Velva football finds strength in veteran core

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Velva defensive coordinator Matt Weidler explains a drill to players during practice. The Aggies will host Harvey/Wells County on Aug. 30.

VELVA — Michael Thomas recognizes the responsibility that comes with wearing a Velva Aggies football uniform. After participating in the Class A playoffs over the last few seasons, Thomas understands the magnitude of representing the Aggies both on and off the turf.

The fullback/linebacker combo athlete is just one of two seniors on this year’s roster. He said the Velva name carries a lot of athletic tradition — not just in football, but in all sports.

“Being in an Aggie in these hallways as a football player, everyone looks at you,” Thomas said. “They respect you more. When you’re out in public, and someone sees you wearing an Aggies shirt, they’re like, ‘Oh, Aggies. You guys have a good football team going there.'”

Thomas and offensive/defensive lineman Cole Janz may be the only senior Aggies, but a deeper dive reveals a vast junior core.

Quarterback Jersey Selzler and running back Gage Florence are experienced juniors with offensive firepower. Florence also acts as a slot back receiver, and junior Hunter Suckut is an outside threat.

Tace Pederson, Wyatt Hanson, Dillon Froshaug and Jerry Jesperson will handle loads on the lines. All four of those juniors earned varsity experience in years past.

“At Velva, we’ve always been pretty good at football,” Jesperson said. “Everyone tries to get to that end goal of a championship. We’ve been off for a couple years, and we’re hoping to get back to that end goal.”

Last season, Velva finished 8-2 and fell 26-16 to Bowman County in the Class A quarterfinals. They posted 414 points and allowed just 108 throughout the campaign.

Head coach Larry Sandy said developing the younger players is key this season.

“There’s going to be some bodies there that can definitely contribute at the varsity level come playoff time,” Sandy said. “Hopefully, they’re not called to be the next man up in the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get them some key JV time.”

Velva earned winning records in five of its last six seasons. The Aggies were picked fourth in this year’s Preseason Class A Media Poll.

“I think we possess the talent to be able to compete very highly in this region and Class A football,” Sandy said. “We’re going to have to remain healthy. I think the kids are focused and they’re fairly determined. There’s a lot of tradition, and hopefully we stay hungry.”

Velva squared off against Westhope/Newburg/Glenburn in a scrimmage on Tuesday. The scrimmage offered opportunities to work out some kinks.

“It took a while to get going,” Jespersen said. “After we got going, I thought it went OK. Our offensive line was a little weak, but we will figure it out.”

This season, the team will break huddles with the word “family.” The team’s overall chemistry is certainly critical, but the Aggies will especially lean on their defense.

“We have to stop teams from running the football,” defensive coordinator Matt Weidler said. “That starts with those guys up front. We have to negate big plays. Just being a physical football team, we’ve got to pride ourselves on that.”

Velva has failed to make it past the Class A semifinals after capturing state championships in 2009 and 2010. Weidler said the Aggies want to get to that next step.

“Our guys understand that football is fun,” Weidler said. “They enjoy being here. They understand that the fun part is Friday nights when you’re on the correct end of that scoreboard.”

Players and coaches emphasized staying hungry throughout the season.

“We all pick each other up,” Thomas said. “We never let anyone get down. We’ll be jumping around, hooping and hollering. Having a good time is a big part of it.”

No. 4 Velva gets the opening week of the season off and will host Harvey/Wells County in its first game on Friday, Aug. 30. Last year, the Aggies defeated the Hornets 38-0 in their season opener.

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.