Prep football: Undefeated BOLD rolls into state tournament
Smart, composed, tough and athletic. Quick on the line, fast in the backfield, team-oriented and coached-up to the hilt.
Even a few of those attributes will make you a pretty good football team. If, like BOLD, you've got them all, it's no surprise your outfit is undefeated, ranked No. 4 in the state and playing in the state quarterfinals this week.
"This is just a great group to be around," said Warriors head coach Steve Solem. "I guess there are some similarities to our other teams but there's not a big star on this team. They're just an even-keel bunch of guys and they like to be together. My God, they'd be in the locker room all night if I didn't kick them out."
The all-together Warriors smoked ACGC -- a 9-2 state tournament team this year -- in the season opener and blew through their West Central Conference schedule. After a scare from Benson in their first playoff game, 10-0 BOLD rolled over Minnewaska 42-21 last Friday to win the Section 5AA championship and earn the program's first state tournament berth since 2004.
BOLD plays Section 6AA champ Holdingford (10-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud State University.
Despite BOLD's winning reputation (70-24 record in the last nine years), Warriors fans might have worried about what this season would bring after losing stars such as Kyle Athmann, Zach Remillard, Jake Marcus and Ben Wolff from a 9-2 team that advanced to the 2011 section title game.
But up stepped quarterback Tyler Rock, backs Chaz Roush and Tyler Seehusen, and guard and linebacker Cole Mertens.
"I kind of felt like we had to prove something, with a lot of new guys coming in," said Rock, who has completed 63 percent of his passes for 781 yards and 16 touchdowns. "I had a sense before the season that we could be good but we proved we were capable after that ACGC game (a 34-0 home win)."
Roush was the area's top ground-gainer this season, with 1,469 yards and 12 touchdowns. Seehusen has picked up 872 yards on just 107 carries and he's also scored 12 TDs.
Mertens is BOLD's leading tackler with 73 total stops and he's also recovered three fumbles, including one for a touchdown.
The Warriors this season are scoring an average of 41 points per game while allowing fewer than nine points per game.
"We knew we had a lot of spots to fill in," Mertens said, "and I thought it might take some time to fill in those spots so there was a little uncertainty. Once the season started we knew we had a pretty good team."
Solem and his coaching staff got a whiff of what this year's team could be last season when younger players who earned the honor were brought to work with the varsity in practice on scout teams.
For example, Rock was brought in last year to "be" Paynesville's all-everything quarterback Josh Bungum against the first-team defense as the Warriors prepared for a section title game against the Bulldogs.
"He was doing things we hadn't seen before," Solem said. "We thought, 'Hey, we might have something here.' "
There were other signs, too, that this year's team could be something special.
The returning players hit the weightroom at 5 a.m. and younger players regularly joined them. Then, the coaching staff discovered this group loved to study, be it in the classroom or in chalk talks. The team carries a 3.25 grade-point average.
"They like the books, the Xs and Os, the learning," Solem said. "They like the classroom part (of football) because they like to know what's going on."
Rock said that on more than one occasion players have requested more chalk talk time with the coaching staff.
"We go into the (football) classroom a lot," Mertens said. "We go through a lot of film and we go through a lot of scenarios so when we see it on the field we're not surprised."
The Warriors understand what state tournament football can be like. They opened the playoffs with a 23-20 win against Benson in a game that wasn't decided until Nick Kubesh kicked a field goal as time expired. Ten days earlier, BOLD defeated the same Benson team 36-6.
"That gave us an idea what state playoffs would be like," Mertens said. "Solem told us that all games are going to be that close and it was good we get a taste of it."
The Warriors are going to school on Holdingford, picking apart the Huskers on video. But in the end they know doing what they've done all season is more important. It's worked since day one.
"We didn't need a lot of time to come together," Rock said. "Things clicked right away."