STEPHEN, Minn. -- When Stephen-Argyle won its fifth consecutive Minnesota 9-man high school state football championship in 2007, Dawson Feuillerat was in kindergarten. He recalls a few relatives who were regulars on that undefeated football team.
“Things have changed quite a bit since then,’’ said Feuillerat, a senior on the Stephen-Argyle football team this season. “They could have started almost an entire offense and defense of (one-way) seniors.’’
That championship team had 16 seniors on its roster. There are only 10 males in the entire Stephen-Argyle senior class this school year. Five of them play football, the lowest number of seniors on the team in Ethan Marquis’ seven seasons as head coach.
That hasn’t changed expectations the Storm, who have won the Section 8 nine-man championship each of the past four seasons. Last season, Stephen-Argyle beat rival Kittson County Central 27-20 in the section title game, then was eliminated in the state quarterfinals with a 28-20 overtime loss to Mountain Iron-Buhl.
“These guys have been in the program for a long time,’’ Marquis said. “We hope to pick up where we left off last year. And I think everyone was disappointed about our last game. It's a very strong incentive for us.
“I see the work ethic in the offseason. I’ve probably spent more time with this group than any other group I’ve had. We spend a lot of time together. They get up early and are in the weight room. That’s been a great tradition here.’’
Along with Feuillerat, seniors on the team are Cade Chwialkowski, Brody Pietruszewski, Mason Mock and Jacob Zacha.
Feuillerat and Mock are returning regulars from last season’s 11-1 team, along with juniors Jason Lindgren and Kole Szczepanski.
How the youth and inexperience will factor in playing style remains to be seen.
“It’s a completely different group from last season,’’ Marquis said. “That’s part of the game, being able to adapt to the hand you’re dealt.
“We still want to run the ball. That’s definitely the emphasis, to have a stronger ground game. And we won’t rely on one or two guys to carry the ball; it will be more like five or six guys.’’
While Stephen-Argyle traditionally has fielded senior-dominated lineups, Marquis has had success with low numbers of 12th-graders in the past. The Storm won a section title in 2017 with only six seniors on the roster.
“These guys are excited for the opportunity to be leaders,’’ Marquis said. “It’s a small senior class. But it’s a very good class of football players. They’ll all be big contributors.’’
Carrying on the tradition of success is incentive for the Storm seniors. So is the challenge of low numbers.
“I think we have something to prove,’’ Feuillerat said. “We’re going into the season with a bit of a chip on our shoulders. That will push us to work harder.’’