After almost two months of uncertainty about whether the switch for Friday Night Lights would be pulled at all, the wait is nearly over for high school football teams throughout the state of Minnesota.
That includes the Belle Plaine Tigers, who have 26 letter winners eager to take the field to improve on last season’s 3-6 campaign.
One note of positivity for the upcoming season, the Tigers’ six-game schedule includes many of its former foes from the Minnesota River Conference, starting this Friday night, Oct. 9, with a visit to Norwood Young America.
Belle Plaine defeated NYA 30-12 last season.
Other familiar faces include LeSueur-Henderson, the guest for Oct. 15’s home opener, and trips to Sibley East and Jordan. TCU will visit Belle Plaine on Nov. 6, and the season will conclude on Wednesday, Nov. 11, with a trip to Waseca.
“I think this is a great schedule for our guys to play against rivals,” said head coach Joe Joyce, about to start his third season at the helm. ”I think it is great to not have to travel two or three hours for every away game. I really hope we can keep these teams on the schedule next season as well.”
Among the 26 letter-winners, the Tigers will return five starters to the offense and seven to the defense.
Seniors that bring a wealth of starting experience include Cole Callahan (LB/RB), Collin Fahey (OL/DL), Teddy Mansager (OL/DL), Luke Fogarty (LB/QB), and Tucker Schultz (OL/DL).
Fogarty had 42 rushes for 205 yards last season and two scores.
Will Degree (CB/RB), Nehemiah Juaire (CB/RB), Mike Miller (FB/DL), Tony Pumper (LB/RB), and Riley Retzer (OL/DL) return for their senior season after having lettered last season.
Junior Gavin Fahey (OL/DL) had 32 tackles and a fumble recovery a season ago.
Other returning letter-winners from the junior class include Gunnar Geisler (CB/RB), Hunter Gerdes (DL/RB), Tyson Grams (OL/DL), Derek Gruhn (CB/RB), Cullen Heidecker (OL/DL), Trevon Iovino (CB/RB), Preston Kes (LB/RB), Gavin Peterson (LB/TE), Hank Reiter (OL/DL), Sam Schultz (OL/LB), Isaiah Shutes (LB/RB), Devin Siegle (OL/DL), and Hunter Stier (OL/DL).
Sophomores Wyatt Borresen (S/QB) and Ryan Retzer (OL/DL) also return as letter-winners. Borresen had 16 tackles a season ago, and Retzer was a two-way starter and all district performer.
With all that experience up front, Joyce feels good about his team at the line of scrimmage.
“Our strength will be up front with our offensive and defensive lines and the leadership and experience they provide,” Joyce said.
For his team to improve on last season, it will need “to control the ball and limit turnovers on offense and be aggressive on defense,” Joyce said.
Joyce said the players have been very patient while waiting to see if there would be a season at all.
“Our guys and parents have been great through all of this,” Joyce said, “and I am very excited for us to have a chance to compete and do it as safely as possible.”
2020 BPHS Football Team’s Schedule
Oct. 9 - at NYA
Oct. 16 vs. LSH
Oct. 23 at SE
Oct. 30 at Jordan
Nov. 6 vs. TCU
Nov. 11 vs. Waseca