2012 record: 10-2
By PATRICK SLACK
Holdingford isn’t necessarily dwelling on how last year ended.
But the Huskers football team isn’t shying away from the fact that they haven’t quite forgotten how it ended either, with a dream run dashed in heartbreaking fashion.
“We’re not going to lie, we had some things posted in our weight room this summer,” head coach Luke Mitchell said. “With the new guys coming in, they felt it.
“It was definitely a sting, the way we lost last year,” he said. “Hopefully that taste is in their mouth and they remember what that feels like, to do a little more and a little extra in every drill and every practice and every game.”
That sting resulted from a 23-20 loss in two overtimes in the state quarterfinals against BOLD, a game in which both teams had multiple chances to win.
Even so, the tough loss did nothing to erase the luster of completing a perfect run through the Central Minnesota Conference gauntlet, or of sweeping through three Section 6AA opponents by a combined score of 127-27.
The Huskers are well-equipped to build off of that success on both sides of the ball, with senior four-year starting quarterback Mitch Messman leading the way.
“Last year we started to open it up as the year progressed and (Messman) really flourished with that,” Mitchell said. “I think coming into this year we have so much more knowledge than we did last year at this time of the offensive system that we want to run. He can do anything we want with whatever formation we want.”
With Messman’s versatility leading to 1,473 yards passing and 567 on the ground a year ago, the Huskers were able to excel at exploiting defenses in a variety of ways, something they strive for.
“We try to stay balanced,” Mitchell said. “We don’t want to get one-dimensional, because once we get one-dimensional I think teams can really key on one of our guys and really shut that down.
“So we want to be balanced, and with Mitch we can be balanced,” he said. “He allows us to throw the ball and get the ball to some receivers quickly and let them make plays.”
Despite graduating 15 seniors from last year’s roster, Holdingford will bring back a deep group of returning starters alongside Messman, including seniors Jordan Gombos (running back/defensive line), Cody Bialka (wide receiver/cornerback), Jeremy Springer (wide receiver/safety), Mitch Merten (offensive/defensive line) and Chris Burg (offensive line/linebacker) and juniors Nathan Brinker (offensive line/linebacker) and Matt Messman (running back/middle linebacker).
Springer and Bialka combined for 11 interceptions last fall, with Merten and Mitch Messman teaming up for 17 sacks.
“I’m excited about the leadership we have,” Mitchell said. “We have 10 seniors who are all going to get a chance to play and contribute to our team.
“They are all really great leaders,” he said. “They’re bringing so much experience back to our team, not just from last year, but a lot of these kids have played since sophomore, freshman year and they are just really leading by example and that’s great to see.”
Seniors Nick Catton, Brody Davidson, Malcolm Dewar and Jake Nelson and juniors Jake Knettel, Jake Langner, Taylor Nitz and Eric Ebnet are also expected to compete for starting spots.
Holdingford opens the season at home against St. Cloud Cathedral, Thursday, the only other team besides BOLD to knock off Holdingford last year during its 10-2 campaign.
While the Huskers will hope to avenge that loss, their sights are set ultimately on duplicating last year’s success at the end of the season.
“I think that’s every team’s goal every year, to win your conference and get to state, and hopefully we can do that again, but our goal every year is just get better every day,” Mitchell said. “We want to see the kids improve and we feel if we can help them to improve every day in practice that the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”