August 15, 2018 08:56 PM
(ABC 6 News) – Coming off of a Class AAA state championship in 2016, the Lourdes Eagles entered 2017 as a young football team—meaning in 2018, the Eagles have the potential to become a more dangerous squad.
In 2017, the Eagles won their second-consecutive Section 1AAA Championship to clinch their second-consecutive Class AAA state tournament berth (the Eagles lost to St. Croix Lutheran in the quarterfinals, 61-29).
Fortunately for the Eagles, there won’t be a lot of growing pains in camp prior to opening kickoff—18 of the Eagles’ 22 starters from last season are back, the most which head coach Mike Kesler said he’s ever had at Lourdes.
"This is a fantastic group of guys,” senior captain Pat Leary said. “It's probably one of the best football teams I've ever been on (personally). We know what we can do, it's just if we can achieve it or not."
“On paper, it looks good, but it doesn't mean anything,” Kesler said. “We have to decide if we're going to come together as a football team. If we can do that, it could be fun on Friday, but we've got a long way to go with that, and that's going to be the key to our success if we can come together as a football team or not
Besides Leary, key players returning for the Eagles include senior fullback and linebacker Jake Groteboer, running back and linebacker Zach Jungels, defensive back Trey Billmeier, offensive lineman and defensive lineman Michael Frain, and junior offensive lineman and defensive lineman Riley Schaefer.
“(Riley) will play our most critical position (three-technique) on the defensive line,” Kesler said. “He just needs to continue working on reads and understanding his responsibilities inside.”
“Riley is a fantastic athlete,” Leary added. “He was able to adapt really well to the new position. I think he’s going to be really good at it.”
Last season, Leary opened the season as the team’s starting quarterback before the Eagles replaced Leary under center with Matt Hayford.
In 2018, Kesler, who’s entering his 14th season as Lourdes head football coach (124-31 overall record), said the senior Hayford will start the 2018 season at QB, but Leary will still have plenty of opportunities on offense.
"You're going to see (Pat) kind of all over the field this year,” Kesler said. “Pat is a pretty special athlete. I think he's one of the best players in Southeast Minnesota. He's already got division II offers (from Southwest Minnesota State University). He's a special kid and we're going to try to get him the ball as much as we can because he can definitely do some damage."
Overall, the Eagles have high expectations, and they know what they’re capable of.
“Experience is huge in high school football,” Leary said. “We have a lot of that around here, that’s going to drive us in the postseason.”
“We thrive on expectations,” Kesler said. “They just feel it’s their turn. I’m proud that these kids want to stay at that high level. It’s our job to try to get them there and keep them there. They know what they have back, they’ve been together a long time. Now it’s a matter of cleaning things up and being ready to go for week 1.”
The Eagles open the season on Thursday, August 30 in Dodge Center at Triton.
Updated: August 15, 2018 08:56 PM
Created: August 13, 2018 05:30 PM
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