Moorhead Spuds motivated by sour end to last season as 2022 football campaign starts
NDSU commit Austin Schultz and University of Washington commit Elinneus Davis return for final year with Moorhead as Spuds ready for opening game against St. Cloud Tech.
MOORHEAD — A sour ending to the 2021 football season serves as a driving factor for the Moorhead Spuds as they enter a new year on the gridiron.
In the dying seconds of the section semifinal game, the Alexandria Cardinals completed a hook-and-ladder play to score and take the upset win 42-39. Since then, the Spuds have put together a solid offseason spurred by the loss.
“Our kids understand we fell short of our goals last year and I do think it drove us to a great offseason this winter and summer,” said Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney. “I have no doubt in my mind that these kids are extremely excited to get back out on the field. When something like that happens to you in the last game of the season — unfortunately those seniors never get to play another game here in Moorhead — but our underclassmen are excited about the opportunity to get back out on the field.
“I think there’s a lot of kids out here that felt like we didn’t meet our expectations last year and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again.”
Last weekend, the Spuds got a taste of action with scrimmages against St. Michael-Albertville, Anoka and Monticello.
“Physically, I thought we played really well up front,” Feeney said. “Both sides of the ball played with physicality. I think we answered some of our questions in some spots.”
While overall numbers are solid, the returning experience of in-game situations is not prevalent across the Spuds’ roster. The scrimmages, however, provided the less experienced kids with a sample of what to expect come Friday nights.
“We’ve got a very large returning senior class and a little bit smaller junior class than normal, but not a ton of experience for Friday nights is coming back,” Feeney said. "So, this past Saturday was a great opportunity for the kids to kind of see what varsity football is all about.”
Among those returning this season are two athletes who have committed to continue their football and academic careers at the collegiate level.
Alongside Davis on the defensive line will be AB Jallah with Ben Hrdlicka (linebacker), Karson Wendt (safety) and Jaden Griffin (cornerback) joining them on defense.
Joining Schultz on the offensive line will be Jake Erdmann and Micah Cozad. Returning at wide receiver for 2022 is Michael Haugo, who will be looking for passes from returning quarterback Gavin Quade.
The Spuds are hopeful they can return to the section championship game this year, a goal Feeney said has become the norm.
“I think the focus is we’ve kind of set the standard that we believe we can shoot and compete for section championships every year,” he said. “I think this team feels like we have the capability of doing that, but understands the process. You don’t go to the section championship Week 1.”
Feeney hopes the Spuds’ tough schedule helps the team reach that eventual goal.
“There’s, obviously, gotta be a lot of growth from Week 1 through 9 or 10 weeks before we ever get to the championship game, hopefully,” he said. “I think these kids feel confident, but, on the same token, we know the challenge ahead of us with our schedule is extremely challenging. I think the kids understand that. Hopefully, it will make us a battle tested team come section time.“
Moorhead opens up 2022 with a road trip to St. Cloud Tech Friday. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.
With kickoff to the season almost here, Feeney is ready to see how his team looks in a game setting.
“I’m always excited to get the first game going because I think you kind of see where you’re at and just kind of put that measuring stick there,” he said. “Football is the ultimate team game and there’s a lot more bodies that need to get experience. So I’m excited for those kids to see what it’s all about.”