Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Defensive end Michael Slater returns to the defensive line for Iowa Central after a strong freshman campaign.

Each day at practice, Spencer Cuvelier sees the kind of excitement generated by the new coaching staff for the Iowa Central football team.

But the returning sophomore linebacker isn’t the only one.

Cuvelier is expected to be a key piece to the Triton unit this coming fall that features players who originally signed with such FBS schools as Florida State, Baylor and Mississippi State.

The former Crestwood standout played in just one game last year, recording nine tackles before suffering a torn ACL.

“I was in the Rec Center at Iowa Central a couple days ago and a community member came up to me and said this was the most talent on a football team here he has seen in like the last 15-to-20 years,” Cuvelier said. “Now, if we can come together and unite as a team, we can really make something special happen.”

Jesse Montalto, who was hired to replace Kevin Twait after he retired following 22 seasons on the sidelines, retained a pair of defensive coaches in coordinator Jeremy Conley and position coach Dave Mann.

“Things have gone really well,” Cuvelier said. “Everybody is just really excited. We have a lot of guys coming back and the coaches brought in a lot of talent.”

Michael Slater played in seven games as a freshman at defensive end last year, making 32 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He had seven stops vs. Coffeyville, including 1.5 for loss, and made six tackles vs. Fort Scott.

“Everything is going good,” Slater said. “We are getting better every day. It kind of started off rocky with bringing in so many different people from different backgrounds, but we are getting better every practice.”

Slater was on the field when the Tritons snapped their long losing streak with a 7-0 victory over Butler on the road to end the season, making four tackles. The two teams will square off in Week 1 at Dodger Stadium next Saturday afternoon.

“Everybody has been waiting for that one,” Slater said. “We’ve been waiting since last year to play again, (Butler) has been waiting on us because everybody doubted us. They are going to be coming with fire, but we are a different program.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Cuvelier echoed those thoughts, saying “I’m sure (Butler) will be out for some blood, so we just need to come out and smack them in the face again.”

Butler is ranked 13th in the preseason poll after going 8-3 last year.