Tigers’ goal is to ‘play the next game’
Last year, the Rush City football team went 6-2 in the regular season, and followed that up with two victories in the Section 7AA playoffs before being stopped in the section final by Royalton, one game short of playing in the state tournament.
This year, the goal is to move at least one round farther.
“We ended up a game short of state last year, so one of the goals the team has set is to play that next game,” co-head coach Joe Lattimore said. “We want to get back to the (section final) game and win that game.
Lattimore shares head coaching duties with Mike O’Donnell.
“The other goal is to just get better every day,” Lattimore said. “We want to be a better team at the end of the year than we are at the beginning of the year.”
When the Tigers make their playoff run this season, they will do so as members of Section 4AA after the most recent MSHSL realignment. Come playoff time, the Tigers may host or visit metro schools Minneapolis North, St. Paul Humboldt, Concordia Academy and St. Agnes, or outstate teams Maple Lake and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted.
The geographic location of Rush City and its relative isolation from other Class AA football programs has always made it a candidate to switch sections.
“It looked to me like Barnum moved up a class and Aitkin moved down a class, and they got put in 7AA, so us being the farthest southern team, they kicked us into another section,” Lattimore said. “We were in a section similar to this about 10 or 15 years ago.”
The Tigers will run a triple option offense. With the loss to graduation of quarterback Tyler Oscarson, senior R.J. Galvez will take over under center. Lineman-sized senior fullback Riley Sykes will provide the smashmouth power up the middle. Sykes has been named to the All-District team each of the last two years. Speedy outside backs like senior Tucker Leigland and juniors Cody McFee and Brandon Guptill will keep the defense guessing.
Three starters return on the offensive line: senior Dalton Mielke, junior Carl Sybrant and sophomore Daniel Mielke.
“We have a pretty good group coming back that we’ll be able to do some things with,” Lattimore said.
Most of the same players who will key the Tiger offense will also play on defense.
The Tigers lost their opener at Pine City 21-6 Aug. 31. They will travel to Barnum Friday before playing their home opener Sept. 15 against Chisholm. The regular season run continues with a home game against Braham (Sept. 22). Further home games are against Mesabi East (Oct. 6) and Deer River (Oct. 18); additional road trips will be to East Central (Sept. 29) and Hinckley-Finlayson (Oct. 13). The playoffs will begin Oct. 24. The section final will be played at Monticello Nov. 3.