By Byron Higgin
It was sung about in the famous play, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Today, it’s written on the heart and soul of every Minneota fan.
And Coach Chad Johnston’s coaching staff not only knows it, but some of them like Matt Myrvik and Steve Sussner lived it.
The names like Coach Gerhard Meidt and his son Chris at quarterback go back to what is consdered the “Glory Days,” of Minneota football.
The days have come and gone, but the tradition is still alive today.
“We lost to Dawson-Boyd on our field a couple of years agoand that was the first time they’d beaten us on our field in a long time,” groaned Coach Johnson.
“Kids remember how Dawson left with a lot of excitement because they’d never beaten us here. I think our kids know what the tradition is and they put it on their backs and I think it makes us more hungry,” said Coach Johnson.
Why is the word “Tradition” so important this year?
Because in a short sentence, to the coach, his assistants, down through the player ranks and on into the community, “This is our year,” is the phrase most often spoken.
“There’s a very rich tradition here,” Coach Johnston said.
Yet the tradition happened without him. Although he’s a veteran coach and the team has reached a great level of success, the coach senses his opportunity to climb to the top of the high school elite.
“We carry the tradition of using the system they used,” he said.
Tradition aside, Minneota simply, “Has the horses to make the cart go.”
It doesn’t hurt to have three-year quarterback Sam Derynck returning to run the show, or a group of quality running backs led by Jacob Cheadle with Tony Noyes and Brandon Anderson to add speed and quickness.
“Everything is the same. “It’s all people who started last year and they also include Jordan Fink,” so it’s a full house and more.
“Derynck has the experience,” he said, indicating he expects not only quality play but leadership from his senior signal-caller.
“We have great experience back there.”
In the offensive line, there has been some switching of positions amongst the four returning linemen. Two younger guys,
Jordan Longtin and Josh Van Overbeke are splitting time at right tackle.
The others include Justin Fox, who moved to center, Michael Hammer at right guard, Victor Montelongo has been playing left guard and Jacob Horner, who was the starting center last year but has been moved to left tackle.
The ends are Will Kurka, a two-year starter and either Jesus Marcias and Brett Pryzmus, or both. “They will see time at offensive end,” said the coach. “Marcias has stepped up and is looking like a No. 1 receiver,” the coach added.
Johnston said the offensive focus is to, “have as much balance as we can. We hope to throw and run the ball effectively. With our three-back system, and with a good running quarterback, basically we have four running backs.”
His hope is the Vikings will have so much balance and so many tools opponents, “Can’t key on one person. They’ll have to respect all of them at all times.”
The Vikings will create balance by mixing up different motions and with different passing plays.
“We run a lot of underneath routes, a lot of deep routes and a lot of second-level routes and we have a lot of different passing combinations. We work a lot at that,” the coach said.
He says, “When defenses adjust (to stop the Vikings), we adjust and have an answer for it. That’s what we’re really striving for.”
“Most of our kids will go both ways. What our depth will do this year is help give some people a breather,” said the coach.
“We’ve got the numbers so we’ve got kids on special teams and sometimes give the others a breather.”
The linebackers are all returning from last year.
“We run a five, four and three-man front, depending on our scheme.
The premier inside linebacker is Michael Hammer with Fox and Montelongo also helping the linebacker corps. Brett Pryzmus will also rotate into an inside linebacker spot.
At outside linebacker, Pryzmus will also get some time along with Beau Buysse and Jordan Fink. Anderson will also work at outside linebacker.
“Will Kurka is a key to our defense at end,” said the coach, adding, “Hammer may play there sometime and Adam Longtin will also get lots of playing time.
Inside, “We’ve got some big boys, which we haven’t had,” said the coach.
They include: Jon Doyscher, Jordan Longtin and Jacob Horner are three “big boys” who will hold down the defensive line.
In the defensive backfield will be Noyes at free safety, Derynck and Cheadle are all defensive starters back and Macias got a lot of time in the defensive backfield a year ago and likely will return this year.
The coach expects them to move around and also will use Tony Boulton and Christian Skillings as well.
The kicker is likely to be Saul Calderon. He’ll kick off and do the point kicker. He kicked as a freshman last year so he’s got a year under his belt.
“He’s a year longer. He just needs confidence
in himself and consistency,” the coach said. “We have a good kicking game and we feel confident in it,” the coach said.
Minneota expects tough competition as it tries to climb the ladder of success.
Amongst the toughest expected foes will be Adrian, MACCRAY and Dawson-Boyd.
Which means the season will begin the task of turning back Adrian.
“We’re glad to get them the first game. We like the idea of tough competition,” said the coach.
Then, of-course, there’s that tradition stuff. Adrian knows about it — and so do all the others.
“We’ve got to be ready every game,” said the coach.
He knows other teams will come ready to take a shot at the Vikings.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said.
One thing is for sure.
The excitement is contagious.
“If we lose, we’ll try to build on that,” said Coach Johnston.
Afterall, the important thing is the playoffs — and Minneota is counting on being around when the final bell rings. Let the games begin!