Alli Joerger – Staff Writer
Reaching the end of the 2021 season, the Gustavus football team hosted its final home game against the St. Olaf Oles on Nov. 6. After an excellent demonstration of perseverance and fan support, the Gusties prevailed over the Oles with a final score of 29-14. With this win, the Gusties conclude the regular season with an overall record of 7-2, a MIAC record of 5-2, and an opportunity to compete with Concordia again for the third-place title this coming weekend.
The win was an overall very satisfying way for the Gusties to conclude the regular season and prepare for championship week. Junior kicker Andrew Abbeglen’s performance of 3-for-3 field goals brings him just one short of the program record for field goals, earning him the title of MIAC Football Special Teams Player of the Week. Senior quarterback Brett Hufendick was also vital in the Gusties’ success as he completed 30-of-41 passes for 276 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Though it was indeed a convincing victory with several strong performances, the team’s perpetual desire for refinement encouraged each member to reflect on the game and see areas where they can improve and finish the season strong. “It’s always good to get a win. And it’s always better to learn from your mistakes after a win rather than a loss. For us, there are certain areas that we need to continue to improve as a unit, and continue to improve individually,” Co-offensive Coordinator Charles Cosgrove said.
The Gusties plan to use this win as a learning tool moving into championship week. The front put up by St. Olaf highlighted areas that could be improved, making technique and fundamentals the major point of emphasis for the Gusties as they work to perfect their offense prior to facing Concordia. While it may seem like a strange time to revert to the basics for the offensive line, a group with experienced leadership from Seniors Tommy Bigaouette and Gunnar Johnson, Coach Cosgrove sees this focus as an opportunity to “teach an old dog new tricks” and emphasize doing the little things right in order to yield the desired results.
“Even though our seniors only have one week left with us, it’s a group that has prided themselves on finishing… One of the main reasons that they’re still here is because they’re finishers, so I wanted to challenge them… to finish strong,” Coach Cosgrove said. This culture of finishing is extremely pertinent to the team as it set its sights on having an overall record of 8-2 on the season, something that has yet to be achieved since 1998. This goal is a primary one of the senior members of the team, and through their leadership and guidance, the goal has become that of the entire team as well.
The buy-in to that goal is facilitated by the recognition of the time, dedication, and genuine love of the game that the seniors possess. These qualities are especially to the underclassmen on the team. “The senior leadership has meant everything to me. Guys like [Johnson and Bigaouette] have taken me under their wing and kept me calm throughout a lot of different situations. They’ve allowed me to grow as a person,” First-year offensive lineman Luke Rooker explained. This season’s leaders have established a conviction of a growth mindset in the team, as well as the conviction that victory is attainable through hard work and meticulous focus.
While this mindset is ubiquitous on the team from the senior leadership, it also would not exist without the focus and faith prevalent among the coaching staff. Rooker explained that the coaches have also facilitated his growth as a person, and Coach Cosgrove has helped create opportunities for him to succeed as a member of the team. Head Coach Peter Haugen also encourages individual success for the betterment of the team, with Rooker explaining that, “He’s put trust behind his players, which means a lot.”
The Gustavus coaches indeed have tremendous faith in the abilities of their athletes and the ability of the leaders to encourage the team to persevere through the rest of the season. “What separates them [senior offensive linemen] absolutely is their character and their commitment. It’s a legacy of commitment, it’s a legacy of growth, it’s a legacy of work… It’s just an amazing group and it’s a really positive legacy they’re leaving,” Coach Cosgrove said. The Gusties hope to begin that legacy with a positive end to the season against Concordia this weekend.