Neither whistle nor air horn sounded the return of football to Osseo High School.
It was the whoops of the varsity defense, spurred on by an assistant coach yelling “Enthusiasm!” as they burst from an open locker room door on the stadium’s east end. Players brought their spirit to the field and by 8 a.m. Monday tranquility gave way to tenacity.
About 140 players in grades 10 through 12, donning black helmets, black shirts and matching shorts, gathered around coach Derrin Lamker and learned the Orioles’ one-word team motto for this season:
“Playing with an edge means you go to the whistle and play nasty,” said Lamker, before offering another challenge — going from competitive in the Northwest Suburban Conference to a factor in the state championship hunt.
Breaking the first team huddle with “1-2-3 champs!” players divided into position groups to stretch and then drill. Defensive players jumped on footballs to simulate fumble recoveries. Receivers worked on the footwork and caught passes. Linemen executed different blocking schemes.
“Everything we do is designed to make you better,” bellowed assistant coach Mike Johnson.
Seniors Matt Miedtke and Connor Kittelson said Monday’s practice, opening their final season of prep football, meant something special. Miedtke, the Orioles quarterback, said he felt “the adrenaline hit” as he tried to sleep Sunday night.
Heading to school Monday morning with nothing but his thoughts to accompany him, Miedtke said he reminded himself to “set an example, be a leader and do everything I do the right way.”
Nervous excitement started for Kittelson in the spring as he joined fellow receivers and skill position players for workouts before school.
“You come out here and you realize you’re one of the oldest guys,” Kittelson said. “You realize it’s your last time, your last go-around.”
Kittelson sported bright blue socks, a contrast to the all-black attire and a lightning rod for Lamker’s ribbing.
“I’ve got a different color pair for every day this week,” Kittelson shot back.
Later, he said: “I just like having bright colors. My teammates like them. I know a few of them went out and got these same socks.”
DAVID La VAQUE