Area teams start season with some unfamiliar foes
It’s a little early — technically still the summertime — but the area boys of fall return to the gridiron today, facing the challenges of replacing graduates and modifying strategy for the upcoming season.
And with the Minnesota State High School League’s new district scheduling system, many teams are facing some new opponents.
Blackduck, for instance, is taking on a co-op in Climax-Fisher/Sacred Heart — aka Polk County West — at 3:30 p.m. today at East Grand Forks High School. Polk County West played 9-man last season until the playoffs. They finished 2-6 overall.
Blackduck head coach Jeff Volk said the game will be a challenge, since there’s not much they can do to tailor a strategy to their upcoming opponent.
“We’re going to go over there and try to do the things that we do,” he said.
“Try to do them well and hopefully some of that senior leadership can help us get through this first week.”
The Drakes, who finished 5-4 overall last season, return starting quarterback Ike Volk.
He’s a junior and coach Volk said the experience Ike got starting as a sophomore was big for his development.
“He got one year in as a sophomore, which was kind of tough for him getting in there at that young of an age,” he said. “But that helped him out, so we’re looking for bigger and better things from him this year too.”
Over in Cass Lake, the Cass Lake-Bena Panthers also find themselves having to travel to Northwest Minnesota to play an unfamiliar opponent.
CL-B, which went 0-9 a year ago in their first full season playing a full 9-man schedule, travels to play Goodridge/Grygla in Grygla.
“All I know is it’s a long trip,” new head coach Brian “Beef” Sathre said. “We’re going up there being blind, and I’m expecting a tough game.”
Goodridge/Grygla went 2-6 last season.
Other teams in the area are getting back to playing football period.
Laporte is tackling a varsity schedule for the first time in a few years, according to head coach Mike Olson.
This is Olson’s first year coaching the Wildcats, as he moved to Laporte after many years coaching at Maple Grove. Laporte has a small (11 players or so) roster, which will be a change for Olson compared to Maple Grove.
The Wildcats head to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart today at 5 p.m. for their season opener. BLHS is located in Hector — between New Ulm and Willmar — and will be a 193 mile one-way trip for the Wildcats.
“I talked (to the team) about the fact that the competition that we’ll be playing against is going to be a lot better than they’re used to at the JV level,” Olson said. “We just need to work on getting bigger, faster and stronger.”
Clearbrook-Gonvick is the lone area team playing at home for today’s opener, as the Bears host Norman County West at 7 p.m. C-G went 2-6 last season.
Kelliher-Northome, the defending Section 7 9-man champion, heads to South Ridge for its season opener.
Bagley, is coming off a 7-3 season that saw the Flyers fall to Frazee in the second round of the Section 8A tournament, hits the road for a 7 p.m. game against Badger-Greenbush-Middle River.
And Red Lake is looking to rebound from an 0-9 season in 2014 with a matchup against Fosston.