PREP FOOTBALL: Adrian seniors leave mark on program

MINNEAPOLIS -- It only seemed fitting that the Adrian's last score of the season was a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brett Nowotny to Adam Diekmann in the Class A state football championship.

MINNEAPOLIS -- It only seemed fitting that the Adrian's last score of the season was a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brett Nowotny to Adam Diekmann in the Class A state football championship.

After all, the Nowotny-to-Diekmann connection resulted in the Dragons' only points two years ago when Adrian lost 28-7 to Goodhue in the state title.

"That's kind of a fitting way for those two to go out," head coach Randy Strand said. "They've played a lot of Dragon football. All of our seniors have."

Adrian lost 42-21 to Minneota in Friday's championship game.

It's impossible, however, to ignore the string of success that Adrian's seniors have enjoyed.


Ever since that heartbreaking loss ended their season in 2007, those seniors made it their mission to get back to the Metrodome.

That's exactly what they did.

"We said from Day 1 where we wanted to be, and that's where we ended up," defensive lineman Brendon Kopplow said. "I remember when we were sophomores and we got runner up. I looked at how they (the seniors) felt, and now I realize how they felt."

Still, a pair of second-place finishes isn't too bad of an accomplishment for a high school career.

In fact, Adrian's seniors have had quite a run.

Over the past four years, the Dragons have compiled an overall record of 37-12, made three section championships, won two of them and played four games in the Metrodome for the state semifinals and title game.

"The seniors, even those that don't get on the field regularly, what they've done for us over the last few years -- their leadership has been outstanding," Strand said. "This is where they deserve to be."

Nearly three months ago, it didn't seem like Adrian would end up anywhere near the Metrodome.


The Dragons opened up the season with a 43-13 loss to the same team they closed it with -- Minneota.

But the Dragons circled the wagons after Week 1 and steadily improved throughout the season.

"The first game was kind of a wake-up call," senior Brandon Aggen said. "We realized that we had football to play. From there on out we played our hearts out every game. We played as hard as we could, all the time."

"After the first game we started clicking, and got a few things sorted out," senior Stephen Loosbrock said. "Plus, our senior class is pretty tight."

The close-knit seniors played a key role in moving the team forward.

"The coaches always stress the first two weeks of practice that to get a good season it's going to take senior leadership," Kopplow said. "That's what it took this year. I think we did a pretty good job doing that."

Don't believe him? Look no further than the 11-1 record Adrian posted over the next 12 games.

During that stretch, the defense allowed less than a touchdown per contest.


The offense, meanwhile, racked up 338.5 yards per game.

Players insist that the team's discipline, toughness and work ethic were what made the difference.

"Heart and effort, that's what got us here," Loosbrock said. "Nobody saw us getting anywhere near here."

That attitude is something Adrian's coaches try to instill in their players.

It's just Adrian-style football.

"At Adrian, we just play hard," Strand said. "Everything we do, every sport we play, we do it as hard as we can."

Now, it's up to the Dragon underclassmen to keep the program's tradition going.

The seniors saw a little bit of themselves in their younger teammates on Friday.


"They feel the atmosphere; how fun it is," Nowotny said. "Just to get that feeling back, that's the drive they need to get back up here."

The seniors also have a great deal of confidence in what future Adrian teams can accomplish.

"We just said, 'You know what it feels like to be here, so strive to come back here next year,'" Kopplow said. "Hopefully, they can bring back the gold."

"It was the same thing we were told when we were up here two years ago," Aggen said. "We said to remember it. Get the feeling, get the taste in your mouth, remember it and want to come back for more."

For Strand, it will be hard to see his seniors leave.

"I'm a lucky guy," he said. "I keep telling these guys, I'm lucky because I get to come back. The seniors are the ones who've got to leave."

Nowotny, Diekmann, Aggen, Kopplow, Loosbrock, Tyler Sieve, Alex Maldonado, Connor Haken, Brandon LeBrun, Nick McCann, Alex Elias, Aaron Lonneman and Mitchell Voss will leave having made one heck of a run.

"It's been great playing with those guys," Aggen said. "You look back and it was a ride the whole time."

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