Senior leadership critical to Hettinger-Scranton's 2018 campaign
Hettinger-Scranton head coach Randy Burwick needed to get his message across.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, after conducting a two-hour practice that concluded with the players running up and down the length of the field twice, Burwick gathered the group and told them that their effort and focus was subpar, especially with the season opener just three days away.
Holding every Night Hawk in pads accountable, from freshmen to seniors, he implored his team to approach every practice from here on out with heightened intensity.
However, the same fire he used to explain the players' missteps was the fire he used to uplift them. Burwick pointed to a number of his veterans, explaining how their path to becoming solid contributors on the gridiron came from their effort. The longtime Hettinger-Scranton leader on the sidelines understands that if his players are willing to put the work in, untapped potential may be unleashed.
"They just have to believe in their capabilities," Burwick said. "They have to believe that they are a very good football team and that they are going to continue to improve throughout this season."
The Night Hawks are coming off of a year that saw them enter the win column only once. After defeating Lemmon (S.D.) 51-6 in the first game of the season, Hettinger-Scranton dropped their final season contests by an average of more than 23 points per game.
Trying the shake off the taste of defeat, the players worked during the summer to enter the season in the best physical condition possible, something that was not lost on Burwick during the first fall practice sessions.
"I think the one thing that was super noticeable is that the weight room really did help them out this summer," Burwick said. "The core group of guys really did a good job getting in the weight room — getting stronger, getting faster. So that stuff all looks really, really good. Our guys came in pretty fit and I was really happy with how they came into fall camp."
Hettinger-Scranton again will open the season with Lemmon on Aug. 17, but the makeup of the team will be different this time around. Last year, the Night Hawks needed to replace 13 seniors off of their 2016 squad that finished with a 6-3 record. Of the 24 players on the roster entering this season, half of them are seniors.
"These seniors are going to have to step up," senior quarterback Jaxon Mellmer said. "Some of them may not have been in the position to start, but they are going to have to step up big, make plays and make sure everybody is on the right page. We're just going have to go out there and play as one."
One of the players who won't be back in the fold is 2017 Region 5 Senior Athlete of the Year Isaiah Kludt, as the explosive running back graduated and took his talents to Dickinson State University. Kludt's departure is a blow to the backfield, but Hettinger-Scranton intends to diversify its offense as opposing defenses will have to key in on more than one player.
Bruising senior running back Jacob Dix will run behind an offensive line that features. sophomore Tommy Buckmeier and seniors Mack Buckmeier and Sam Urwiller. Sophomore Jeran Anderson and senior Kyle Burwick are a pair of playmakers who will bring "lightning" to Dix's "thunder."
While the offense appears to have the pieces in place, the defense will bring back the majority of its starters from a year ago. However, gains will need to be made on that side of the ball; the Night Hawks allowed 45 points per game last season, ranked last in Region 5.
"We've got to get off the field on third downs," said Kyle Burwick, who is a member of the secondary. "Last year, if you go back and watch the film, on first and second down, we were pretty solid. We were holding guys to 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-7, but then we'd give up eight yards for a first down. I think we all know that we have to give our defense a break and get off the fields on third downs."
Hettinger-Scranton is looking for a bounce-back year in the second season of the realigned Region 5 conference. The man in charge wouldn't specify any particular expectations, but he fully expects his team will compete in 2018.
"You going to see this group of kids really get better, week by week by week," Randy Burwick said. "I know we play in a super hard conference and there's a lot of very good football teams, but we are going to step onto the football field every single week and we are going to challenge everybody."
Hettinger-Scranton Night Hawks
Head Coach: Randy Burwick
2017 results: 1-7 overall, 0-7 in 9-man Region 5
Aug. 17 — at Lemmon (S.D.)
Aug. 24 — at Central McLean
Aug. 31 — vs. Beach
Sept. 7 — at Grant County-Flasher
Sept. 14 — vs. Mott-Regent-New England
Sept. 21 — at Shiloh Christian
Sept. 28 — vs. New Salen-Glen Ullin
Oct. 5 — at Richardton-Taylor-Hebron