GRANITE FALLS - Just six players on the Yellow Medicine East football team were in high school the last time the Sting won a game on a Friday night. But those six seniors (Austin Vikander, Cody Mathiowetz, Joe Sannerud, Zach Fischer, Logan DeBlieck and Landon Evans), who have stuck through a combined 5-23 record since 2010, are leading the charge to get the Sting back on the winning path.
"I think our core group of seniors are still going to be our leaders on the field. They've been there and done it and they haven't had a lot of success yet. But the six that are left have gone through those struggles and they've worked their tails off this year," YME head coach Mike Gaffaney said. "We've had more kids in the weight room than we have for maybe the past three to four years. Not just our juniors and seniors, but our freshman showed up and the sophomores, that's a small class, but a lot of them were in there too. It's not just any one grade level. It's 9-12 situation."
Driving this converging on the weight room has been an increase in multi-sport athletes donning the maroon and gray for the Sting. Gaffaney said that once those athletes began to realize the benefits of weight lifting on their performance in basketball, wrestling, etc. it became easier to keep them coming back to the gym in the summer.
Photo by Travis Andries
Yellow Medicine East running back Wyatt Hatch (21) fends off a rush as Grant Lalim (8) boots a PAT attempt during practice Thursday night in Granite Falls.
"We try to stress it, all the sports do, but the kids that are multi-sport athletes realized that it was good for them no matter what sport they were in," Gaffaney said of the weight training program at YME. "Coach (Jake) Suter is our defensive coordinator and he's also our head basketball coach, so it was easy to get that type of player in there. We have a lot of wrestlers that play football as well."
Along with Suter, head YME baseball coach Trevor Schulte and head boys tennis coach Jeff Lalim also assist Gaffaney in the fall, turning football into an extra chance to prove your work ethic to a future head coach.
Though the Sting may be short on seniors, they do boast a junior class that is 14 strong. The extra bodies entering 11th grade give the Sting a hint of depth, which could keep the team from relying on underclassmen, especially freshman, in the event of an injury.
Yellow Medicine East Sting
2012 record: 0-9.
West Central Conference finish: 4th (0-8).
Final game: 42-6 loss to Minnewaska Area.
Points allowed/game: 48.7.
Key losses: Aaaron Lalim, QB; Jacob Pederson, RB, Kolten Anderson, RB.
Key returners: Austin Vikander, RB; Blake Lindstrom, QB; Wyatt Fischer, OL; Logan DeBlieck, OL; Cody Mathiowetz, OL; Joe Sannerud, OL.
"We're a typical Class AA school. We're going to lack depth at certain positions. We don't have a lot of "big" kids, but it's like anything else. You can have a 180-pound kid playing on the line that's better than a 200-pound kid," Gaffaney said. "We'll have depth on our offensive line this year. We'll have to stay healthy at our skill positions. Depth is a concern, but we're pretty typical of most AA teams."
One skill position where the Sting will have some extra bodies is at quarterback. Junior Blake Lindstrom will start under center for the Sting after starting the final five games of 2012 as a sophomore.
Senior tailback Austin Vikander was also in the mix at quarterback in 2012, and even though Vikander looks to be the featured back in the YME offense, he could spell Lindstrom on occasion or provide the Sting with a "Wildcat" style offense.
"We started Aaron Lalim, a senior, for the first four games and then we went with, at the time, a sophomore in Blake Lindstrom. He also played on the basketball team last year. He's getting older, more mature, stronger and more athletic," Gaffaney said. "But the other thing is Austin Vikander is a real versatile player. He was in the hunt at quarterback last year and if anything should go wrong, Blake would get injured, Austin could step in there right away."
Chase Richter, at wide receiver, and Tyson Velde, a tight end, are both juniors and should provide consistent targets for Lindstrom when the Sting opt to attack through the air.