Linder named coach of yearWORTHINGTON — From the end of last year, Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder knew he was going to have a special team this season.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — From the end of last year, Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder knew he was going to have a special team this season.
“Coming off last season, we had a rough year, but I knew when the season ended and the freshmen that were planning on returning were in the weight room right away and wanted to do speed and agility drills in the off-season, it was a pretty good indicator there was the type of leadership we needed; we just needed to fit in some pieces,” Linder said. “I knew the Vermillion game would be very tough and we came out on top of that one and we played extremely well and we played together.”
After the season-opening victory against Vermillion, the Bluejays went on to a 7-3 season and a Southern Division championship.
Along with success came the individual awards.
Linder was named the Southern Division coach of the year, while six Bluejays were named to the Minnesota College Athletic Conference All-Division first team.
“It’s always nice to have your peers vote you in as coach of the year,” Linder said. “It means a lot to me.”
Winning his fourth COY award and first since 2004, Linder gives the credit to his assistant coaches and players.
“I have to give all the credit to my assistant coaches and my players,” Linder said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten the award.”
Gene Lais, Tyrone Wacker, Scott Barber, Ben DeVries, Tyler Skow and Steve Bassett all assisted Linder this season.
“The game planning is done by all of us, but the major preparation is mainly done by the two coordinators, and then we sit down together after watching film,” Linder said. “They are doing as much game prep as I am, if not more. Then I’m doing all the extra curriculars that go along with coaching.”
With a good group of players and a successful season, Linder and the Bluejays often played in front of a large crowd at Trojan Field.
“We had great fan support this year,” Linder said. “That made a difference, too. That’s one thing that I really liked seeing. You don’t pay attention to the stands when you’re coaching, but when you turn around at halftime and the stands are filled up, that’s a pretty good feeling. I know when the guys are playing, just like when I played, that means the world to them.”
Along with Linder, Lon Garfield, Henry Brunson, Corey Polz, Logan Korkow, Ryan Swanson and John Swanson were each named to the first team.
“They were crucial to us being where we were,” Linder said. “We came out pretty good with the voting and the nominees. We’re real happy with that and happy for those guys.
“There are so many guys that should be on some kind of squad, and I wish we could get every one of them something. We had such team unity this year; it was just about the team.”
Bill Blumberg, Antonio Williams, Tyler Welp, James Sebea and Travaris Pickens were each named to the second team, while Ryan Rasche, Dwayne Jackson, Chaz Powell, Alexander Neal and Cory Roebuck were each honorable mention.
Garfield, Brunson and Polz were each named all-region and will have an opportunity to become All-Americans, which will be voted on at a later date.
While Garfield led the Bluejays with 1,484 yards passing and 13 touchdowns, Korkow (29 catches, 461 yards) was one of the left-hander’s favorite targets.
Brunson had 55 tackles, while Polz had a team-high 73.
On the offensive line, Ryan Swanson and John Swanson anchored a line that blocked for Pickens (506 yards rushing) and Sebea (435 yards rushing) all season.
Williams (354 yards receiving, four touchdowns), Rasche (279 yards receiving) and Jackson were each on the receiving end of Garfield throughout the season.
Blumberg and Welp helped anchor a stout defensive line, Powell and Neal played alongside Polz at linebacker, while Roebuck had three interceptions in the secondary.
While each player provided something special to the Bluejays this season, it will be the entire group that Linder will miss the most now that the season is finished.
“We have such a great group of guys,” Linder said. “Looking back on things, (the best part) would be going to practice and seeing the guys, especially since I don’t really have that because the season is over. You don’t realize how much you miss seeing those guys everyday and having fun and preparing each week.”
Westbrook-Walnut Grove graduates Jake Wahl and Joe Doubler were each all-division second team for Ridgewater Community College in Willmar.