Kelliher/Northome Football Roundup
When most schools lose seniors, it is usually the whole starting team. The years after, they make the new seniors starters and that goes on year after year.
This doesn't hold true for small teams like the Kelliher-Northome Mustangs.
When our Mustangs football team loses anybody, it is hard to find a replacement. Usually when we lose a player it is a player that has been at that position for two or maybe three years.
This past football season we lost five seniors. When you compare that to big schools, it is not many, but for us, it's a lot because we have to find a new player for that position from the few seniors we have.
Out of the 26 players who are on the team, only four of them are seniors. All of them have incurred an injury at some point in the season; it was only at the homecoming game against Floodwood that all the seniors were healthy and playing together.
To give you an idea of how young our team is, 11 of the players are sophomores and three are freshman.
After losing five seniors last year, we have four that already have a position and can't take the place of those five spots. Some of the sophomores have been put in those positions as starters with little to no experience. "We are yet to dress more than three seniors in one game," said Head Coach Gross after the Hill City game. With not many players, we need everyone to go at every game.
All year, injuries have plagued the team and has kept us from being able to get comfortable with a position. One senior has a wrist problem, another has shoulder and knee problems, then one has shoulder problems and the other senior is just coming off a concussion.
That is what makes it difficult to get comfortable. When one has to come out, someone has to fill in and usually that someone doesn't have too much experience.
Coaches and players say the season has been not so good. Assistant coach Tom Pink said, "I knew the first part was going to be tough, but I didn't expect it to be so lop-sided... it's tough to be consistent for games because of the injuries."
The first three teams we have faced have recently been ranked in the top 10 for the entire state in 9-man football. Gross said, "We're better than the 0-5 team we are."
I agree with what he said more than anything. We have very good players. Our sophomores are stepping up and taking positions and trying their best. The scores might indicate that we have a terrible team, but I know we are much better.
Pink says our main weaknesses are the lack of upper-classmen and the lack of strength.
The schools we face over the course of the year have football programs in which everyone lifts. Even the smaller-looking players from other teams can bench press over 200 and squat 300. We have four or five players that are only close to that.
The strengths that the team have are very, very slim. It's hard to find strengths in an 0-5 team, but we do have strengths.
One player said our run defense is a big strength; we have a very good defensive line. Coach Pink says the positive players compared to other years and the hard work are other strengths.
We also have underclassmen with experience. We are a very small team, so the young players get varsity experience in ninth and tenth grade. With bigger schools, players have to wait until they are juniors or if they are lucky, sophomores, before they get to play in a varsity game.
Personally, I have started varsity ever since I was a freshman. At the time, I had almost no idea what to expect, but as I grew into a junior I have a lot of experience, which I think is my biggest advantage.
I talked to freshman Christian Jourdan and Isaiah Rahier who are both quarterbacks. Both of them told me it has been very hard to go straight from C-team quarterback to varsity quarterback. Both of them said it's difficult to learn new offenses and the new plays.
What is the team doing to improve a 0-5 record? Gross said that the players are starting to get comfortable with positions and all the players are executing fundamentals.
The biggest thing that will help us improve is fan support. So, fans, I know 0-5 is a bad record, but without support it can only get worse. Please try to be at all games if you possibly can. When I asked senior running back and linebacker Tyler Gibbs about how the team is trying to improve our record, he said we need more passes, we're having longer practices and everyone is going all out.
The first game we played was against Isle. We went into the game confident that we would come away with a win. Last year we lost to them by eight points.
We started off the game firing on all cylinders. It all went downhill after they scored their first touchdown. Everyone thought it was going to be easy; well, we got too confident and when they scored the touchdown and got ahead we lost all confidence.
We finally got into the redzone and lost it on a fourth down turnover. That lost our confidence even more.
We ended the game losing the game 42-0.
The next game we played was against Cromwell. Again, we went into the game confident. We knew the team liked to pass, but the conditions just weren't promoting passes.
We stopped them for a few series. We were pumped and ready. The game then turned on one play. We stopped them in the back field and a roar from the team suddenly turned when we saw our starting quarterback and linebacker, Tristan Williams, lying on the ground. He has had past knee problems and now is out for the season.
The game went on and we had too many tough breaks. We were more physical, more intense. Cromwell just had the field position and capitalized on all of them and before we knew it, we lost 42-0.
The next week was McGregor. They are both fast and strong. They run their plays with purpose. It was like that saying, "we stuck with them and then the games started." That's exactly how it was.
We kicked, so McGregor got the ball first. On the first play, they scored. Then we got the ball and got nowhere and we punted. Then they got the ball and on the very first play of that drive, they scored again. They ran two plays and got two touchdowns.
At halftime we were losing 40-0. In the second half we basically shut them down. They had their second team players in, but if we can stick with their future players, in theory, we should be able to compete with them in the years to come.
The game ended on a 56-6 score. This game we finally scored on a slant to Keith Shaughnessy across the field and pushed his way into the end zone for a touchdown.
We then went to Hill City. After losing our first three games we need to turn it around. We had no better opportunity than playing the Hill City Hornets. They were just like us. They were 0-3, scored only six points and gave up around 130 points.
The game started and we were on a role. We stopped them, but they stopped us. It was very even. We started to turn the ball over in their territory and they scored.
We got the ball and again we turned the ball over and they scored.
Basically they scored on our mistakes and we were down 12-0 at halftime. We started the second half and they scored again to make it 20-0. In the last four minutes we scored a touchdown. It was on fourth and long and Jacob Gunderson threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Roosdett in the end zone. Down 20-8, we tried an onside kick and it didn't work so well. The kick went straight into a crowd of Hornet players. Then it was too late to get the ball back, score, get it back again and score again. We lost the game 20-8.
Floodwood was our next game at home. Floodwood is another team ranked in the top 10. We had possession of the ball first. We punted and Floodwood scored on their first drive. Then we got the ball and in five or six plays, we got a touchdown on a pass from
Gunderson to Roosdett. We were down 6-8, but we thought we could compete. Then it happened again. The turnovers started to pile on and before you know it, we lost 50-6.
This Friday we play Northland. Not only is it homecoming, but Northland is also 0-5. We are really looking forward to all of the support.