September 19th, 2008 was a while ago. It was during Mr. Heibel’s first year as principal of Lincoln Lutheran. The Senior Class had just begun fourth grade and the sixth graders were merely three years old. It was also the last time Lincoln Lutheran’s varsity football team won the Spirit Sword, coming back in the second half to beat the Lincoln Christian Crusaders 14-13. But that changed Friday night when the Warriors won 28-14.
The last few seasons have led to many adjustments for the football team. Following Head Coach Lyle Ziems’ retirement after 19 seasons in the position, a new coaching staff has taken over under Head Coach Greg Nelson. The 2016 season marks Coach Nelson’s third year with the team. The Warriors have also learned to work with noticeable size and age gaps compared to their usually older opponents. This season’s team is once again young as it includes only 12 upperclassmen on the 32 man roster.
But the most noticeable change this year can be found in the schedule. After over a decade in Class C-1, the Warriors have moved down to Class C-2 with a new set of opponents. Senior Joel Stennett has enjoyed the change so far saying, “It’s been a tremendous move for us. Instead of being one of the smallest schools in our class, we are one of the biggest schools. A lot of the time, our guys are stronger and heavier than their guys which is super helpful. That is credit to our guys working hard in the weight room this summer.”
Some may argue that the Warriors have only found success due to easier opponents, but sophomore Cayden Bergt would accredit it to “hard work and accountability”. Stennett explained that “a lot of the team attended off-season lifting and conditioning programs four days out of the week and there were also wide receiver, quarterback, and lineman workouts once a week.” This preparation wouldn’t go as far if it wasn’t for the entire team being involved. Junior Logan Kreizel explained the progress saying, “We got better, not only as individuals, but as a team, and that’s what is the most important for our success so far. We’re playing better as a team.”
As the season progresses, the Warriors hope their goals will be met with reality. And those goals don’t stop with the end of the regular season. “Post season is a huge goal that I think this year’s team is capable of achieving,” Kreizel added. Considering their 3-0 record, if the Warriors can keep up the momentum for the next six games, they will easily find themselves in the playoffs.
With the Spirit Sword in hand, the Warriors now have a new prize in sight. Bergt echoes the team when mentioning that it would be “amazing to win our district.” Lincoln Lutheran hasn’t claimed the title of District Champion since 2001. They have yet to face any district team which includes Elmwood-Murdock, Yutan, Malcolm, and Brownell-Talbot but the Warriors are currently the only team in their district with a perfect record (3-0).
The football season is far from over with at least six games left, including two home games at Nebraska Wesleyan. This means that there’s still plenty of time to come out and support the team as they work to achieve their goals. Whether rain or shine, win or lose, the Warriors are pushing forward and gaining ground.