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Volunteers step up to coach Ray-Powers Lake to victory

Submitted Photo In a game from earlier this season, Ray/Powers Lake Outlaws sophomore Tyson Enget (3) looks for an opening to advance downfield. Submitted photo by Roberta Helseth.

Last Friday featured a one-of-a-kind game and likely unprecedented strategizing by coaches and players for the Ray-Powers Lake Outlaws football team.

Less than a week before the big Homecoming game, the coaching staff was notified that they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. They were instructed that they would have to be in quarantine for the next 14 days, which would overlap the date of the Homecoming game.

On Monday, coaches held a meeting with the players and explained that they would be unable to coach them but they had two choices. The first choice was to enter a “no contest” to the league officials and, hopefully, make the game up at a later date. The second choice was definitely not the easiest route and would require the players to play without their leaders.

“We told them this was an opportunity to take ownership and fill some big roles and by the end of the meeting they were ready to go,” coach Seth Wisthoff explained. “The players made the decision to play, and what followed in the coming days of preparation was nothing short of historical.”

Meanwhile, coach Mike Fraunfelter praised the players’ decision to move forward with the game saying, “I’m so proud of them. They didn’t succumb to their fear,” referring to the fear of the unknown and how they would play without their leaders who hadn’t missed a game in eight years.

Hearing of the coachless team, it didn’t take long and people stepped up to help. In fact, coach Steve Perdue, who recently retired after many years of coaching in the area, came out of retirement to lead the way. Brad Streifel, who has been coaching junior high, and Jon Enget both signed on to assist the 26 young men in taking on the team from Central McLean.

Wisthoff, who credited Perdue for “dusting off his coaching shirt” to help the Outlaws, explained that it was an easy transition as Perdue had been a huge part in bringing the two communities together when the co-op first originated four years ago.

Fraunfelter was impressed with the effort the former Powers Lake football players gave in coaching as well.

“These guys had less than a week to learn a system they didn’t know and they’ve done a fantastic job,” Fraunfelter said prior to Friday’s matchup.

Jonah Rosin who has been on the coaching staff for the past four years was also a big part of the preparation and game night. Rosin says even with past experience, there was a great deal of nervousness before the game started.

“It was a big game,” Rosin said. He went on to explain that once the substitute coaches and players got their feet on the field, it was just like any other game.

With the volunteer coaches in place, the only thing left to do was find a way for the quarantined coaches to safely be the eyes of the game. The plan quickly took a creative turn. Geared with headsets to communicate with fellow coaches on the sidelines, Wisthoff stationed himself on a scissor lift behind the scoreboard while Fraunfelter quarantined himself in his pickup truck, both donned in masks, taking all necessary precautions to keep themselves and the public safe.

Wisthoff explained how the adversity of coaching from the southwest corner of the field gave him a new perspective, turning his location during the game into an opportunity to see the game from a different angle. He did note, however, that being on the sidelines with the coaches and players is definitely a “big part of the enjoyment” that comes with coaching high school football.

Now the rest was up to the players and they did not disappoint. Fraunfelter directed the credit for the team’s success to the players.

“Great teams are built by great players,” he said. “We told the players going into this ‘we believe in you. You’ve been trained for this.'”

In fact, senior quarterback Noah Fredrickson threw six touchdown passes while sophomore Gracin Schroeder impressed the crowd with several good runs.

The Outlaws went on to a 52-14 victory over Central McLean. Ray/Powers Lake will take on Towner-Granville-Upham in their next contest on Friday, Oct. 9.

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