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Osakis ready to reload for another run at a section title

The Silverstreaks won their final game of the 2020 season and have a good mix of returning talent and newcomers ready to step in. That has players and coaches confident that they'll be competitive near the top of the Section 6AA field again.

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Osakis junior running back Jack Petrich runs through an offensive drill during the Silverstreaks' practice on Aug. 17, 2021. Petrich is one of the backs looking to get carries this season as Osakis attempts to fill the holes left behind by two quality runners from last year's offense in Isaac Hetland and Duncan Vandergon. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Osakis football team was eager to be back on the field for practice on Tuesday under much more normal circumstances than what this team experienced a year ago.

The Silverstreaks lost their first two games on their 2020 schedule due to a positive COVID-19 case on the team. Head coach Bill Infanger also missed the opening game against Holdingford on Oct. 24 after having surgery to donate a kidney to his wife, Amy .

In the end, Osakis finished 3-2 and with a 34-12 win over Pillager in its lone Section 6AA playoff game before the season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Chayce Meyer, who will play center and defensive end this year, said the 2020 season serves as motivation going into this fall. The Silverstreaks are two years removed from playing in the Class 2A state tournament, and that’s the goal again this year with a good mix of returning talent and newcomers to varsity ready to step in.

“We kind of got robbed last year from going to the Fargodome, going to the section championship,” tight end/outside linebacker Carter Watnaas said. “We have a good program coming back. We’ve gone to the section title game very frequently, so we want to go back and win that. Overall, we want to go to state and show that Osakis football is no joke.”

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Sophomore Drew Imdieke runs up field during Osakis football practice on Aug. 17, 2021. Imdieke figures to get a lot of work this season as the Silverstreaks' fullback offensively. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Infanger is confident that this group is capable of being in position to do that.

“I think we have enough guys back from last year in key positions,” he said. “We also on the flip side of that have guys who have to come in and prove themselves. About half the guys we have starting for us this year will be new, and about half are returning. We feel confident in a lot of places, and we think the guys who are stepping in are ready.”

Osakis has to fill in the gaps left behind by graduation in the backfield and along the lines. Isaac Hetland was a linebacker and fullback who earned this team’s MVP award last fall. He finished with 798 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns in just five games.

Duncan Vandergon added 652 yards on 98 carries as a speed threat in the ground game that Osakis relies so heavily upon.

“We’ve been really blessed in the last several years in our skill positions and guys carrying the ball,” Infanger said. “We went from Luke Imdieke and Isaac Hetland in our state run two years ago, and Hunter (Infanger) at quarterback. Last year, we had Bauer (Klimek) at quarterback who’s a talented athlete, and Hetland and Duncan in the backfield. They did a great job, and now we have Bauer back at quarterback and Kyle Mages is back from injury.”

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Osakis 12th-year head coach Bill Infanger talks to his team during the second day of fall practices on Aug. 17, 2021. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

Klimek (QB/WR/CB) and Mages will likely share some of the quarterback duties this season.

“With our offense, our line is going to be really good this year,” Klimek said. “We got a big line, and they can handle almost anyone out there. Then with our running backs, we got a lot of young talent coming up. They can be mean, they can lower a shoulder. Then our wideouts this year, we have some taller people, and we’re looking to throw a little bit more. We’re looking to be a little more diverse.”

Sophomore Drew Imdieke, Luke Imdieke’s younger brother, is next in line at the fullback position, while Tyson Hagedon will get the chance to take the reins at halfback.

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Junior running back Tyson Hagedon runs through a play as sophomore Kyle Mages reaches his arms out during a non-contact practice for the Silverstreaks on Aug. 17, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“Then we have guys behind them too,” Infanger said. “Jack Petrich will take some halfback reps, and then Tyler Bailey, a junior who moved in from Park of Cottage Grove -- big, strong, physical kid who played fullback for the JV team there. He’s getting some reps at fullback too.”

Osakis’ offense is at its best when multiple backs are carrying the load behind a strong offensive line. Brady Mages, a senior who has been a fixture on those lines in recent years, returns as the most experienced guy up front at right tackle and defensive end.

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“It will be a little bit different because we have some newer guys that haven’t played varsity as much,” B. Mages said. “It will be a little bit different for them, but after the first few games I think we’ll be right up there.”

Meyer will take over at center on offense after being a fixture defensively and playing some tight end in 2020. Caleb Goodwin is back on the line after being an All-Section 6AA player last fall, and Watnaas also returns as a starting tight end.

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Osakis' Carter Watnaas runs after making a catch during the Silverstreaks' practice on Aug. 17, 2021. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

“We’ve got two sophomores who are fighting for our guard position on the other side -- Wyatt Sell and Tyler Baumgartner. Both of them look good. Backside tackle, McCarter Kirksey is one of the strongest kids in our program, moves really well for a big kid. And then we’ve got Logan Karnes, who’s probably the biggest, strongest kid in our program. Either of them can take reps at left tackle for us.”

It is hard to know exactly how this year’s section stacks up after not having a full playoff last year, but Infanger expects West Central Area-Ashby (5-2 a year ago) to be good again. Sauk Centre is new to the section, while Pillager, Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek also make up what Infanger called a competitive Section 6AA field.

“I think every team has a good opportunity,” Watnaas said. “Any team might have some young guys that can come up. There’s always potential for any team to be good. You just never know until you start seeing some film, so we’re not going to take anyone for granted.”

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Osakis' Brady Mages, left, and Tyson Hagedon take a knee between plays during practice on Aug. 17, 2021. Mages and Hagedon figure to be two important pieces for the Silverstreaks this fall as they try to get back to the Section 6AA championship game after winning that section title in 2019. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

Infanger is in his 12th season now leading the Silverstreaks. He knows challenges await this year, but he’s confident the program is at a place where Osakis can consistently compete at a high level in the section.

“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with the weight room in the summer,” Infanger said. “We don’t want to have a rebuilding year. We’re trying to reload every year and get our program to that point. We’ve made four out of the last five section championships. The hope is that we’re getting there. There’s a culture in place, and these guys understand that. They’re doing the things they need to do to keep us there.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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