GLYNDON, Minn - Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton football coach Anthony Soderberg says the same thing to his team after the final game of the season. The Rebels have never won a state championship under Soderberg, so the season has always ended with a loss.
He tells them he loves them, it was a joy coaching them and this is what it's like to lose something you love.
"To have your football season be done is a gut-wrenching time for anybody," Soderberg said. "The kids never know it's over until the final whistle blows. It's always in the back of their mind that it could happen, but until that moment, they don't really believe it."
Last season's final game came a little earlier than usual, as D-G-F fell in the Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 semifinals after four straight years of winning the section.
"It's something you're never going to get back," Soderberg said. "It's experiencing the loss of something you're only going to feel when you lose a family member, when something is taken from you."
The Rebels had made it to the state semifinals in back-to-back seasons before falling to Pequot Lakes 34-0 in the section semifinals last season. D-G-F had beaten Pequot Lakes in the section championship the previous four seasons. The Patriots ended up winning the section and going to the state semifinals.
"It wasn't like a surprise," Soderberg said. "The team at Pequot Lakes, those kids that were seniors last year were beat as sophomores and juniors. They weren't as big as we were up front, but the difference was their athletes were seniors and we were playing sophomores. It's really tough to compete when they play bigger, faster, stronger kids. We had to play the best game of the year to beat them and it just didn't happen."
If D-G-F wants to win back the section, the Rebels will have to do so with an entirely new offensive line.
"We got some kids with big shoes to fill," Soderberg said. "We have expectations that we're going to line up and did what we did to other teams. We aren't going to move them 3 feet, but hopefully 3 inches. There's not a senior on the offensive line, but they're tough and hard-nosed. We'll see what we can get out of them."
Aiden Leach started the last five games of last season at quarterback. The junior is back at quarterback this season.
"We pretty much consider him a returning starter," Soderberg said. "It was a good experience to get him in there to see what he's good at and not good at. There's more things he's good at than not good at. We added a few wrinkles for his skill set."
Leach will have some height to throw to, although D-G-F has always been known as a run-first team. Junior Carter Bohn is 6-foot-2 and senior Tanner Tahran is 6-3. Tahran is a basketball and baseball player, playing football for the first time since eighth grade.
"He's been a very welcome surprise," Soderberg said of Tahran. "Didn't expect that going into the season."
D-G-F also has a couple of big targets at tight end in 6-6, 205-pound senior Nathan Leitner and 6-1, 215-pound senior Jackson Friend. The main guy getting rushing attempts will be junior Carter Kohler, who lost 15 pounds in the offseason.
"He's a lot better looking athlete than last year," Soderberg said. "His speed has increased, but what hasn't changed is the kid's hands. If the ball is anywhere near him, he's going to catch it."
Defensively, D-G-F essentially has its entire secondary back. Soderberg's main excitement for the season is he has similar players that he can split up for offense and defense, rather than making multiple guys play both sides of the ball.
"We're two-deep at a lot of positions, so we can stay away from having to go both ways as much as possible," Soderberg said. "We got 10 seniors, so we'll be pretty young, but by the end of the year we should be playing some good football."
Aug. 31: vs. Barnesville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: vs. East Grand Forks, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14: at Thief River Falls, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Pequot Lakes, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: vs. Park Rapids, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5: at Detroit Lakes, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: at Perham, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17: vs. Fergus Falls, 7 p.m.