Football’s season is ending, but what happens next?





The excitement around the Augustana football team was palpable to begin the season. The Vikings were coming off their first NCAA playoff berth since 2010, and they returned most of their significant contributors on both sides of the ball.

But hope for another playoff bid quickly faded as the team opened 4-3.

Augustana now must look ahead to a future that won’t include seniors like quarterback Trey Heid and receivers Matt Heller and Charlie Hayes, the driving forces behind what head coach Jerry Olszewski called “the most explosive offense in Augustana history.”

Heid holds the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference record for total offense and all of Augustana’s major passing records. Heller is the nation’s leading receiver in yards (1372), is second in touchdown receptions (18) and is 10th in catches (72). Hayes is a former 1,000-yard receiver that missed two games with a broken finger, hindering his season totals (743 yards, five touchdowns).

“Offensively, we will need to replace some of the greatest players to ever wear the Navy and Gold,” Olszewski said.

Augustana wraps up its regular season on the road against Southwest Minnesota State Saturday at 1 p.m. and could earn an invitation to a bowl game if it wins. At 7-3 with a No. 10 ranking in Super Region 3 (three spots from a playoff berth), it’s easy to look at games against Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato that slipped away and wonder what could have been.

“If you just look at [those] losses, just a couple of plays separate us from wins and what that could have meant for this team,” Olszewski said. “With that said, we have done so many great things this year as a team with some incredible individual performances.”

Heid agreed. He wants to finish the season strong and make a bowl game.

He also hopes to throw for three more touchdowns which would give him 40 on the year. That would be a record that may not be broken for a long time, if ever. The previous record was 32 set by Josh Hanson in 2012.

Heid will go down as one of the greatest players in Vikings history, but he said the team is in good hands without out him if current backup quarterback Chase Marso chooses to stay at Augustana. He has one more season of eligibility but is a senior academically.

“I hope [he] stays,” Heid said. “Nobody has gotten to see it yet, but he is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.”

Olszewski said he looks forward to seeing Marso’s leadership with his turn running the offense.

The team’s defensive potential going forward excites Olszewski as well. Augustana loses just one starter, defensive end Bryson Hamilton.

Sophomore Kirby Hora headlines the returners. The linebacker leads the NSIC in tackles entering the final weekend with 99. He also has 5.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

Besides returning several pieces, the defense has also shown marked improvement down the stretch, most notably holding one of the league’s best offenses, Winona State, in check during a 21-20 comeback win Oct. 29.

Olszewski said the defense will make a difference next season and keep the Vikings competing near the top of the conference.

Sophomore kicker Jeff Glassburner, the incumbent at that position as Lucas Wainman graduates, sees potential for the team in 2017.

“I’m not in the meetings with the offense or defense, so I have a bit of a unique look on it,” Glassburner said. “I see some really good upcoming leaders developing on both sides of the ball.”

The departures of Heid, Heller and Hayes mark the end of an era. But, much like the end of last season, the team is optimistic.

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