MOORHEAD — Moorhead Park Christian returned to varsity football last season after forfeiting most of 2016 and all of 2017 due to low participation numbers.

The Falcons were happy to be back, but they took their bumps and bruises, finishing the season 1-8.

"It was fun," Park Christian coach Lawton Burgstahler said. "It was a lot of fun, a lot of excitement. It was tough obviously. We're in a tough district. We got the injury bug right off the bat. We were full strength for one game and that was our first game."

The Falcons learned some lessons in their first season back.

Senior Ethan Jorgensen carries the ball after making a catch during Moorhead Park Christian football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Ann Arbor Miller / The Forum
Senior Ethan Jorgensen carries the ball after making a catch during Moorhead Park Christian football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Ann Arbor Miller / The Forum

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"We learned that size makes a lot of difference," Burgstahler said. "We definitely did a lot in the weight room this past summer. We were a little more dedicated to that and pushed it a lot harder. It definitely shows."

Park Christian started the 2019 on a strong note, cruising to a 41-0 victory over Laporte on Thursday night. Quarterback Payton Spaeth threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown. Ethan Jorgenson hauled in a 64-yard touchdown reception and ran for 90 yards.

Jorgensen leads the group of nine seniors on the roster. He'll play at wide receiver and running back. He had around 900 all-purpose yards last season and only played in four games before getting injured. The offense will run through him.

"He's electric," Burgstahler said. "We will move him all over the field. He's our focus for this year."

There's plenty of size at center with 6-foot-3, 265-pound sophomore Caleb Boyer. Thanks to him coming in to play center, senior Allen Daugherty will move to tight end.

"He's got some hands and he's fast, so we're sliding him out," Burgstahler said.

Spaeth, a senior, returns at quarterback. He's added size as well. Burgstahler said he was unable to bench press 135 pounds last season. He's now benching 195 pounds, adding 25 pounds to his 6-2 frame.

"He's put in a lot of time in the weight room," Burgstahler said. "He's definitely gotten a lot bigger."

Senior Payton Spaeth leads an offensive drill during Moorhead Park Christian’s football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Ann Arbor Miller / The Forum
Senior Payton Spaeth leads an offensive drill during Moorhead Park Christian’s football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Ann Arbor Miller / The Forum

Senior Isaac Janssen returns to the backfield at running back, while also playing cornerback on defense.

For the second straight season, the Falcons open the season with 23 on their roster. Burgstahler had 16 players on his roster when he took over in 2016. The 2016 roster was made up of three seniors, one junior, one sophomore, eight freshmen and three eighth-graders. Park Christian decided in 2016 to forfeit the season two games in because of fear of player safety due to low numbers.

Falcons have nine seniors, three juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen on the team this season.

Now that things have evened out with the roster numbers, Burgstahler said the focus on this season is changing how Park Christian is viewed by opponents. He no longer wants teams to think a game against the Falcons is an easy win.

"I would just like to see them have fun, improve and earn respect of our competitors," Burgstahler said. "When teams say, 'Oh, we get to play Park Christian,' I would like them to think it's not going to be a cakewalk."

Schedule

Aug. 29: at Laporte, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6: vs. Clearbrook-Gonvick, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 13: at Win-E-Mac, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20: vs. Kittson County Central, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27: at Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4: at Nevis, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11: vs. Fertile-Beltrami, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 16: vs. Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal at Moorhead High School, 7 p.m.