FLYING HIGH: Bagley on course for its most successful season in years
BAGLEY, Minn. -- Success came early on the basketball court for Kris Skersick and his classmates. Not so much, however, on the football field. Bagley High School went 16-12 with a sophomore-dominated basketball lineup two seasons ago, then finish...
BAGLEY, Minn. -- Success came early on the basketball court for Kris Skersick and his classmates.
Not so much, however, on the football field.
Bagley High School went 16-12 with a sophomore-dominated basketball lineup two seasons ago, then finished 27-3 last season. Many of those now-senior athletes also were on Flyers football teams that were 0-8 in 2008, 2-7 in 2009 and 3-7 last season.
"Most of us would probably say football is our favorite sport," Skersick said. "When we were freshmen and sophomores we were going against bigger, stronger guys in football. It wasn't that much fun getting hit by older guys. But I think that experience is paying off. We're meshing together and I think we're the ones dishing out the pretty good hits now."
And, so far, Bagley is the team getting the wins now.
The Flyers are off to a 4-1 start and are on pace to become only the second Bagley football team in the past 15 seasons to finish a year with a winning record. The only winning team in that span was the 2006 squad that went 6-4.
"I don't think we've had a good football program for as long as I can remember," senior Nick Neeland said. "That's more motivation for us to do well.
"It's definitely been frustrating the last few years for us. I like winning. Losing so many games, it was depressing. This year, it is the greatest feeling ever."
Winning the numbers game<?b>
Success isn't a surprise to Bagley coach Andrew Brouwer. He's been with the program for several seasons; he saw the potential of the current Flyers at a young age.
They struggled the past few years because, with small numbers of athletes in the grades ahead of them, the players had to play at the varsity level when their contemporaries on other teams were playing junior-varsity football. Brouwer said most of the current Flyers played through the lean years and stayed with football.
"Football is such a numbers game," Brouwer said. "We were playing with an average of around 25 kids the last few years. That made it hard. The kids were hardly ever seeing the sidelines and were wearing down at the end of games. You felt for them, constantly getting beat. But you could see the athletic talent, not just in football but in other sports like basketball and baseball.
"Now we have better numbers. There is competition going on in practices. And we graduated only three starters from last year's team -- that experience helps. These kids have grown bigger and gotten stronger. These kids aren't finesse; they like to hit people. Kris and Nick love to hit. Other kids see them hitting and they get fired up and feed off that."
A playoff spark
While Brouwer saw the potential years ago, one game last season may have been a defining moment for the Flyers.
Frazee handed Bagley a 42-0 setback during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, it was seventh-seeded Bagley that came out with a 28-0 win against second-seeded Frazee in the Section 8AA quarterfinals. The Bagley season didn't last much longer, as the Flyers lost 21-0 to Pelican Rapids in the section semifinals. But the table was set for 2011.
"It gave us a lot of confidence for this year," Skersick said. "Frazee was a good team. They beat us pretty bad in the regular season. Then to go down there in the playoffs and beat them, it gave us more to look forward to this year."
Said Brouwer: "We felt we could have this success. We saw in the playoffs last year how hungry and fired up the kids were after that win. In the offseason, all I heard from the kids was about how they were getting ready for this year. I think they saw they had talent."
Neeland said he knew this would be the Flyers' year. No longer would they be the young players. Now they were the physical, experienced veterans. And success has followed.
"The losing definitely got old," Neeland said. "Now that we're winning, you appreciate it more."
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .