Cobbers, Dragons football programs excited to play games this fall after canceled 2020 season
The Concordia Cobbers and Minnesota State Moorhead Dragons football teams are back in action this fall after last season was canceled for both programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead head football coach Steve Laqua attempted to put a positive spin on his team not playing last fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dragons haven’t played a football game since November 2019.
“It’s a long stretch of being undefeated,” Laqua said with a laugh.
MSUM starts practice Monday, Aug. 9, and its first game is scheduled for Sept. 2 against Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, starting an 11-game Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference slate.
“There’s definitely a high level of excitement to get closer to normal and finally to game day,” Laqua said. “I think that’s probably as high as it’s ever been. It’s getting close enough now to where you can almost taste it.”
The Dragons posted a 6-5 record in 2019 before not playing in 2020. Laqua projects around 110 players for the start of fall camp, including 10 super seniors, players who were seniors last fall and are using the NCAA eligibility to return for one more season.
Defensive tackle Jordan Magnuson, from Valley City, N.D., is one of those super seniors. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Magnuson has played in 32 games during his MSUM career with 120 total tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Magnuson said it wasn't a difficult decision to return for the extra season.
“You only get to play college football once, so that was the biggest thing,” Magnuson said. “We put a lot of work in. You kind of got an extra year to build on what you’ve already done.”
The Concordia Cobbers also didn’t play last season due to the pandemic. They start practice Thursday, Aug. 12, and their first game is Sept. 4 against Valley City State at Jake Christiansen Stadium. The Cobbers also haven't played a game since November 2019. Concordia, which plays in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, is slated to play nine regular-season games.
“It’s going to be just a breath of fresh air being able to be back out there again,” said Cobbers head football coach Terry Horan, whose team had a 5-5 record in 2019. “I’m just so happy we get to play.”
Laqua said his team had around 60 practices combined between last fall and spring leading into this season. The Dragons also played two scrimmages in the spring against the University of Mary and the University of Sioux Falls.
“It was kind of a messy year,” Magnuson said. “That was probably one of the toughest parts, knowing that it got canceled. … We put our nose to the grindstone and kept working. That’s probably the best analogy and that kind of helped get us through, our teammates working together and having fun while we did it.”
The Dragons were picked to finish ninth in the NSIC in the preseason coaches’ poll. Laqua said they tried to use the past school year to assess how they practice and train since there were no games to play. They kept practices shorter to help keep players refreshed.
“We tried to take advantage of the time and relook at everything we were doing,” Laqua said. “We had a fair amount of experimentation over the last year.”
Horan said the Cobbers had around 40 practices last fall, but no 11-on-11 sessions. The Cobbers did get 21 padded practices in the spring, including a scrimmage. During that scrimmage, Concordia honored the seniors who weren’t coming back to play this fall.
“It’s probably the best spring we’ve had,” Horan said. “It wasn’t all sour grapes, but it’s what we had. We honored our seniors that weren’t coming back and we made sure we ended on a good note.”
Horan said wide receiver Zach Wolf and linebacker Sam Hegg-Entzion are the only super seniors on the roster this fall. The Cobbers enter camp with more than 140 players, including 70 freshmen.
“If there was a positive with COVID and everything we experienced was our recruiting,” Horan said. “This is our biggest class.”
Magnuson said he’s ready to return to game action this fall.
“I think the excitement is definitely there,” Magnuson said. “We are ready to get back on the field and get the pads rocking again. I think we’re excited to get back, and a little bit of normal, and get back to playing games.”
Laqua said it was hard to build team camaraderie last season with most team activities being done remotely except for the on-field work.
“We have a lot of ground to make up there,” Laqua said of team chemistry.
Laqua added not having games, in-person meetings and at times not being able to practice every day changes your perspective.
“Until something is gone you don’t necessarily always appreciate it like you should,” Laqua said. “That is definitely there.”