,” Freeman coach Travis Andreasen said. “Lane can wear down defenses because he’s a very physical runner who can break a lot of tackles.”

When defenses start to key on Cacek too much, that’s when senior quarterback Jacob Gramann goes to work. In Friday night’s 38-16 win at Elmwood-Murdock, Gramann showed few effects from a deep thigh bruise that ended his night early against St. Cecilia.

Gramann was 11-of-15 for 234 yards against the Knights, a performance that included an 85-yard TD pass to fellow senior Blake Kastanek. The 6-3 Kastanek had four catches for 138 yards.

If Kastanek is covered, Gramann can go to 6-2 Michael Gronewold, another senior.

“I’ve got a pretty good connection with both of them,” Gramann said. “We’ve had a lot of years of practice, and they have the height to go up and get the ball.”

Cacek, Gramann and Kastanek also play defense, with Kastanek and Cacek manning outside linebacker spots and Gramann playing safety. Both Cacek and Kastanek have three tackles for losses in the first two games, while junior linebacker Tyler Adams (6-3, 215) leads the team in overall tackles with 17.

“We played outstanding defense against St. Cecilia, and the points we gave up against Elmwood-Murdock, we figured out what went wrong and made adjustments,” Andreasen said. “It wasn’t like we were getting run over.”

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