With Parker Sampson joining Western Michigan, the Bearcats will debut a new kicker this season in freshman Cole Lammel.
For two years, Sampson held down the position effectively, by leading the Bearcats in scoring with 96 points in 2018 and making 14-of-21 field goals in 2019.
As Lammel gets the starting nod for the Bearcats’ 2021 campaign, he’s joined by experienced players within the room.
Senior Mike Hohensee returns as the team’s starting punter, while senior Alec Tatum returns as the holder and punt returner.
In 2019, Hohensee led the team in punting. He punted 58 times for a 39.3 yard average and had 21 punts downed inside the 20 yard line.
“Having Mike back as our punter is a comfort to me. We’ve got two upperclassmen long snappers, so our punting game has been really good,” Northwest head coach Rich Wright said.
With seniors Tanner Owen in at long snapper behind starter Bailey Pickering, Wright is confident with the depth of the unit backing up Lammel in his rookie season.
“I think anytime you have a younger player, the more pressure you can take off of him, the better he’s going to perform. That’s helped by the fact I’ve got a senior holder in Alec Tatum. I got a senior long snapper in Bailey Pickering,” Wright said. “Those guys need to be perfect in their operation and just let him do what he does.”
From Omaha, Nebraska, Lammel earned the Millard South special teams player of the year in 2019 and 2020.
Named the Metro Coaches All-Conference kicker of the year in back-to-back seasons at Millard South, Lammel was also named to the All-Metro offensive team in 2019 and 2020.
“He had a great career at Millard South, very talented kid,” Wright said. “He’s going to probably have some freshmen ups and downs a little bit. The thing that I like a lot about him is his psyche is set up that he isn’t too high and too low. He just goes out there and performs.”
Imoni Donadelle returns as the team’s starting kick returner. In 2019, he led the Bearcats in kick return yards with 351 yards. He also set the Northwest single-game kickoff return yardage record with 174 versus Central Oklahoma on Sept. 28, 2019.
Donadelle returned the opening kickoff for 99 yards for a touchdown against the Bronchos, which led him to be named the MIAA Special Teams Player of the Week.
Days away from the start of the season, Wright said the unit has meshed together well.
“We’ve been happy with what we’ve seen. Our kickoff team has been really good. Our field goal was one thing that was a little bit inconsistent the other night, but we kind of got that addressed in practice,” Wright said. “So we feel good.”