St. Peter, Minn. - On Monday, April 23, the Gustavus football team began spring drills. Football teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference are allowed to hold seven practices throughout the spring months. This spring is different, however, because the team is traveling to Cancun, Mexico where it will host clinics, do community service work, and play an exhibition game. Because of this, the Gusties are awarded an additional ten extra practices, and are allowed to wear full pads and participate in full contact drills. These additional practices commenced on May 8 and will conclude on May 20. The football team will then have a week off to focus on finals before departing for Cancun on May 28.
After taking what Head Coach Peter Haugen described as a “big step forward” last season, the team was responsible over the off-season for getting in shape and preparing for the pressures that accompany a football season—both on and off the field.
“We had a really good year in the off-season. Our captains and our leaders on the team did a good job holding people accountable and committing to get better as a group. It was truly a time of building unity and strength,” Haugen said.
That team unity was a key component in last year’s encouraging season. The Gusties went 6-4 overall and 4-4 in the MIAC in 2013, which was a noticeable improvement from the 2012 season when the team went 3-7 overall and 2-6 in the MIAC.
“We really took a step forward last season. Our guys really committed themselves to the process, hung in there and stayed positive. I credit our captains with the work that they put in. We had a very determined group of guys,” Haugen said.
Coach Haugen hopes to capitalize on last season’s progress. “We want to continue to build a culture of trust and constant improvement and mentally we want to continue to get stronger. We made great strides last year—mentally we were a stronger football team,” Haugen said.
In addition to the increased mental strength of the team, last year’s squad benefited from the standout season had by senior running back Jeffrey Dubose. Dubose, who broke virtually every rushing record in school history including most rushing yards in a single season, most career rushing touchdowns, most rushing yards in a single game, most rushing touchdowns in a single season, and most career rushing yards, is graduating this spring, along with much of the offensive line that cleared a path for him. Replacing such integral parts of the team is a focus of coach Haugen’s and a challenge the team welcomes this off-season.
Thanks to their upcoming training trip to Cancun, the Gusties have been allowed extra practices this spring, including practices with full pads and full contact. These additional practices have allowed the coaching staff to a better look at a fresh offensive line, allowing them to better envision how players will perform in game situations.
“With a new offensive line, we have a new group of players trying to create and build on our identity. Having pads on gives us a chance to practice more realistically in the spring, and it gives us a better and more realistic look at what football is like,” Haugen said.
While this year’s team will look very different from the team that played last fall, Coach Haugen said that some things will remain the same.
“You always need to fit your scheme to where your strengths are. Our system will remain very similar with a few tweaks. Gustavus fans are going to see a defense that’s very experienced—most of the starters are coming back with a lot of experience, but the second tier of defensive guys are very inexperienced,” Haugen added.
The team will have the opportunity to gain experience while spending time together on its service-training trip in Cancun, Mexico. While there, the team will combine service with play as they host youth football and coaching clinics, volunteer in an orphanage, as well as spend a day sightseeing before playing an international game against the Cancun Lagartos at the end of the trip.
“It’ll be very similar to the trip we did three years ago. It gives us a chance to get more practices and it brings us together as a team. The players have more time to spend with their teammates and their coaches,” Haugen said.
The Gustavus football team will report to fall camp on August 16, and start practice the following day. The Gusties will play host to non-conference opponent Crown College on Saturday, September 6, in the season-opener at 1:00 p.m. on Hollingsworth Field in St. Peter.
Stay tuned for further details on the football team’s service-training trip to Cancun.