Walker-Hackensack-Akeley football and volleyball players will join student athletes across Minnesota as the season for both fall sports opens Oct. 9.
There is a six-game schedule in place for football and 13 matches in volleyball, with talks still ongoing for a post-season for each sport. It’s too early to know how a surge in COVID-19 cases in Cass County will affect each sport.
For football coach Aaron Pfeiffer, who has 30 ninth- through 12th-graders on the team, the season couldn’t start fast enough. “Football needs to be played in the fall. The idea of spring football just didn’t seem to be a reality,” he said. “Our guys worked hard this summer for the opportunity to play football this fall.”
Pfeiffer has a core group of seniors with plenty of experience returning from last year’s conference championship squad. They are Gavin Damar, Steven Hausken, Gavin Johannsen, Dylan Johnson, Jackson MacFarlane, Clay Nelson, Trevor Radke, Mason Schneider, Jack Slagle and Zach Stevenson.
The offensive line will be a work in progress as most of the big men will be mostly sophomores, with two juniors and one senior. Sophomore Eli Pfeiffer will be under center for his first year as a starter.
“I’m hoping we can take advantage of our experience in the receiving and running backs corps,” Coach Pfeiffer said. The experience with Hausken and Johannsen in the backfield will help out the Wolves with a rookie quarterback.
The Wolves open the season hosting Pine River-Backus Oct. 9. The next game is Oct. 14 at Warroad, with WHA’s next three games scheduled for Fridays, and final one Thursday night. The Wolves also have Bagley, Cass Lake-Bena, New York Mills and Red Lake on the schedule.
Under direction by the Minnesota State High School League, football and volleyball players could start practicing Sept. 14, and WHA took advantage of that. Pfeiffer said he held practice every day after school and mainly worked on skill positions with no pads. That all changed Monday as WHA went to full pads in preparation for their first game next Friday.
Volleyball coach Bonnie Sea said her players started preparing for the season over the summer. They travelled to South Dakota to play in the Summer Slam.
“That was fun for the girls and it gave them a taste of volleyball,” Sea said. “We also played in a Fall Friendly League in Fargo and Monticello.”
Returning players for a team that made it all the way to the Section 5A championship include seniors Lizzie Naugle, Aleah Tabbert and Paige Hildebrandt, and juniors Ally Sea, Katie Sagen, Abigail Strandlie and Kali Oelschlager.
“The girls have been playing. Everything we did this summer and over the fall league has prepared us for this season. The girls are ready to play,” Sea added.
The Wolves open the season Oct. 13 at Pine River-Backus and host Perham two days later for their home-opener. The other teams on the schedule are Bagley, Blackduck, Cass Lake-Bena, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Laporte, Nevis, Northome-Kelliher, Pine River-Backus a second time at home, Staples-Motley, Thief River Falls and Win-E-Mac.
Per Gov. Tim Walz’s orders, no fans will be allowed at volleyball matches, while only a very limited capacity crowd will be allowed for football games. Leech Lake TV is working with the WHA School to televise as many varsity contests as possible.