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Tigers finish rebuilding year

Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta football team awards (from left) Nate Vipond receiving Outstanding Linesman, Isaac Wente receiving both MVP and Outstanding Offense, and Gage Backman receiving Outstanding Defense.1 / 2
Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta recipients of All-West Central Conference were (from left) Isaac Wente and Nate Vipond. Receiving a honorable mention were Vaughn Dieter and Gage Backman.2 / 2

There was no doubt that the 2013 football season would be a rebuilding year for Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta. Going into the season with a new coaching staff and only one returning starter, the Tigers had a lot of growing to do.

Looking back at the season, coach Kevin Pope saw many examples of success, improvement, and growth.

The Tigers were led by a group of 15 seniors.

“They had an outstanding attitude and work ethic that far exceeded the expectations of the coaches,” said head coach Kevin Pope. “It could have been a tough year for them, with a whole new coaching staff and system.

“A group of kids with lesser character would have folded,” explained Pope.

Instead, said Pope, they got better every single week. No matter the outcome on Friday night, the team came back on Monday ready to work hard in practice.

The season started with losses to Minnewaska and Paynesville. The Lakers never scored on the Tiger defense and the Tigers held the Bulldogs to under 100 yards of rushing.

The third game of the season ended in overtime with a one-point loss to Sauk Centre.

The highlight of the season for Pope, and likely the team and fans as well, was the 41-15 homecoming victory over Benson.

“It was our first win of the year and one of our most complete games,” stated Pope. “We played great on both sides of the ball.

“We got everybody in the game for some playing time,” added Pope.

It was a battle of the Ds at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City when the Tigers fell 7-0.

The Tigers fought the weather and the ThunderHawks to pick up their second win at Montevideo.

In the final two regular-season games, the Tigers fell short by less than two TDs. They lost to Melrose 18-14 and Yellow Medicine East 14-7.

While the defense shined throughout the season, the offense also had a  lot of great moments.

Isaac Wente rushed for over 1,100 yards this season.

“Our guys up front did an outstanding job all year,” said Pope. “We transformed into a power running team. The O-line allowed Isaac to do the things he did. They gave him those opportunities.”

The Tigers also had other weapons, getting valuable rushing yards from Trent Wulf, Jordan Thooft, and Bo Olson.

While Pope admits the passing game was inconsistent, he said quarterback Bryce Jergenson was outstanding at times.   

A couple of receivers, Olson and Corey Storck, also contributed to the offense, averaging 11 yards apiece.

“Those guys made some big plays for us,” Pope said. “They were fun to  watch.”

The Tiger offense produced more first downs than their opponents, but they also allowed 23 turnovers.

“That was our achilles heal,” said Pope. “As a team we did things that cost us. You can’t have that in close games.”

The Tigers finished the season in the first round of play-off action, falling to Melrose, for a 2-7 overall record.

“The kids earned a better record with their attitude,” concluded Pope.

Even though the Tiger seniors set the tone this season, several underclassmen got in a lot experience on the field. Combined with a coaching staff with a year under its belt, next season should be promising for the Tigers.