Football should be fun and by talking to Coach Larry Thompson and his players, football at Lakeville South appears to be just that…fun. But at the core of the Cougar’s football program is a belief, or an act of positive reinforcement, the idea that if you believe it’ll happen, then it will.
“If you don’t expect to win, you’re not gonna and we expect to win every game,” explains Coach Thompson. “Will you always win every game? Well maybe not. But if you don’t expect and anticipate that you’re gonna win the games, then you’re not gonna.”
That sentiment was echoed all throughout my conversation with Coach Thompson. The Cougar’s expect to win. They expect to mentally be the toughest team on the field. And if you plan on beating them this year, you have to put your best team forward. A realist would probably say though, there’s a difference between talking and doing.
The idea with each coach going into a season is that you have to build off what you did well the previous year. Last year, Lakeville South football started off slow but got into their rhythm towards the middle of the season. The Cougars finished last season with an overall record of 8-4, losing to Rosemount in the first round of the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament.
In the eight wins the Cougars averaged a margin of victory of22 points, which without Quarterback Mitch Leidner, wouldn’t have been possible. Matt completed over 50% of his passes for the season, while throwing for almost 2100 yards with 17 touchdowns. Not bad for a Division One commit who will be spending next year at the University of Minnesota. But talk to him about his numbers with his teammates around, the atmosphere becomes nothing short of comical.
“I’d like to think of myself like a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning mix,” laughs Mitch while smiling at his teammates in the back of the classroom. “I’d like to be more of a Blaine Gabbert, be able to run a little bit faster. Hopefully that will happen eventually.”
Mitch says he’s working on getting faster on his feet with his 40-yard dash time apparently down to 4.7 seconds.
It’s all about having fun though. Along with Mitch was Seniors Tom Ryan (Left Tackle), Matt Heller (Wide Receiver), Eric Heintze (Linebacker) and Nevin Andreas (Linebacker). After each interview the guys would exchange comments like “Bet you can’t top that”, “That’s how it’s done” and “Like a pro”.
Coach Thompson talks about enjoying the game, the practices and the process. Taking it seriously and expecting success, but ultimately having fun. And most of the players do. Some even say they enjoy two-a-days which begin on August 15th, the official start date of the football season in Minnesota. Putting the pads on once again and running into someone. It takes a different breed of person to look forward to something like that…I was sharing a classroom with five of them.
Preparing for that day, players have been competing in local fundamental competitions. Always trying to put their best out on the field, considering most of their competitors will also be their opponents in the fall.
Matt explains, “We don’t want to come off as a joke. We want to be serious when they play against us.” Separating that fun versus serious dynamic is an ever present process for the Lakeville South Football team. They joke about off the field situations, dealing with Alumni, referring to each other as “brothers”, who had the best interview and trying to remember the date of the game against Lakeville North.
However, the minute the topic transitions to what takes place on the field, the jokes are done and the conversation turns serious.
For instance, it was a running joke that none of the players, or Coach Thompson could remember what date the Lakeville North game is this year. Let’s get it out there right now, Friday October 7th at Lakeville North. The topic would come up with each set of interviews. “October 7th what does that date mean to you?” A laugh would follow and the response, it’s the North game. Once we actually started talking about the game though, it was straight faced, “we want to crush them” talk.
Football is supposed to be fun. At Lakeville South football is fun. But it’s also very serious. The Cougars expect to win and their goal for this year, like every year, is a state championship. First game of the season is September 2nd, home against Eagan. You can be sure they’ll be ready for that contest and have a whole lot of fun getting there.
Kyle Zander writes for KCHKRadio.net.
You can hear him 2pm-5pm
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