Winning the season opener Thursday is just one of the Ada-Borup football team’s goals for 2011. Making it back to the state playoffs for a fourth straight season sits at the top of the list.
Ada-Borup lost to Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke in last season’s state quarterfinals, and the bitter aftertaste can be eliminated with a win Thursday against Kittson County Central. The Cougars have prepared for the game since last season ended with the painful loss.
Ada-Borup coach Nathan Brager was impressed by his team’s dedication to improve their game over summer break.
“We had a good offseason this year,” Brager said. “Guys were getting in the weight room and many particapated in passing leagues. They’ve had football on their minds since we had the loss last year in the playoffs, so I think that motivated us and will help us early on as well as down the road.”
The Cougars’ running attack will be missing two big producers from last year. Ada-Borup lost Bill Atwood and Aaron Olson to graduation, two all-conference players who combined for more than 1,000 yards last season. The offense needs an explosive player to fill the vacant holes.
“Every year we have somebody who steps up,” Brager said. “This year we’re looking for more than one guy to fill in their roles. We might have a platoon of backs, but we feel when they each get their own opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of them and do some good things out there.”
Aside from the challenge of filling in two major spots on offense, Ada-Borup’s next task will be eliminating mental mistakes and playing with confidence on the field.
Fifth-year special teams coach Dave Smart will have his work cut out for him, as he will need to breed confidence into two up-and-coming sophomores who will start on special teams, Lance Ruebke and Blake Fetting.
“A couple of sophomores will be doing the bulk of the work on special teams this year,” Brager said. “Fetting has kind of emerged as the kicker and punter while Lance Ruebke along with some others are showing that they can return the ball for good yardage. Coach Smart has done an excellent job every year, and I expect his specialty to be strong again this year.”
Ada-Borup’s toughest game will come late in the season against Ulen-Hitterdal, a team returning many players from last year.
And Brager has had success against the team he formerly headed.
“Ulen-Hitterdal is going to be a tough team to beat,” Brager said. “I believe they’re going to be one of the strongest teams in the conference as most of their roster returns this season. But we also are in the same boat, returning six guys on each side of the ball also.”
Ada-Borup’s hopes of fullfilling their many goals starts Thursday night against Kittson County Central and continues from there.
“We’ve won the conference the last two years and the section the last three,” Brager said. “We’re not going to lower our standards – starting by beating Kittson County Central Thursday, then winning our conference and then making a run for state. There are going to be some holes to fill, but the guys coming in to fill their spots have played a lot of good football over the years. It’s just when the guys get their opportunities they have to make plays. That’s all there is to it.”