Brandon-Evansville co-head football coach Greg Lanners could not help but look across the field last night and have flashbacks to when he took over with Mike Quist after the 2008 season.
Renville County West traveled to Brandon with a 1-5 record, a year removed from having to forfeit the final three games of its season. The Jaguars looked every bit the part of a program that is trying to take the proper steps toward getting back on track.
RCW has just 30 players listed on its roster. Eighteen of those are sophomores or younger. They looked a lot like a Chargers team that went 0-9 in 2008 and had to forfeit the last two games because of a concern for players’ safety.
“We talked before the game,” Lanners said. “I talked to their coaches and there are a lot of parallels. They had a season that they had to cancel just because of not having enough people. They played a JV schedule and that happened here the year before we came on.”
Levi Hintermeister is one the seven seniors for Brandon-Evansville who took their lumps as freshmen. At 5’10″ and 190 pounds, Hintermeister has turned himself into one of the most powerful backs in the area since then. He could empathize with a team he spent most of the night running over on Tuesday.
“That’s exactly how we started out when I was a freshman,” he said. “It was tough. I feel bad for them, but you just keep building off it and get better. It was [a lot of time in] the weight room and coaching, dedication. We came out in the summer and practiced every day, practiced our plays and got everything down.”
The first obstacle for Lanners and Quist to overcome was getting their players to get past the mental hurdle. With so many young players going up against juniors and seniors from opposing teams, just getting them to hit somebody was a challenge that fist year.
“We wanted to hang our hat on one thing,” Lanners said. “What we tried to do was build our defense first. Coach Quist is an excellent defensive coach, and he built a great defensive scheme for us. We got our kids to start hitting and by the end of the first year we were a pretty physical ball club with very young, not very big players. But yet we were pretty physical and hung our hat on our defense.”
The Chargers carried that into the 2010 season where they finished with a winning record just two years after getting outscored 297-46 in the seven games they played. Now at 4-2, Brandon-Evansville is proof that things can turn around for a team like the Jaguars.
“They’re very similar in the nature of the players they have coming back,” Lanners said. “A young class that they’re going to try to build around. We’ve done that with our seniors and that’s a credit to our seniors for what they’ve done to help this program grow in that time.”