A familiar changing of the guard in NY Mills
Head Coach Matt Radniecki returns to the New York Mills sidelines in his third stint and 15th year coaching looking to turn around a program that has seen its share of losses the past few years.
NY Mills looks to end a 26-game losing streak week one at home against Royalton, a team that finished second in the state in 2008 and stomped the Eagles 44-0 in last year's opener.
"They're good and it's not going to be an easy opener," Radniecki said. "They had a good season last year with a really good running back in senior Zach Lanners. We're not going to see many better athletes this year, but I think we can do some things to contain him."
Radniecki has a history of success in NY Mills, coaching for ten seasons from 1989 to 1998. He returned in 2002 and coached until 2006 taking the team to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
J.J. Weller returns from last year's coaching staff along with seasoned coach Brian Dunrud.
Last year's 0-8 Prairie North Conference season left NY Mills the odd team out of the playoffs in the nine-team 6A section.
An area that needed improvement even before the season was getting numbers back up and enticing more kids to either join or return to the program.
Last year saw only 28 regulars suited up for the Eagles. Thanks to Radniecki and the coaching staff's marketing of the program, this year's squad has 39 regulars, including 13 seniors.
"We didn't graduate as many seniors last year; that plays into it a little bit. We also have a few kids who came back, along with seniors playing this year that didn't play last year."
Key losses from last year's squad are Jordan Novak, Jarrod Norton, Landyn Seawert and Ted Rohr.
Radniecki saw an opportunity to return to the program after taking a break to work on his team at home, his three children.
"Now that they have gotten older I saw this opportunity was there and took advantage of it. I just like football camaraderie."
Radniecki does have some experience coming back in players that started last year. While this team did not see success in the win-loss column, they do have game experience.
"You can't replace that."
Tanner Wegscheid will start at quarterback and the coaching staff looks for him to do a lot of things offensively.
Wegscheid may see his level of offensive responsibility heightened early in the season after the team lost sophomore running back Shane Novak to a broken bone in his wrist. Chances are Novak will be able to play at his defensive cornerback position pending physician approval.
Building a successful program from square one falls heavily on the younger classes and Radniecki will play some freshman this year.
"We have a good freshman class this year. They're confident, but might be a little young."
The thing about these younger players is they are used to winning. Many of the freshman football players were part of highly successful baseball teams both in the spring school season and the summer Babe Ruth season.
Leadership will be up and down the sidelines as winning again becomes a tradition and translating that mindset from the baseball diamond to the gridiron could be something the freshman class is able to provide this year's squad.
Offensively, Radniecki has plans to move away from the run-oriented veer offense to running a spread offense featuring a lot of motion and different looks for opposing teams.
The defense will run out of a basic 4-3 scheme but continue with the philosophy of showing different looks to keep opposing offenses off guard.
Radniecki's philosophy on winning is simple.
"We need to get better, take it up a step and see how much better can we get. How much of the ladder can we climb?"
In the conference, Barnesville and Browerville look to have the early edge on the top spot. Browerville won the section and advanced to state last year.
"The attitude of the kids has been terrific, we've had very good attendance at practice and we're looking to become a better football team and be more competitive getting better each week. Our ultimate goal is to play our best game at the end of the season. We want to peak at the end."
NY Mills opens the season at home against Royalton on Thursday, September 2.
10 @ Ottertail Central
17 @ Kerkoven-M-S
24 United North Central
1 @ Osakis
8 @ Parkers Prairie