Boys basketball: Rebels navigate delayed start to a season with high expectations
The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton boys basketball team's first game is a few weeks later than usual after the extended football season pushed the hoops campaign back.
GLYNDON – The Rebels are starting behind the eight ball this season.
The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton football team made it to the Prep Bowl to play in the Class 3A state championship game on Dec. 3 at U.S. Bank Stadium. While the Rebels had a chance to play on one of the biggest stages in Minnesota high school sports, it also meant the start of the boys basketball season had to wait.
While most schools across the state start games in early December, the Rebels won't see game action until a few days before Christmas. DGF boys basketball head coach Mike Clark said the wait is worth it.
"We are really excited, and we will be more excited when our football finally gets done so we can have our whole squad out here," Clark said.
With the delayed start, the Rebels will have a loaded January. Clark sees that as a hurdle his group will have to overcome.
"It's a bit of a setback simply because of the scheduling," he said. "We will have 16 games in the month of January, so we will have very little practice time. We are going to have to get a lot of practice over the holiday break, and the kids probably won't like that, but that's going to be basically our only practice for the first two months. "
Clark is confident his group will be fine with the early-season hiccups. He also understands the number of practices will drop, so their quality becomes even more critical.
"Once we get going, we will be fine," Clark said. "It's just that there will be a lot of games right away with very little game planning and improvement in between, so we will have to make sure we get quality practices out of those first ones."
Even after the football season ended, the kids don't have a break to recover from one physically demanding sport to prepare for the next.
"The football players will be going from one season to another," Clark said. "They are going to be tired, and their bodies are going to be battered. It will be a bit of a disadvantage, especially because our best player, Owen Leech, is the quarterback. He has taken a ton of hits in football this year, so it's going to be a while until he gets into game shape. He is a gamer, so he will be fine."
The basketball season moved on, even without everyone being at practice in the first two weeks.
"The good part is we still have 31 kids coming to practice in grades 9-12," Clark said. "Even with our football players gone, we have a good numbers situation. We can work on many things that we don't normally get to work on."
The expectations are still high for DGF this season. The Rebels finished last season with an overall record of 22-6, including a Section 8-2A record of 16-3 and a Heart O'Lakes Conference record of 10-2, which was good enough for a second-place finish.
"My expectations are high, but in our section and conference this year, there is a lot of parity," Clark said. "There will be a lot of good teams, so every night we play will be very competitive. It's going to be a fun year with some bumps along the way, but it's a matter of how you get through those, especially when we get into January, when we will have so many games. It gets to a point, as a coach, that you hope you are playing well during that stretch because there isn't going to be a lot of time to fix things."
Clark's leaders on the team will be even more important going into this upcoming season. He has seven guys returning who had varsity experience last year and at least four who started at some point.
"We got a tremendous group of seniors this year," Clark said. "Owen Leech, Karson Steichen, Drew Sheeley and Grant Anderson – Those guys have played basketball for a long time and played together for a long time. That experience in itself will be great once we get in here and get things started."
Clark called the foursome the "heart and soul of the team."
"They are going to provide all the leadership we need," he said. "We just have to make sure that they are positive. There are going to be times that they are going to be playing with the young guys, and the young guys aren't always going to do things right. They will have to make sure that they have positive leadership when they are in there and allow these kids to improve. It doesn't matter how you play at the start of the season. It matters how you play at the end of the season."
Clark talked about how this year will be a grind, especially in the Heart of Lakes Conference. It has good teams like Perham, Hawley, Pelican Rapids and Breckenridge.
"It's going to be really fun for the fans," he said. "There will be some hair-pulling moments for the coaches. All in all, it's going to be a great season. There shouldn't be any blowouts on any given night. It's going to be that even. It's going to be a fun season for sure."
DILWORTH-GLYNDON-FELTON BOYS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Dec. 20 vs Pelican Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28-29, Moorhead Tournament, TBD
Jan. 3 vs Browerville-Eagle Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 5 at Thief River Falls, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 vs Frazee, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9 at Crookston, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 at Breckenridge, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 vs Perham, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 13 at Park Rapids, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Hawley, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19 at Detroit Lakes, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 at Barnesville, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 23 vs East Grand Forks 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 vs Breckenridge, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs Kindred, 3:00 p.m.
Jan. 30 at Oak Grove Lutheran, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 at Frazee, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs Barnesville, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Osakis, 12:00 p.m.
Feb. 9 at Pelican Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs Ada-Borup, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Perham, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 vs Hawley, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m.