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Football: Christianson revisits old Verndale stomping grounds Friday

Hancock head coach Chad Christianson walks the sidelines during a recent Hancock Owl football game in Hancock. Christianson will visit his high school alma mater when the Owls travel to Verndale Friday, Oct. 6. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times

Hancock head football coach Chad Christianson grew up in Verndale and admits whenever the Owls have Verndale on their schedule, it’s a game he circles on his calendar. This year the Owls play at Verndale Friday, Oct. 6.

“It’s fun going back to your old high school, walking the halls before the game being in the locker room again, it really takes you back,” Christianson said. “Walking out to the field or after the game in Verndale, there are always people coming up to me and talking to me, people that knew me growing up, which is always fun, too.”

One of those people just might be the head coach of the Verndale squad Mike Mahlen, who coached Christianson when he was a quarterback for the Pirates.

“Chad played QB for me,” said Mahlen, who has been coaching at Verndale 49 years. “He was a good player and a good leader. We saw his leadership skills early in his ninth and 10th grade years.”

Christianson had fond memories of his former coach as well.

“He has always been a very intense coach,” Christianson said. “He always knew how to get the most out of his players. He understands how to push kids to a point that they do not think they can achieve.”

Christianson said he’s applied some of Mahlen’s philosophy to his own coaching at Hancock.

“I try to look at each player as an individual and find ways to get the most out of each one of them. He also helped teach me that when it comes down to it, the game is out of the hands of the coaches. It comes down to the guys on the field,” Christianson said. “Every offensive play when blocked perfectly, ran perfectly works and will score. We can prepare all week but if we don’t make the plays on the field, the outcome of the game might not be what we want it to be. Our job as coaches is to get them ready for Friday night, get them in the right frame of mind and ready to go.”

“I try to teach all my student athletes to respect the game and respect everyone playing in it,” Mahlen said. “I make sure to give every kid a fair shake and be honest with them.”

Mahlen also reinforced values outside of football, Christianson said.

“There are many things I learned from coach Mahlen, not just about coaching but about life,” Christianson said. “I continue to try and look out for my former players and am always there for them.”

Although Hancock hasn’t played Verndale since 2014, the two still stay in contact.

“He has been at this for a long time… With being a head coach and AD, I run into him frequently at different events,” Christianson said.

Hancock and Verndale have squared off half a dozen times in the last decade, and although the Pirates have won every single time, it’s still usually a good game, Mahlen said.

“The years we’ve played Hancock when Chad was the head coach, they’ve always played us well,” Mahlen said. “I don’t see that changing this year.”

“[Verndale] has been at the top of the conference and section for many years and it is truly a game that you can see how you stack up,” Christianson said.

One thing is certain.

“I still call him coach, I don’t think that will ever change,” Christianson said.

Brooke Kern

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