OLIVIA — After every win this fall, BOLD assistant coach Dan Gross gave new head coach Derek Flann a friendly jab.
“He tells me my job is safe for one more week,” Flann said with a laugh.
While football for the Warriors isn’t as crazy as one might expect compared to Texas football, Flann is trying to live up to the high expectations set forth by the patriarch of the BOLD program: Steve Solem.
“There’s been a lot of perception of what Steve is in the community,” Flann said. ‘There’s an iconic status for him.”
Solem’s resume is hard to match. Over 33 years, the Warriors went 291-80 under Solem’s leadership, with state championships in 1990 and 1991 and state runner-up finishes in 1992, 1998, 2014 and 2018. In 2015, Solem was named to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.
Flann, a 1999 BOLD graduate, was on that 1998 squad. He knows the tradition of excellence the Warriors have had. And he wants to make his mark on the program by mixing in some of the tradition Solem left while adding in his own wrinkles.
So far, so good for Flann as BOLD is 10-0 and plays Canby for the Section 5A championship at 2 p.m. Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
“I told the people when I was hired that you’re not hiring Steve Solem No. 2,” Flann said. “Steve and I are very different and I learned a lot about football from Steve. There’s a lot of things he did that I really believe in. But at the same time, it’s got to be my program.”
Helping in the transition has been the presence of two four-year starters in wide receiver/defensive back Gavin Vosika and quarterback/defensive back Jordan Sagedahl.
“When Solem was coach, I would say he’s laid back. And with Derek, we take things a little more seriously,” Vosika said. “There’s more rules and it’s more strict. But Derek’s a great coach.”
Sagedahl added, “I can definitely see the emotional side of Flann with all the speeches he gives and the compassion he has for us and the program. It’s cool seeing he was Solem’s player and now he’s coaching after him. It’s cool seeing how Solem taught him, he brings to us. It’s a little bit of a change but overall, he’s got the same philosophy.”
Flann said that Solem had a similar fiery demeanor when he was a player but with an array of talented assistants to do the yelling. Solem was able to delegate more at the tail end to assistants like Flann, who sports a burly figure complete with a Yosemite Sam mustache that screams intensity.
“(Solem) had earned the ability to do that,” Flann said. “He could mellow out because these kids would go home and hear from their dad about how Solem used to chew their (hindquarters) and they were concerned enough. And the guys we had out there were good enough to where he could do that.”
While Flann has put his own emphasis on things — namely on defense and special teams, where Flann said, “I think we’ve onside kicked more this year than Steve did in 35 years” — an immediate focus was retaining Solem’s staff.
“When I found out I had the job, the first thing was making sure those guys were still planning on being around,” Flann said. “We don’t want a break from the past; we want to continue it the best we can.
“It’s not a matter of save the program; it’s don’t destroy the program. Don’t turn hard right and crash into the rocks and you’ll be fine.”
Prior to this season, Flann had 10 years of head coaching experience as the co-head coach at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton along with Randy McIntire. Three years ago, he came back to BOLD High School as a means to getting closer to family.
“When he came here, I knew he was my buddy Blake Flann’s uncle and that’s it,” Vosika said.
“Meeting him (as a freshman) and seeing him come to my house to talk football with my dad (offensive coordinator Daren Sagedahl) and stuff like that with the coaches,” Jordan said. “Flann’s really grown on me.”
Undefeated and one game away from the 12th state appearance in school history, the Warriors are seeing the same kind of success with Flann they had with Solem.
“I think it verifies him. He’s the real deal,” Jordan said. “He’s meant to be here and we’re meant to be here right now.”
Though Flann admits that reaching a section final is the minimum requirement of the job thanks to Solem’s success.
“When I played here, we were in a section final game every year,” Flann said. “Ever since I’ve coached here, we’ve been in the section final game every year. I’ve achieved the minimum at this point. It’s been a weight gradually taken off my shoulders as we’ve been successful.”
Flann added, “I’m glad I’m in the position I’m in. We all kind of wish Steve was still here but if it’s got to be somebody, I’ll take it.”