Bethlehem Academy's first five, football program all grown up now

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2012 - 9:14 PM

A youth footbal program launched with five hopeful sixth-graders sprouted into a proud Prep Bowl squad at Bethlehem Academy.

Resting against a wall in the Bethlehem Academy coaches office is a memento to the program's change of course: a nicely framed photo of five sixth-graders in Cardinals uniforms.

"This is the first group of kids to start the youth program," coach Scott Hanson said of the boys posing on the Metrodome turf. "These are the pioneers of the first group of kids we started putting a lot of time into."

The photo of the youth league champions from six years ago includes Tim Angell, Matt Siegfried, Joe Zweber, Dylan Valentyn and Jacob Kuhlman, examples of the commitment required to fulfill Hanson's vision for the program.

This group, along with the majority of this year's 17 seniors, were part of the youth start-up team that has transformed the football presence of the Faribault-based Catholic school of 195 students and led it to its first-ever berth in a Prep Bowl championship game.

Hanson started the program with hopes of linking youth football to the school in a way that would change the school's mediocre football performance and decreasing number of players.

He didn't have to go far to find the connection.

Across the street from the high school is a Catholic elementary school, Divine Mercy. Most of the kids who played football took part in the city parks and recreation program, often competing against one another.

Hanson, using an idea that worked for him in his previous job in South Dakota, talked to parents about creating a school-based program for third- through sixth-graders. Kids would play together against grade-based teams from the area and received training consistent with the high school program.

"In sixth grade we got to play together. I thought it was great for the program," Valentyn said. "A big part of our team is chemistry and being able to execute. I think [the youth league] is a big part of our success."

This success helped the Cardinals advance to the state tournament for the first time. They will play unbeaten Mahnomen, making its 21st tournament appearance, in the Class 1A championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Since implementing the youth movement, Bethlehem Academy's football roster has jumped from an average of 28 players in the mid-2000s to 51 this season. The youth program, led by Hanson on Tuesday and Thursday nights, provides the development that he believes has helped lead to Saturday's milestone.

"We looked at things and decided we needed to change the culture, the camaraderie and the team atmosphere," Hanson said.

It wasn't hard to recognize the change, Angell said.

"I'm grateful for the coaches for starting that program," he said. "We made goals as sixth-graders to come back here and play in a state championship. We made it a priority."

The Cardinals are still learning along the way. After watching film on Monday, the coach reminded his players how to speak to the press and that their presence at the Prep Bowl is part of the culture of success.

The pioneers believe they have changed the course of Bethlehem Academy football for the foreseeable future.

"We got us a little taste of it when we were younger," Zweber said. "Now I think it helps kids get interested to play. When the younger kids see us make it to state, I think they'll want to come to Bethlehem Academy. It's awesome making history at our school."

Jason Gonzalez • 612-673-4494 Twitter: @JGonStrib

  • related content

  • Bethlehem Academy seniors held a picture of themselves from left, Tim Angell, Matt Siegfried, Joe, Zweber, Dylan Valentyn and Jacob Kuhlman.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close