After doing the Cinderella thing in 2010 with a playoff run that included a state tournament berth, the fairy tale never quite materialized in 2011 for the Sauk Rapids Storm.
Great guys, yes. But the 2-7 record wasn’t close to the expectations or how the story was supposed to end.
“We feel like we can have a lot better year,” said Sauk Rapids head coach Bill Magnuson, who also led the Storm to state in 2003 and a near-miss in 2008. “Last year we had great kids, but they just didn’t click.
“This group is ready to click and get back on that winning tradition we’ve had quite a few years now.”
To improve, the Storm plan to do it with their speed and with some wrinkles thrown into their power offense.
There are seven players running 4.7-second or better 40-yard dashes. The coaching staff plans to have them all playing roles.
“We do have a lot of speed,” senior linebacker Clayton Douvier said. “We do have guys flying around on defense who can make plays. Hopefully, that’ll mean less yards for the opponents’ offense.”
And, perish the thought, but Sauk Rapids plans to open up its offense a bit. There are plans to use the ‘p’ word regularly in their offense. They plan to pass.
“It should be a fun year,” senior running back Jake Lynch said. He’s one of the fast guys, an excellent sprinter in track who clocked in with a 4.51-second 40. “We’re still going to be doing all the power stuff.
“But we should be able to open it up, too.”
Leading the offense will be quarterback Joel Haller. A three-sport athlete who also is a standout in hockey and baseball, he enjoys the challenge of being able to throw a little more often. Sauk Rapids attempted 90 passes in nine games last season and often those attempts came when the Storm trailed.
There’s a possibility that the Storm could double that total this season.
“I feel that our team is more together this year,” senior center Trevor Waldorf said.
Waldorf is 6-foot-2, 285 pounds and a returning honorable-mention All-Central Lakes Conference selection who should draw collegiate interest.
“We’ve got a lot of fast guys this year,” Waldorf said. “We’re smaller maybe, but we’re faster.”
The offensive line also returns guard Matt Johnson (6-0, 175) and has Trent Klejeski (6-3, 265, Sr.), Charlie O’Brien (6-1, 175, Jr.) and Will Woolsey (6-4, 200, Sr.) expected to play key roles.
Haller, Zach Silbernick, Chris Keske, Logan Smoley, Lynch and Brandon Morrison are some of those quick skill guys the Storm expect to utilize
“We’ve been practicing really hard, working on our blocks and everything,” senior tight end/defensive end Brandon Clark said. “Everyone’s working real hard.”
The motivation for the hard work? At least for Clark, that’s easy.
“I think last year we learned what it’s like to be going 2-7,” Clark said. “We want to feel better at the end of the season.”
Defensively, the Storm will be led by Douvier, who had 84 tackles and two quarterback sacks. Haller had 36 tackles, Tyler Huston contributed 22 and Charley Rudy had 19.
Outside linebacker Brandon Landowski is another sprinter with outstanding qucikness and Tyler Bjork and Barclay Bates are guys to watch.
“It’s going good,” Haller said. “Everyone’s working hard.”
The schedule remains difficult, though Rogers and Brainerd aren’t on it this season. Sauk Rapids has road games with Cambridge and Bemidji.
“Last year was fun,” Lynch said. “But this year’s got to be a better year, just because we have a lot of seniors and they all love to play football.”