Eamonn McCullough – Staff Writer
In an unprecedented spring season where competitions are still not guaranteed, the Gustavus Football team has found ways to take sudden changes in stride and excel at every turn. On Saturday, April 17, the Gusties were scheduled to scrimmage Division II Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. Unfortunately, the road competition against the Mustangs was cancelled, and the ever-resilient Gusties would scrimmage themselves on the Hollingsworth field under sunny skies that morning instead.
After a slew of positive cases swept through the SMSU football team, the Gusties changed plans, staying home on Saturday. Regardless, the week still proceeded as if Gustavus would be playing another team.
“Before the scrimmage against SMSU was cancelled, we were preparing as if we’d have a game this weekend. This was the first time that we’ve gotten to do that with the group of guys this year,” Senior Max Kahn said.
For many Gustie football players, this spring held the promise of chances to apply the skills they had been working on since fall. The team had been looking forward to a game setting for over a year.
“There’s nothing quite like playing a full four quarters of football, which teams in our conference haven’t done in a while,” Khan said.
However, the 2021 spring season has provided precious few opportunities for full games.
“This spring season has been a lot like a typical spring season, even though a lot of us felt like it was going to be a replication of a fall season. We were only able to scrimmage rather than play for scores. The mindset was a little bit different because we were preparing for the fall rather than preparing week by week for games,” Senior Hunter O’Bert said.
Although scrimmages are closer to formal games than normal practice, they still leave a lot to be desired.
“There are pros and cons to playing your own team. The pros are that you get to go out and compete. Your teammates are gonna push you, give you good looks. But it’s a different mindset. You are going against your own guys, and you don’t want to cause injuries, so you might let up a little earlier instead of finishing the play. You wanna keep your guys healthy as well as compete at a high level, so it’s all about finding the balance,” O’Bert said.
This past weekend also showed a long-missed glimpse of normality as well.
“It was nice to have guests in the stand! That hadn’t been done for a while. The field felt small again having fans in the stands,” Khan said.
Despite injuries, the Gusties found great success as a team throughout the scrimmage. Differences aside, the Gusties are already looking forward to the fall as their season of spring scrimmages comes to a close.
“We’re going to continue working out for the rest of the spring using an app where our strength and conditioning coach Zach Vine posts workouts, and stay involved over the summer with captain’s practices two to three times per month. Finally, around the start of week two of August is when we get into camp,” Khan said.
“It helps that we have a lot of senior guys coming back for their fifth year, and we saw a lot of the young guys show off what they’re capable of this weekend. Leading into the rest of the season, we want to just develop our strength right now. It’s a great time for it,” O’Bert said.
As a testament to the Gusties’ ironclad work ethic both in and out of the classroom, ten senior players were inducted into the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honors Society this past week. Graduating seniors (or seniors with eligibility who are choosing to formally end their collegiate careers) across all collegiate divisions nominated for this award must meet several demanding criteria, including a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or better throughout college, and a football career of highly significant contributions to their team as determined by coaching staff.
This year’s inductees from Gustavus, including Tamir Beeler, Noah Decker, Austin Fest, Logan Holley, Brett Hufendick, Kahn, O’Bert, Landon Rauen, Nathan Schroepfer, and Ryan Zamzow, join 900 other players from 255 other football programs across the country from the class 2021. This year marks the 15th year since the foundation of the Hampshire Honor Society.
“It was nice to be recognized, it definitely validates the efforts I have put towards academics and football. I’m glad that several of my other teammates were recognized for their hard work as well,” Holley said.
The Gusties will be back in intercollegiate action for Fall 2021 to pick up where they left off and chase a championship.
“When something you care about a lot gets taken away so suddenly, it doesn’t really sit right. [my advice to underclassmen players is] don’t take it for granted because you never know when a game is gonna be your last. Compete every chance you get, play every game like it’s your last,” O’Bert said.