The Minnewaska football team is looking to improve on its 8-3 season from a year ago, and the Lakers will have to do it in a new section.

Minnewaska made the jump from Section 5AA to 6AAA in the offseason after finishing second in 2018. The Lakers will play teams like Pierz, New London-Spicer and Albany as they try to compete near the top of the section field.

“We return some key pieces from our section runner-up team in 2018, but will need to fill the holes of our graduating seniors,” head coach Jeremy Christensen said. “We also will be competing in Section 6AAA this year, which is one of, if not the best (Class) AAA sections in the state.”

After making it to the section championship, Minnewaska lost to Paynesville 56-0 in their last 5AA game.

The Lakers bring nine starters from 2018 back this fall, but one spot they have to replace is that of quarterback Ryan Amundson. Minnewaska loses its touchdown leader in Amundson as the Lakers try to make strides on that eight-win season.

Competing for the starting spot at QB will be Darion Alexander. The junior quarterback has limited experience under center on varsity, but has the toughness to win a spot on the field, Christensen said.

“He’s a hard-nosed runner that is a versatile athlete,” Christensen said. “He could play a number of different positions for us.”

Returning to the field are three all-district players. Tight end/defensive end Luke Barkeim, running back/linebacker Tyson Meyer and lineman Dylan Jergenson will look to lead the Lakers, while Grant Jensen (RB/QB/DB) was an honorable-mention all-district player and is a three-year starter back for the Lakers.

“We have seen our kids have another outstanding summer in our strength and speed program,” Christensen said. “We are looking to use those assets to the best of our ability.”

Even though Minnewaska is making a jump up in class size, the gameplan stays relatively the same. Christensen believes there are many key players on his team. Christian Bartz, Tyler VanLuik, Drew Nelson, Jakob Swalla, Aaron VerSteeg, Peyton Johnsrud, Dylan Koubsky, Max Reichmann, Jackson Stadsvold, Aiden Tank, Adam Larson and Mason Blair are some players who are expected to be a big part of the success this Lakers have this fall.

“As in years past, we will rely heavily on our running game, but look to utilize the passing game and our perimeter athletes more this season,” Christensen said. “Defensively, we will try to stop the opposition's running game first and pressure the quarterback as much as possible. We feel we have a solid group this year and will do our best to get our athletes in a position to succeed.”

MINNEWASKA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Aug. 29 vs. Parkers Prairie, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Kimball, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 vs. ACGC, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 vs. Montevideo, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 at BOLD, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Morris Area, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 vs. Sauk Centre, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 at Osakis, 7 p.m.