Football: Elks made sure ‘Team 121′ left its mark
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
As .500 seasons go, Elk River’s 2012 football campaign had plenty of excitement packed in.
The Elks were 2-6 at one point, but won four straight, including their first three playoff wins since 2004, and picked up the program’s first trophy since 1992 by winning their section. Their state quarterfinal loss to St. Thomas Academy left them with a final 6-6 mark.
Second-year coach Steve Hamilton, whose previous experience was in Michigan and Georgia, quickly picked up on the Elks long football history, drilling it into the kids that their school’s 121st football team should do something special.
“We were Team 121 and we needed to leave a legacy and go to state,” said Connor Hanson, senior defensive back. “Nobody believed we could, nobody else did. We went as far as the seniors and everyone else could take us.”
Senior center George Chomilo was hugging teammates and family members at midfield, 15 minutes after the game. The winning team had long since left. The losing team wanted to linger on a football field a bit longer.
Asked if he had fun this fall, Chomilo smiled.
“I sure did. We played hard and we had a heckuva run. Our goal was to leave a legacy for year 121 and we did. I am excited to see what they will do next year.”
The Elks also had the satisfaction of rushing for well over 300 yards per game, and producing a school single-season rushing record as Denis Bardashevskiy finished with 1,938 yards. That’s a team effort if there ever was one with stout blocking from the line, excellent deception by the backs in handling the ball, and, of course, patient and meticulous coaching.
“A lot of times, the runs were so long I couldn’t run down the field (to celebrate),” grinned the 290-pound center.
When the team huddled at the goal line after the loss, with kneeling players’ faces upturned at the coach, Hamilton told them he knows how much it hurts, but to remember what they had accomplished. We didn’t catch most of what he said but the term “1992″ came up.
As with any coach at the end of a season, his heart ached for the seniors, 24 of them.
“They are really good kids, and they brought us to where we are now.”
One of them, Bryan Edwards, likely to pick up his second all-conference honor at middle linebacker, had a great final game with nine tackles and an interception that he returned 63 yards to set up the lone touchdown.
He was reluctant to concede the Elks just got beat by a better team.
“I think we could have beaten them,” said Edwards. “We just had a moment here and a moment there where we missed an assignment, and they took advantage.”
The three-sport athlete brightened when asked what he thought about the season.
“We had a great season, every single person on this team.”
Hanson, who made four tackles and tipped the pass that Edwards intercepted, complimented the victors.
“They have a lot of good running backs who run hard, and they hit hard. But we came out and played them hard.”
The seniors were Alex Plaisted, Devin Donelson, Jake Knopick, Nick Johnson, Jordan Johnson, Derek Miller, Hanson, Queety Badio, Jorge Ramirez, Alec Kreisien, Terry Hadden, Logan Lenertz, Jacob Wirtz, Nate Storby, Jake Brenteson, Nick Griffiths, Chomilo, Brady Franz, Austin Heston, Edwards, Derek Cross, Jordan Meyer, Riley Filipovich, Jaron Erickson and Trent Bentz.