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MN West signs area athletes to football program

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Players from across the area signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play football at Minnesota West. Pictured are (front, from left): Jordan Cholick, Jake Freitag, Tyson Williams, Andy Henning, John Kalenberg, Chris Bender, Aaron Aubert, Tony Clausen, Spencer Laleman. Back: Clinton Jurgens, Jimmy Amundson, Preston Rode, Ben Kotewa, Enrique Gomez, Blaine Countryman, Andrew Matter, Brody Nelson, Brennan Schuette, Tony Falk and Kory Staples.

WORTHINGTON -- While the football season is still months away, the Minnesota West football team has taken another step closer to defending its Southern Division title.

Adding to its depth, head coach Jeff Linder and the Bluejays signed 20 athletes Wednesday to play football in the fall.

"We're excited, we got some real good players and hopefully there will be some more down the road here," Linder said.

In all, the Bluejays are looking to bring in around 40 players.

"We're right around 38 freshmen that have committed -- not all signed yet -- but it's just minor technicalities," Linder said. "It's looking real good. I'm really pleased with the turnout (Wednesday)."

Despite a solid group of freshmen turning sophomores next year, the Bluejays were still looking to add to their roster.

"I think we needed to. We spend a lot of time playing starters in certain positions that need to play special teams," Linder said. "We get tired, hurt, and not only that, but with the more numbers you have, it tends to push players because they don't want to lose a spot. The sophomores have a hand up on all the freshmen coming in; however, if you have a young man pushing him, you'll get harder work out of these young men.

"We wanted more numbers. I think we're doing pretty well that way."

MW signed both area and regional athletes Wednesday.

"We're trying to concentrate hard on our regional kids," Linder said. "We want the kids to know that this is a great place to be and a great place for them to get started and play football.

"That's been our goal the last two years and the numbers have increased. The word is getting out that Minnesota West wants the regional kids to come here and play, and they get a great education."

In their meeting at the Worthington campus, Linder talked of working hard next fall -- both on the field and in the classroom.

"Smart players are good players, for one," Linder said. "Secondly, we want them to succeed. Here they have two years. They could possibly have five years of football and that's it. That's not a lifetime, and it comes on them awfully fast. They need to realize their education is what they're going to need to be successful in life down the road.

"(Academically) we're going to do a little bit more. I think it's important that you do as much as you possibly can. We're going to do even more to make sure our students are on top of their academics and making sure they're having success in the classroom."

While Linder focused on the academic success, the Bluejays are coming off a successful season.

Finishing 7-3 last year and winning the Southern Division, MW is looking for the same success in the fall.

"Winning means a lot," Linder said. "Not only for the kids that are playing in the program in the present, but for potential future student-athletes. They want to go to a place that is successful. Hopefully, they aren't just successful on the field, but they are going to get success in the classroom."

Players who signed Wednesday were: Jordan Cholick (Lakefield), Jake Freitag (Mountain Lake), Tyson Williams (Fulda), Andy Henning (Fulda), John Kalenberg (Stewart), Chris Bender (Liberty, Mo.), Aaron Aubert (Pipestone), Tony Clausen (Fulda), Spencer Laleman (Minneota); Clinton Jurgens (Windom), Jimmy Amundson (Windom), Preston Rode (Truman), Ben Kotewa (Truman), Enrique Gomez (Buffalo Lake), Blaine Countryman (Renville), Andrew Matter (Buffalo Lake), Brody Nelson (Stewart), Brennan Schuette (Browntown), Tony Falk (Slayton) and Kory Staples (Slayton).

In a sense, Wednesday started a new era for the Bluejays.

"I was just telling one of the parents because they asked me, I told them that it was really hard because we have a group of sophomores that are leaving that I've become very attached to," Linder said. "It's still hard for me that with some of these guys, I might never see them again. Then we have fresh faces come in and it's really fun to meet new young men and their parents. It's an exciting time here at Minnesota West."