The Osakis football team has put in the work in the weight room this off-season and is ready to see how that translates to the field in 2012.
I spent Monday morning in Osakis as the Silverstreaks worked their way through a three-hour practice before ending with an hour in the weight room. Afterwards, I caught up with captains Garret Scherr, Austin Rollag and Brian Thorstad, along with third-year head coach Bill Infanger, to find out how things are going as they try to build upon last year’s 6-3 season.
I’ll have a full story on that before next Thursday’s season opener at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from my conversation with them today.
*Infanger has preached the importance of getting in the weight room during the off-season ever since he took over this program. Every year, more kids have bought into that.
“I don’t know if we’re completely, 100 percent where we want it to be yet,” Infanger said. “But we are seeing a progression in that direction every year, and this year’s better than the last. We’ve had a better weight room participation through the summer and through the off-season, winter and spring. It’s going in the right direction.”
His three captains echoed that sentiment and said the team as a whole is better prepared to go up against the bigger Class AA schools they will face in the playoffs. No where is that more apparent than up front where Lane Arkfeld (RT), Scherr (RG), Derrick Swanson (C), Rollag (LG) and John Piekarski (LT) are penciled in as starters for a group that Infanger said is the most physically imposing group he has had at Osakis.
“This is the strongest offensive line I’ve had and the deepest,” he said. “We’ve got eight guys that I feel really good about, could play any of the five line positions now. I think the biggest thing is the strength. We’re inexperienced there. We’ve got three guys back from last year, but we’re filling two new guys in who don’t have any varsity experience on the line. The nice thing is they’re stronger and probably in a little bit better shape and bigger than the guys they are replacing. We like to think we’ll be stronger as a unit.”
* Taking the snaps under center will be first-year starting quarterback Jordan Frederick. The junior is no stranger to big situations after pitching atop the Osakis baseball team’s starting rotation for the past couple seasons. That should make the pressure he’ll feel stepping into his new role as this team’s quarterback a little easier to handle.
“With Jordan coming in, the first thing we see right off the bat is he’s very confident for a junior quarterback who’s never taken the field before,” Infanger said. “He’s got control in the huddle. He seems to be a smart kid. He’s learning our offense very quickly, taking his fakes and his responsibilities very seriously, and he runs the ball well too for a QB. We’ve got four threats to run the ball on any given play.”
* Infanger believes Frederick will allow this team to hit a few more big plays in the passing game this season, but there’s no doubt Osakis will once again be a team built on running the football.
The combination of a strong offensive line and the return of some talented backs has this team very optimistic about its ability to move the ball on the ground. Thorstad will lead that group of backs as he returns after a breakout junior season alongside senior fullback Mitch Herzog.
Junior slotback Drew Fearing and senior fullback Hunter Johnson will be asked to help make up for the loss of Herzog and Marty Walsh on an offense that relies on multiple backs to move the football.
“I’ll have to step up,” Thorstad said of becoming a feature back this season. “Mitch, he was the one I looked up to last year. This year, I have to step up and be the leader for Hunter as one of the other main backs.”
*A player that the Osakis coaching staff is watching carefully in camp is senior Ky Zimmel as he works his way back from an ACL tear he suffered in basketball this past season.
“Ky coming off that knee injury, we were worried about him a little bit,” Infanger said. “We want to keep him healthy because he’s such a big part of what we do on offense, defense and special teams. It’s his senior year and he doesn’t want to miss anything, so he’s out there on every play giving it everything he’s got.”
If healthy, they believe he can be a guy who can make opposing teams pay for stacking the box in an attempt to stop the run.
“We expect him to be a big play threat this year,” Infanger said. “He goes up and gets the ball really nicely. He’s a tall athletic kid, a really good receiver for a junior quarterback like Jordan to have. We feel like we can put Ky is some situations where he can be isolated on one defender, and Jordan, there’s not too much pressure on him to make a great throw because Ky’s going to help out and make a lot of plays for him.”