Football: Lake Park-Audubon strives to change identity in Peterson's second year as head coach
The Lake Park-Audubon football team is hoping to leave some frustrating seasons in the past. Under second-year head coach PJ Peterson, the Raiders aim to get more physical against a hard-nosed district schedule.
LAKE PARK – The Lake Park Audubon football teams will have a second-year coach for the first time in four seasons.
PJ Peterson is headed into his second campaign after back-to-back years with first-time head coaches. The Raiders are reaping the rewards of consistency on the practice field.
"It feels awesome to be back, especially with a lot of returning players," senior Sam Bestge said. "From my standpoint, the line looks awesome this year. Our summer was productive, and we feel like we actually know the playbook compared to last year. We didn't know the playbook at all. We weren't this far ahead before the first game."
LPA had a challenging run last year. After starting the season 2-2, the Raiders lost the last five games on the schedule, including a first-round Section 6A playoff loss at Pine River-Backus.
"We need to have better consistency and physicality," Peterson said. "We were at a point last year where we'd have two great quarters. We just couldn't get the other two to match up. I think you see it in practice sometimes too. On Monday, it was a little hot, and the second half of practice had some lulls. We're trying to establish that consistency and effort. Yeah, we're going to get tired, but we have a lot of guys to rotate."
LPA had 13 seniors on the roster that lead one of the more committed groups in recent memory. Over 30 Raiders attended a summer football camp at Valley City State University.
"It definitely brought some confidence to us," Bestge said of the camp. "It feels like this group wanted to take a step forward this year and not be the good, old LPA we've always been. It used to be a rollercoaster during practice, and I think that camp helped bring us back to center."
LPA's district is loaded for the second consecutive year. The Raiders hit the road in week one for Section 8A runner-up Ada-Borup-West before hosting Mahnomen-Waubun, the defending 8A champs.
"We want to beat Ada this year," senior Kaden Beske said. "We have a way better gameplan, and we also have film to look back on from last year to study and see what we did wrong. Hopefully, it's not a flood again. We know what's coming. We just need to be mentally prepared for it."
"Our guys are ready for the challenge," Peterson said. "They've got a big chip on their shoulder this year. They want to prove they belong in this district and stay in the mix. There's a lot of confidence there, and we're excited to see where we're at. That's the biggest thing we're going to see in those first two games. We're going to see where we're at against two of the best teams in the area."
Peterson isn't short-changing the Raiders' goals for 2022, even after coming off of a two-win season.
"For us, we're setting the bar high," Peterson said. We want to be in the mix for the section. We want to have a long season. It'd be awesome to play in the Fargodome–that's always the goal. We want to be in the mix and in the conversation with the top teams in the area. We're going to compete hard with all of the teams on our schedule. We don't want it to be a given win when you come play us on a Friday night. To beat LPA, you need to bring your best, and that's what we try to preach to the guys."
To get to the Fargodome, LPA will need to lean on its sizeable senior class. Peterson has seen them set the tone for younger players in practice and hopes it translates to Friday nights.
"The guys buying into the culture and showing that dedication is what's really changed from last year to this year," Peterson said. "They've really dedicated themselves to the weight room from when our season ended to the start of this year. We're lifting twice a week now, and we haven't had a miss yet."
Above all else, Peterson emphasizes the importance of being a "student" in student-athlete.
"The biggest thing we want to preach is being a student-first team and being in the classroom," Peterson said. "These guys have embraced it, and hearing them remind guys that being a student and being a good person comes first is awesome. Yes, we're passionate about football, but there are more important things. We have to get the grades done, and they're really gung-ho about that. That's where I see the culture starting to grow. You can really sense the camaraderie."
Peterson said he feels like the routine of fall camp and the lead-up to week one feels more routine in his second year at the helm. He hopes that LPA becomes a hard-nosed team that teams circle on their calendar.
"I feel like we were making strides towards the end of the last season," he said. "Our record didn't show it, but we were a tough, physical team. We're going to see our growth against those two teams. We're a team that wants to play anybody, any place, any time and anywhere. We're going to play football."
2022 LAKE PARK-AUDUBON FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 2 at Ada-Borup-West, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Mahnomen-Waubun, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Red Lake County, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Fosston, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Pine River-Backus, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Polk County West, 7 p.m
Oct. 14 vs. Warroad, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs Menahga, 7 p.m.