BECKER — A lot of fathers probably wax a bit nostalgic seeing their sons grow up and make their own teen-age memories.
But when Corey Stanger watches his son Andrew lead the Becker High School football team onto the field at TCF Bank Stadium for Friday’s Class 4A state title game against South St. Paul, he will be experiencing a sense of deja vu.
That’s because he’s been there himself.
Just like Andrew, the Bulldogs’ senior starting quarterback, Corey once quarterbacked Becker in a state championship game.
It was back in 1994 when Corey, then a junior, and the Bulldogs fell 40-21 to Triton in what was then the Class B state final at the Metrodome.
“I’m really excited for him,” Corey said. “There’s no doubt about that. It’s something that you always hope you’ll have the chance to do as a high school player. I had that opportunity. Now he’s getting the chance to do it himself.
“I just hope the outcome is a little different for him than it was for me.”
Corey Stanger went on to lead Becker back to the state tournament as a senior in 1995, where the Bulldogs fell to Deer River in the quarterfinals. Then it was on to St. John’s University where he played four years, taking over the starting job after an injury to Tom Linnemann during the 1999 season and leading the Johnnies to a berth in the Division III national quarterfinals.
He and his wife Amy still live in Becker, and he’s a middle school special education teacher in nearby Monticello. He’s also an assistant coach for the high school football team there — at least Monday through Thursday, anyway.
Friday nights are reserved for watching Andrew.
“The head coach (Jason Telecky) has been totally awesome and understanding,” said Corey, who was featured prominently in Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy’s book “The Sweet Season” about the 1999 St. John’s football team.
“He knows family is the most important thing. So I coach Monday through Thursday. And Friday night, I’m there watching Becker, screaming like everybody else in the stands.
“My wife probably thinks I scream a little too much sometimes.”
Andrew was the backup quarterback to Michael Veldman (who plays at Division I-AA power North Dakota State) when the Bulldogs captured the state title a year ago, and he also was a key contributor at defensive back.
But he suffered a high-ankle sprain in a section semifinal victory over Delano. And though he suited up for Becker’s 24-6 win over DeLaSalle in the state championship game, he was unable to play.
“That was hard,” said Andrew, who threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns as his team downed Stewartville 34-14 in the state semifinals last Friday.
“I really wanted to be out there. So it means a lot to be back here now. Everybody on this team put in so much effort all season to reach this goal. And it’s all worked out.”
Lots of support
His father knows a thing or two about making things work. He and Amy had Corey when he was still in college at St. John’s.
“I remember I graduated from St. John’s, we bought our first house and we got married on three straight weekends. Then I got a job in Monticello, and before we knew it, we were settled down back in Becker.”
Corey went on to get his master’s degree at Bethel.
“We had a great support system in place with my mom and dad, and with Amy’s parents,” he said. “Everyone was dedicated to making sure I finished school. Without all that support, it might have been a different situation. But everybody pitched in and made it so we were able to manage.”
He and Amy have another son, Zach, who is in sixth grade. Amy and Corey’s mother work together at a Monticello real estate business.
Becker, Corey says, is “a great town with a great school.
“It’s really an amazing place to raise a family.”
And after taking up football himself, Andrew was soon playing the same position his father had.
“I didn’t start out trying to do that,” Andrew recalls. “My first year of tackle football (in fourth grade), I wanted to play running back or wide receiver. But they made me try quarterback and it just fit. That kind of became my spot.”
Of course, he always had his father on hand to lend advice.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better dad,” Andrew said. “He pushes me, but in a good way. He’s really helped me become the best player I can be.
“After every game, they put the film up (online). And before I even wake up and get out of bed, he’s gone through it and has a whole list of plays to talk to me about. He knows our offense and what we’re trying to do. So he knows what to look for.”
Which doesn’t mean the two are completely similar quarterbacks.
“They’re actually totally different,” said longtime Becker head coach Dwight Lundeen, who has coached them both. “Corey had big ankles, big wrists, a big arm. Just big everything. And Andrew is smaller and can do some different things.
“But they both worked hard and put in the time they needed to put in to get better. And they each compete with the same attitude.”
That attitude has helped both be part of some very successful football teams.
“I try and tell him every day to just enjoy this experience,” Corey said. “Playing high school anywhere is special, but especially in Becker where there’s so much support and the town really rallies around the team.
“It’s so exciting to be part of a run like this. And time goes by really fast. So you have to savor the moment while you’re in it.”
Follow Frank Rajkowski on Twitter at @rajko1973 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimesfrank .