The Minnewaska football team handed out its team awards on Tuesday night, and the Lakers had plenty to honor after an 8-3 season.
Minnewaska went 7-3 a year ago with some talented seniors leading the way. The Lakers reloaded and made it one game further this fall before falling in the section title game in a 56-0 loss to Paynesville Area. Head coach Jeremy Christensen said he believes that eight-win season had a lot to do with so many new athletes coming in with a chip on their shoulder.
"Those kids were determined to show people what they were made of," Christensen said. "When we finally put it all together, we were pretty tough to beat. We don't use the word 'rebuilding' around here, but rather 'reloading' and that is our mentality. No matter who we lose to graduation or injuries, we feel we can reload with the next guy up."
Senior offensive guard and defensive tackle John Helander brought home a bunch of hardware, including the team's Most Outstanding Player Award. That was after also taking home the Lakers' Offensive Lineman of the Year Award and the Defensive Lineman of the Year Award, along with being named the Mid-State (Sub 2) District's most-outstanding offensive lineman.
Helander helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 5.84 yards per carry, while also racking up 53.5 total tackles, including 15 tackles for loss.
Sophomore fullback/linebacker Tyson Meyer also earned a couple different team honors after being named the offensive player of the year and the defensive player of the year. Meyer had 75.5 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. Offensively, he led the team in rushing with 731 yards and 11 touchdowns on 117 carries. Nine different players scored a rushing touchdown for a balanced Lakers' backfield.
Junior kicker Drew Nelson was named the special teams player of the year after going 27-of-30 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals. His long was a 43-yarder.
Junior lineman Dylan Jergenson earned the Most Improved Player Award. He had 29.5 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. Senior receiver and defensive back Hunter Moen earned the Dan Wold Memorial Award, while Max Reichmann and Tyler VanLuik were the Scout Team Player Award winners.
In the lower levels, Alec Larson was named the 9th-grade player of the year. Reichmann took home that same honor on the junior varsity team.
Senior quarterback and defensive back Ryan Amundson represented the Lakers on and off the field. He earned academic all-state honors and was one of five Lakers named to the all-district team. Amundson had 10 pass breakups and four interceptions. He threw for 666 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions, while also running for 655 yards and nine scores.
"We had nine seniors that were strong leaders on and off the field, which helped bridge the gap between our upperclassman and our young kids who played a significant role on the varsity this year," Christensen said. "We lose some top quality kids again in this year's seniors, but we'll be looking to reload again in 2019."
MINNEWASKA SPECIAL AWARD WINNERS
ALL DISTRICT - Ryan Amundson, John Helander (district's most-outstanding offensive lineman), Luke Barkeim, Dylan Jergenson, Tyson Meyer; Honorable mention - Grant Jensen, Jack Blevins
ALL-SECTION 5AA - Helander, Barkeim, Tyler VanLuik, Meyer