Edina football coach Derrin Lamker took the pressure of his new role head-on while addressing parents and booster club members during a recent fundraiser at Interlachen Country Club.
Lamker, who coached Osseo to an improbable Class 6A Prep Bowl championship in 2015, recalled saying, “If we don’t win some games, I certainly won’t be back at Interlachen again.” He wasn’t joking.
“There’s a demand that you have to win some football games sometimes,” Lamker said.
That time is now for Lamker, as well as Lambert Brown at Wayzata and Tyler Krebs at Lakeville South, coaches bringing strong pedigrees to communities full of resources yet starved for success.
Brown, 36, built a reputation as a rising star in coaching with successful stints at Fridley and Chaska. Two years ago Krebs led Burnsville to its first state tournament appearance in two decades. Lamker, 42, took Osseo, near the bottom of school enrollment in Class 6A, to the top.
Brown and Lamker got a jump on their new roles last season, when Brown became Wayzata’s assistant head coach and Lamker served as Edina’s offensive coordinator. Krebs, 43, left Burnsville for Lakeville South, succeeding Larry Thompson, his former coach at Lakeville and winner of three state titles.
Though speaking for himself, Brown summed up what all three coaches feel about their new environs.
“We should be pretty grateful for what we have here,” Brown said. “We also have the responsibility to say, ‘We’ve got great community support, we’ve got this beautiful school building, tremendous facilities, adults in the building who care and want kids to succeed — we better take advantage of that.’ ”
Each of these coaches landed an envious position. Some assembly is required, however.
Lakeville South went 1-8 last season and has just two playoff victories in the past five seasons. South opened in 2005, reached the state tournament its first two seasons, then got supplanted by rival Lakeville North as the dominant program in town. The Cougars’ last state appearance came in 2010. North, coached by Lakeville alum Brian Vossen, has reached state each year since.
“I think the world of him and his program,” Krebs said. “They are a model for us. We’re trying to get there, too.”
Stratospheric expectations got Brown’s attention. Wayzata appeared in five Prep Bowls in eight seasons from 2004-11 and won three titles. But the once-powerful Trojans are waiting to return to the final game. In addition, they won just three games in 2014 and two last fall.
“Everyone knows how horrible we were last year,” junior quarterback Keaton Heide said. “So if we come out and respond really well with our tempo in practices and games, I think we’ll turn it around pretty quickly.”
Brown’s thoughts exactly.
“Nobody brought me here to be patient,” Brown said, adding that if coaches and players exhibit the right mix of accountability and effort, “We can be where we want to be right now.”
Edina, ranked No. 1 during the 2012 season, has mustered a .500 record just once since then while playing tough conference/district schedules. The Hornets defeated Eden Prairie just once and Wayzata twice in the past five seasons.
“I’ve heard about how Edina is the small school in the district, and it’s just about hockey,” Lamker said. “But we’re not buying that. If we bring the kids in with the right culture and ideas and there’s no reason why we can’t compete and win ballgames.”
Reason to believe
Success at previous stops provides each coach a winning formula.
Krebs rebuilt Burnsville’s program on three pillars: coaching staff stability, strength training and getting involved at the youth levels. He diagrammed, and executed, a five-year plan to turn the Blaze around. Success figures to come more quickly at Lakeville South.
“All three of those areas are stronger here,” Krebs said. “We think we can be competitive right away, and that’s our goal in Year 1. The issue is going to be, these kids haven’t won and so can they believe and can we execute?”
Success at South begins away from the field. Each practice is filmed, giving players the chance to accelerate their learning through video study. When it comes to building players’ bodies, Krebs once again turns to nationally acclaimed strength and conditioning coach Scott Sahli, who came over from Burnsville. Players already notice a difference.
“The main thing is more organization, more accountability,” said senior running back/linebacker Logan Gudmundson “Practices are more intense. We’re lifting five days a week during the season. They expect a lot more from us.”
At Wayzata, players received a “Winner’s Manual” loaded with Brown’s philosophies, expectations and more. Brown took a career detour, becoming Maple Grove’s activities director. His excitement to return to teaching and coaching shows.
“He’s everywhere,” Heide said. “You see him interacting with football players on and off the field, talking to the new coaches and teachers. He’s making himself known.”
Building relationships is critical at Edina, where Lamker said top male athletes tend to treat football as more of a fall activity than a pursuit.
“These kids have so much more to do: Lacrosse, hockey, other things — football is not their focus,” Lamker said. “At Osseo, that was their focus.”
Senior Anders Nelson, the second-leading scorer on the basketball team, joined the football team this fall and is impressing at wide receiver.
“There are a lot of good athletes who aren’t playing,” senior linebacker Nick Bloom said. “Derrin is a real personable guy, and I think that’s really attractive to a lot of players. Hopefully, he can show these hockey players that this is the real deal now at Edina — football is going to be up and coming.”
Games this fall allow the coaches to measure growth against one another. Thursday’s season-opening slate of games includes Lakeville South at Edina. On Sept. 15, Wayzata travels to Edina.
Brown, Krebs and Lamker have capitalized on the excitement of a new season, filling impressionable young men with passion and pride. Keeping those feelings alive well into November for years to come is the coaches’ shared goal — and their communities’ expectations.
“Everything you could ask for as a head coach is here,” Brown said. “Now it’s us making a decision as a program to make that leap.”