Head coach Brian Robertson has a solid mix of seven returning starters on offense and six on defense in his second year at helm of the Lake Park-Audubon Raiders football team.
“I’ve been telling those guys you have to use that experience for good,” he said.
Having that first year under the belts of the coaching staff and the players has led to a more efficient start to the season, as opposed to starting fresh in 2016.
“We’ve been able to implement some things quicker and we had a team camp this summer and minicamp, which helps,” said Robertson. “Year two is just a smoother transition at the beginning.”
Robertson has plenty of experience back at the skill positions with a full backfield of seniors: Teddy Schauer at quarterback, Jack Osborne at fullback and Carter Raaen at running back.
Those three players, along with sophomore Ben Rabideaux will see the rock plenty of times in Robertson’s run first offensive scheme.
“We can’t just pound it at them, we’re going to have to find some other areas on offense,” said Robertson. “We try to run it, less variables, and if you get your running game going well, it opens up the passing game and play action.”
Key to the success will be the offensive line that has four returning starters in senior Eli Noel and a trio of juniors: Will Hannesson, Austin Stevens, and Nick Donovan.
Raaen is going to be a key on both sides of the ball as the leading rusher in 2016 and enterprising on the other side of the ball as the Raiders’ leading tackler. Raaen was also named to the all-district team.
“We’re going to have to get the ball in his hands and he was our most valuable defensive player last year,” Robertson said.
Raaen and Osborne return at the linebacker positions, Schauer started at a corner last year and the four lineman on offense will likely see plenty of minutes in the trenches on defense with a couple extras that will be in for substitutions.
“We’ve got five, six guys there that are not huge but they’re all big and strong enough to move people around hopefully that causes some tough situations for opposing offenses,” said Robertson.
LP-A was 3-6 last season defeating Fosston and Badger/Greenbush-Middle River at home and Red Lake County at Fargodome in the regular season finale before falling to the eventual Section 6A champions Browerville/Eagle Valley in the first round of the playoffs. That game was much closer than the 33-14 score showed on the scoreboard.
“We want to improve off of last year,” Robertson said. “From where we started to where we finished last year, even if the record doesn’t say so, we went to Browerville and were down 19-14 with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter - we were playing them tough.”
The Raiders were tied at the half 6-6 in a game that was either team’s until the final stretch. The Tigers avoided the potential upset with two late touchdowns and went on to reach the state semifinals. That effort gave the Raiders something to build on and creating a winning culture begins with learning from tough losses and overcoming them.
“I wanted them to know we’re really not that far away from being successful,” said Robertson. “We definitely competed.”
The team goal is more concentrated on each day in practice and each game Friday night more than what is the plan for the end of the year.
“Never want to put a ceiling on it but we want to be in the top half of the district and section, hopefully get a playoff win and stay healthy with a little luck,” said Robertson. “Really getting across to the guys that we want to compete.”
Scheduling was an issue for LP-A after the the Minnesota State High School League changed the enrollment standard for co-ops in January. Both schools full enrollment was counted prior to the change. Under the new rule, 100 percent of the largest school is counted and only half of the enrollment of any remaining schools in the co-op count.
“We had a couple teams change and had three schedules,” said Robertson.
The combination of Ada-Borup and Norman County West and subsequent move to 11-man provides a new face on the schedule in Ada for the regular season finale.
Robertson also has two new coaches on staff in Wayne Otto and Greg Olson, joining Alex Becher as assistants.
The Raiders opened the season early playing in Zero Week and lost a heartbreaker in the final minute at Warroad 7-6.