MOORHEAD — Last season was the first losing season for Moorhead football since the Spuds went 3-6 in 2009. The Spuds were 2-8 last season with their only two wins coming against winless Sartell-St. Stephen.
"I think it was tough on everybody," Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney said. "Sometimes you gotta go through struggles to have growth. Certainly last year we had our fair share of struggles and it's going to pay off for us this year. Last year was a transition year for us, but we let adversity punch us in the mouth."
Moorhead had six straight seasons of appearing in the Class 5A, Section 8 championship game before falling in the section semifinals the last three seasons. The coaching staff met with players individually at the end of last season and felt as though the players already knew the issues that needed fixing.
"It was finishing games or fighting through adversity," Feeney said. "A big thing for our offseason training, whether it was winter or summer, was discipline and communication and adversity."
This is where Feeney wants his junior quarterback to step up. Trey Feeney, Kevin's son, is entering his second season starting at quarterback for the Spuds.
"Trey has to be a part of that," Kevin Feeney said. "His voice in the huddle, with eyes looking at him in the huddle, has to be there, whether he plays well or not. He's not like me, where it's up and down emotionally. He's a very even-keeled kid. He never gets too high or too low."
As for someone who doesn't need to say a thing to change the momentum of a game, enter Seth Anderson. He's about 6-foot-4, 275 pounds and he will be playing guard on the offensive line and defensive end. The North Dakota State commit is a man of few words, but much strength.
"He's not going to say much, but his style of play is something," Kevin Feeney said. "He didn't get a lot of opportunities to play offense last year, but his physicality and his next-play mentality is exactly what we're looking for."
Anderson had offers from Northern Iowa, Northern Illinois, New Mexico State, Kansas, South Dakota State, NDSU, North Dakota, Wyoming and Buffalo. He was in contact with Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Colorado State, Rice, Nebraska, Central Michigan, Princeton, Minnesota State-Mankato and Bemidji State.
Anderson has had an injured ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow since his sophomore season. He had Tommy John surgery after last football season, so this will be the first season he plays full healthy. Despite the injury, he had 75 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, one fumble recovery and 17 pancake blocks in 10 games last season for the Spuds.
Kevin Feeney, a former quarterback for NDSU, remembers seeing Anderson's dad across from him on the South Dakota State defense when he played in college.
"He was relentless and he was a to-the-whistle guy," Kevin Feeney said. "That's been ingrained in Seth."
Spuds have a junior transfer from the Houston area, who played football in Texas, in Jacqui Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a 6-1, 190 pound wide receiver and came late in the summer, so he may start off slow, but could grow into a bigger role as the season progresses.
The Spuds are still in search for their No. 1 running back, as juniors George Nyanforh and Keanan Wendt will get a crack at it. Sophomore Austin Altepeter is 6-1, 190 pounds and would've been up on varsity by the end of last season if not for an ACL injury in the first freshman game of the season. He'll get a crack at the running back position as well.
Defensively, the Spuds will work through their linebackers. Junior Jackson Gotta and senior Hayden Netland return to their starting spots at linebacker, while senior John Lehrer will join them.
The Spuds will rely a lot on senior Wyatt Gunkel in the secondary.
"That's been a big point of emphasis," Kevin Feeney said. "We feel like the experience we gained from last year was good, but we need to perform at a high level back there. Teams want to spread us out and wing it all over the place. We have to be a lot better."
The Spuds are ready to put last season behind them.
"Last year, in games, we played well and then all of a sudden something bad would happen," Kevin Feeney said. "We wouldn't just have a bad play, but have a bad quarter or half. That's been a huge point of emphasis this offseason. Accountability is you have to hold the guy next to you accountable and make sure we're able to communicate, so things can stay positive. I felt like last year a turnover or giving up a big play or bad snap, we allowed that to snowball on us."
Aug. 29: at Rogers, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: vs. Alexandria, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: vs. Delano, 6 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Brainerd, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: vs. Sartell-St. Stephen, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: vs. Sauk Rapids-Rice, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: at St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16: at Bemidji, 7 p.m.