Friday night lights are back. The offseason of lifting and summer practices is over for the Hutchinson football team, as it returns to the gridiron this Friday when it hosts St. Cloud Tech in the season opener.
Hutchinson will sport its traditional black and yellow uniforms, but many of the players on the field will be stepping into new roles. The Tigers will be led by a new quarterback this year, as senior Russell Corrigan goes under center full time.
Corrigan was a key offensive weapon at tight end last year but is shifting positions for his senior season. He previously spent time at quarterback in 2017, starting the last few games of the season as well as both of Hutch’s section playoff games.
“He’s played quarterback his whole life,” head coach Andy Rostberg said. “That’s just where we need him right now. He’s a great tight end, but he’ll be a really good quarterback.”
Hutch will also feature a new top running back tandem, as seniors Hayden Jensen and Tyler Schiller take over the bulk of the carries. Rostberg added that Corrigan, as well as junior Ty Glaser and sophomore Colin Nagel, will be in the mix to carry the ball as they replace former workhorse Josiah Nelson.
“You can never refill Jo’s shoes,” Jensen said, “but me and Tyler are going to have to do what we can to get yards with our quickness. We’re not built like Jo, but I think we’re a little quicker than Jo is.”
The Tigers will also have a revamped offensive line, which graduated a majority of last year’s starters. Among those fighting for spots are Cody Kurth, Connor Drahos, Tony Dettman, Matthew Olberg, Travis Kruse and Jordan Titus.
“We’ve got some players to pick from,” Rostberg said.
One of the captains on the defensive line, senior Ethan Beffert, sees the line as a strength on both sides of the ball. In the early days of practice, the defensive focus has been on stopping the opponent’s passing game.
“A lot of teams pass the ball all the time,” Beffert said. “We have a really good defensive line to get pressure, and that secondary is just as good holding people off. I think we have one of the best secondaries that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
A notable change to the schedule this year is the inclusion of former rival Delano, “an old team that we have a lot of history with,” according to Rostberg. Delano moved into the North Central White District to replace Princeton, which went 1-15 the past two regular seasons.
Delano reached the Class 4A state tournament last season, losing 14-7 in the first round to the eventual state champion, St. Paul Academy/Minnehaha/Blake. Hutchinson hosts the Delano Tigers Oct. 4 and is looking forward to the reunion.
“We know a whole lot of guys on their coaching staff, a great coaching staff over there,” Rostberg said. “It’ll be fun to get Delano back on the schedule.”
Hutchinson went undefeated in the regular season, winning the district crown by one game ahead of Willmar. Aided by the success of its spread offense, Willmar earned a state berth and won 44-0 and 62-20 before losing in the state title game.
One familiar postseason foe that Hutchinson will not have to face this season is Waseca. The Bluejays eliminated Hutch in back-to-back seasons during the section tournament, including scoring 35 unanswered points last year to upset the top-ranked Tigers. This year, they’ve dropped down to Class 3A and out of Hutchinson’s section, as has Dassel-Cokato.
Filling in their places are Jordan and St. Peter, which join the section along with Hutch, New Ulm, Marshall and Mankato East. The Hubmen went 7-1 in the regular season and won their section to reach the Class 3A state tournament for the second consecutive year. St. Peter, which is also jumping up from 3A, went 5-3 in the regular season before losing in the section semifinals.
“We kind of developed a good rivalry with Waseca. That was always fun,” Rostberg said. “It’ll be interesting to see with the new section (and) watch those new teams as the regular season progresses.”
Hutchinson has gone a combined 14-2 in the last two regular season, but is 1-2 in the playoffs during that time. Corrigan is determined to not let the postseason disappointment continue this year.
“(We’re) just making sure that we’re not going to coast,” he said. “We just don’t want to get good and just stay good. We want to get good, get great, get better every single game. Be our best in time for playoffs.”