Football looks to pick up where it left off
Last year, the Augustana football team dominated the regular season, going 9-2 while earning a trip to the Division II college football playoffs. After falling to Humbolt State in the first round, the Vikings find themselves on a mission to recapture a playoff birth.
That mission started in Augustana’s first game against Northern State at home. It took a three-play, 86-yard drive to force overtimein the final minute.
Heid threw the game-winning touchdown to Heller in the back of the end zone in the first overtime, after the defense forced a field goal, to earn the 37-34 walk-off win.
“I hope every game isn’t like that,” sophomore linebacker Kirby Hora said. “I’m only 20 years old, and I don’t want to suffer a heart attack, but it was nice to go out and win the first one.”
A week later, Augustana was on the road at the University of Mary. The Vikings dominated on both sides of the ball, putting up 63 points while holding Mary to just 85 yards, winning the game 63-0. Augustana hosts Minnesota-Crookston on Saturday in an attempt to start the season 3-0.
“The pressure we put on us to get to the playoffs is external,” Olszewski said. “I believe that there were some 5-6 teams of last year that have a shot to make it to the playoffs this year. We can only control what he do and how we play.”
The playoff push will be tested in the middle of the season with a stretch of strong opponents. Augustana plays University of Minnesota-Duluth in two weeks before a rematch of last year’s epic showdown with crosstown rival, No. 15 University of Sioux Falls (AFCA Coaches Poll). Two weeks later, Augustana takes on No. 21 Minnesota State-Mankato. The Vikings will enjoy homefield advantage against USF and Mankato.
“If we play our game we can beat anybody on our schedule,” Rofshus said. “We aren’t afraid of the high expectations.”
Senior quarterback Trey Heid leads a pass-heavy offense with his two key targets, senior wide receivers Charlie Hayes and Matt Heller.
With the absence of C.J. Ham, who is now on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad, Augustana may rely on the passing game more than ever.
If the Vikings go that route, they’ll be in good hands. Heid is the reigning NSIC South Division Player of the Year.
“Replacing graduated impact players is always a challenge,” said head coach Jerry Olszewski. “But it also presents opportunity. The graduated seniors were up and coming players at one point as well.”
Among them will be some young offensive linemen.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are on this team right now,” sophomore offensive lineman Cody Rofshus said. “If you’re asked to step in at any point in the game, you have to go out there and play up to your abilities. It’s all about doing your job.”
Augustana hosts Minnesota-Crookston on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Kirkeby-Over Stadium.