Breaking ground: Underwood football team uncovers promise from past [UPDATED]Published 5:02pm Saturday, November 23, 2013 Updated 5:24pm Saturday, November 23, 2013
UNDERWOOD — The Underwood football team’s trip to the state championship has meant a number of things for different players. For some, it’s been a chance to play the sport they love well after the season has ended for teams in the area. For others, it’s a historic run that has pushed the team further than any other in school history.
But as five of the team’s seniors gathered with shovels under the north goalpost of the small-town football field on Friday afternoon, it meant one last chance to fulfill a promise made years ago
“As a group, this is probably one of the best accomplishments you could come up with,” lineman LeRoy Hauge said. “It’s just unbelievable to come back now that we’ve actually made it this far.”
After a successful junior high season in 2006, varsity head coach Chuck Ross gathered the year’s seventh- and eighth-grade team and buried a medal from the state playoffs. The Rockets had been eliminated in the semifinal game that year.
Ross promised the junior high team they would dig the medal up when they returned as seniors.
This season’s senior class was the talented group of seventh-graders that year. Friday’s dig comes as a capstone to the group’s determination and growth as a team ever since.
“You always hope it’s going to end up the way you want it to,” Ross said. “Often, that doesn’t happen, so to get to do it is pretty special.”
The Rockets play their last game on Nov. 29 against Grand Meadow in the Prep Bowl 9-Man State Championship. While they’ve met their goal with a trip back to the state playoffs, the team still isn’t satisfied.
“We still have a lot to prove,” senior Max Kollar said. “We have one more game to go win.”
The team’s goal has defined it’s winning attitude, even as new players have joined the roster. Senior quarterback Adam Creek moved to Underwood in eighth grade and was not part of the original burial. While he missed it by a year, the dream of another trip back to state stayed with the team and is one reason the group of seniors has worked so hard together. For Creek, it shows a defining attribute of the team and its small community.
“This school welcomed me like I had been here my whole life,” Creek said. “Giving back with all the hard work we’ve put in, it’s pretty cool to bring something back to this town.”
For linebacker Austin Montgomery, who missed the entire regular season because of a torn ACL but played in the section championship and the first two games of the state playoffs, the dig came as a reminder of how long he and his teammates have loved the game. Despite the injury, he plans on playing in the state championship — something he described as “a dream come true.”
“I’m just excited I get to play for it,” Montgomery said. “Just being in the game is going to be awesome.”
From a group of young kids with big dreams to a senior class surpassing its own expectations, Underwood’s state playoff run has proven their ability to opponents and followers of prep football across the state. Buried beneath any doubt the team might have had after early losses in the regular season to Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and Verndale was its true potential, something they’ve uncovered one last time as their high school careers come to an end.
“You can’t cap off your senior year any better than this,” senior Aaron Thompson said. “It just shows what we can do when we set our minds to it. After we lost those two games to Verndale and Wheaton we said we wanted to beat them again. It started from there and we’ve just kept on rolling.”