Success starts on Tuesday mornings for the Chanhassen football team.
First-year Storm coach Mike Bailey meets with a group of 12 players, sophomores through seniors, before school that morning for program building. They are known as the Unity Council, gathering over doughnuts to discuss topics ranging from team culture to their daily lives beyond school.
“The Unity Council members are the guys we look to for the leadership in the locker room and help us with everything and anything,” said Bailey, formerly the team’s offensive coordinator.
It’s the closest the senior-heavy Storm get to having captains since the team elected the players to the Unity Council. The council began meeting during the summer, which included the strength and conditioning workouts at the time.
“Of course the boys were nervous right away when we weren’t going to pick captains,” Bailey said. “The guys who get to go to the coin toss are our lineman of the week, scout team player of the week and our offensive and defensive players of the week.”
Storm players left and right are vying for the chance to call heads or tails in a season that, heading into Friday’s game against Richfield, has the team off to a 3-0 start and a top-five ranking in Class 5A. Now, they have their sights set on the program’s first state tournament appearance.
Chanhassen has many of the pieces for a successful October run into the playoffs. It doesn’t seem to matter that senior quarterback Alex Spillum just started playing the position this season. He already has thrown for four touchdowns, run for four and has 537 yards of total offense.
“Spill’s an athlete, he can pick up any position,” said Tommy Loeffler, a senior running back and wide receiver.
Spillum took the starting job this summer after the previous starter left the team. A star sprinter and jumper during the track and field season, Spillum excelled as a defensive back/wide receiver before this fall.
“I haven’t needed to hurdle anybody, but I know that I can do that,” Spillum said.
Spillum can lead the option offense, too. He guided the Storm on a game-winning drive to defeat Waconia 16-14 on Sept. 16 capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Loeffler.
A threat anywhere on the field, Loeffler has 384 yards total offense and six touchdowns. Junior running back Eddie Odanga gives the Storm extra punch with four rushing touchdown so far.
Chanhassen’s sturdy offensive line keeps the ball moving, helping the team average 395 yards per game through three games. Senior linemen Sam Roble, Scott Gustafson, Erik Stearns and Brian Ash all stand above 6 feet. Including 5-11 senior guard Max Noonan, four of the five linemen each weigh 235 pounds or more.
“We have a lot of speed on the offensive line, which is huge for our offense,” Roble said.
Defensively, the Storm has a dangerous secondary with five interceptions. Senior cornerback Henry Weisman and junior safety Cole Grindberg have two apiece.
The Storm allowed an average of 18.67 points in its first three games. That could help if Chanhassen faces perennial 5A power Mankato West (3-0) in the Section 2 tournament.
“They’re the team that’s knocked us out over and over,” Spillum said.
Plenty of tests await the Storm before it can think about scarlet. The Storm will see intra-school district rival Chaska (2-1) on Oct. 7 for the jug trophy, which could decide the Suburban District White Division title. The teams could meet again in the section tournament.
In the Storm’s favor, none of Chanhassen’s other remaining opponents has a winning record. It will need to keep winning to improve its chances of gaining a home-field advantage throughout the section playoffs.