Dakota-The big story in Dakota this football season is who's not there. For the first time since 1988 Jerry Lano is not the Indians' head coach.
Lano was the man who guided Dakota to three state championships. So when he stepped down after last season Dakota administrators found a replacement who in many ways is a mirror of Lano Rick Schmitz.
"Jerry and I are such the same person," says Schmitz. "You know I might have a little bit different numbering system. Not much, but for the most part we're the same guy."
Schmitz, like Lano prefers old-school, hard-nosed, run-oriented football.
"He reminds me a lot of Lano," says running back/linebacker Travis Kortemeier. "He just wants everyone to work hard and just do their best and see what happens.
"He's an easy guy to get along with," says quarterback Austin Cashman. "He understands us, and we feel comfortable with him, so it's pretty easy to mesh with him."
Schmitz has been a head coach before at Jefferson and Auburn. There he took over rebuilding programs. At Dakota it's the opposite. He's taking over a program that knows what it's like to reach the top.
"It's different," says Schmitz. "Usually the other programs I took over before were maybe a little down and out at the time, and so maybe I didn't feel the pressure. I think being in such a traditional situation with the community and taking over for Jerry I probably put some undue pressure on myself."
Schmitz has a third-year starting quarterback in Cashman, and a leader for his defense in middle linebacker Kortemeier. Linemen Luke Geiseman, and Dan Van Vleet also have experience, and Gavin Engelbrecht will be a key cog at linebacker. What the Indians don't have is size, and that's rare for a Dakota team.
"We're a little small this year, but we're going to work hard, and we're going to get there quick to the ball," says Cashman."
The last two years the Indians didn't have typical Dakota seasons. They finished with losing records, and they failed to make the playoffs. They want to put a stop to that.
"We're working harder than ever just trying to get back in the playoffs," says Kortemeier. "Get Dakota football back to normal, and just trying our hardest."