Lakers look to continue tradition under 1st-year head coach Reed Hefta

Lakers were 5-2 last season, have 9 upperclassmen to lead the way under their new head coach. Hefta, who was an All-MIAC defensive lineman at Concordia College (Minn.), is beginning his 9th season at Detroit Lakes. He replaces Josh Omang, who has become the school's principal.

Reed Hefta, head football coach for Detroit Lakes, speaks to his players during fall practice on Aug. 20, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

DETROIT LAKES — It has been about four months since Reed Hefta was named the new head football coach for Detroit Lakes High School.

The 30-year-old Hefta sounds like he remains in a bit of shock that he is now in charge of a program that has gone to the state playoffs 13 times and won five state titles since 1990.

"Not often do you get the keys to such a great program that's ran so well and I've learned so many great things about how a great program should be run," Hefta said. "It was a great opportunity for me to apply. This is something where I've gotten to know DL football for a very long time.

"I started in May and been rolling ever since."

Hefta, who teaches health and weight training at the high school, spent the past eight seasons as an assistant coach for Detroit Lakes. He was an assistant for Flint Motschenbacher for two seasons and Josh Omang for the past five seasons. Omang left the position to become the Detroit Lakes High School principal and Hefta became the program's fourth head coach since 1985.


Keeping the winning tradition is important and Hefta said he wants to carry on many things that he saw used by Omang as head coach.

"We do a lot of things similar. You just tweak them in your own little ways, things that I'm passionate for," said Hefta, who is also a throws coach for the track and field team. "The big thing is kids play high school sports to have fun. We want to make sure that everything we do is something that the kids enjoy and find ways to better themselves through leadership training, through team building and bonding.

"That's something that has always been an emphasis with Detroit Lakes football. But it's my opportunity to give my unique twist on it."

Hefta played high school football for Underwood High School, a 9-man program, in North Dakota. He went on to play defensive end for Concordia College at the NCAA Division III level, earning All-MIAC Second Team honors as a senior in 2012.

He inherits a team that went 5-2 last fall.

Five seniors and four juniors have varsity experience returning. The seniors who were starters last season are Ty Jones (wide receiver/free safety), Christian Solberg (RB/SS), Bradly Swiers (QB/FS), Caeden Yliniemi (RB/CB) and Gavin Smith (FB/LB). Solberg led the team in rushing last season.

The four top returning juniors are Henry Lee (OL/DL), Cailen Abraham (OL/DL), Hunter Korth (TE/DL), Connor Zamzo (OL/DL) and Ethan Carrier (RB/CB).

Four sophomores returning with varsity experience include Isaac Cariveau (OL/DL), Mason Carrier (QB/LB), Will Martin (TE/LB) and Branton Marsh (WR/LB).


"Last year, we had an opportunity for some younger guys to play," Hefta said. "Now they have an opportunity to get in and mature. There's more oomph behind their movements because they're bigger and stronger kids. It's fun to see these kids develop.

"The one great thing about Detroit Lakes football is we have high expectations about how we run the football. To be able to put the ball in the hands of our best athletes and have our offensive line pave the way and that's how we move the ball. If we can do that, we can start to get to other aspects of our game. We want to give our kids the best opportunity to be successful."

Defensively, Hefta sees a lot of potential for a strong group.

"We've got a lot of really, really athletic and smart kids," Hefta said of his team. "Our goal is to be able to run sideline to sideline, put our kids in spots where they can make plays and we can make adjustments to really put ourselves in spots where they can't do their best things. Our goal is to take away our opponents' best three things ... Our kids can definitely do that."

While Hefta has a lot of optimism for the season, he also knows the reality of what it is going to take to get out of Section 8AAAA this season. Becker, Little Falls, ROCORI and St. Cloud Apollo are also in the section.

Becker has made the state playoffs 14 times since 1990, reached the state championship game eight times and won three state titles. ROCORI, which won the Class AAAA state title in 2019, has made the state playoffs eight times since 1991 and won two state titles (2011 is the other).

"Our section is one of the top sections in the state," Hefta said. "ROCORI has been an absolute powerhouse. Becker is a perennial buzz saw with a really physical group of guys who are well-coached.

"They've got great coaches and are great programs."


While reaching the state playoffs is a goal, Hefta likes the base that he is working from.

"If kids aren't comfortable or know how much you care, they don't care how much you know," he said. "We have a 21st century way of approaching that. If we can make sure they feel welcome and feel comfortable, then we can hit the ground running with that learning aspect."

Detroit Lakes schedule

All games at 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 3, at Fergus Falls

Friday, Sept. 10, home vs East Grand Forks

Friday, Sept. 17, home vs Thief River Falls

Friday, Sept. 24, at Perham

Friday, Oct. 1, home vs Pequot Lakes

Friday, Oct. 8, at Barnesville

Friday, Oct. 15, at Park Rapids Area

Wednesday, Oct. 20, home vs Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014.

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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