JIM ROMSAAS

MESABI DAILY NEWS

EVELETH — The Golden Bears football team has Sept. 27 circled on its schedule.

Eveleth-Gilbert will host Virginia on homecoming night and hope to retain the Highway 53 sign trophy.

“The battle for the 53 sign. Our kids still talk about it. That’s one they definitely mark. They’re excited,’’ said second year head coach Sean Streier.

E-G has some work to do, though, after graduating 10 seniors.

Streier said that includes three starting offensive linemen, the middle linebacker and the outside linebacker.

However, the team has “a lot of good skill players returning.’’ He said quarterback Nick Beaudette returns, as does Jake Sickel and Marshall Sortedahl. E-G has also added standout hockey player Will Troutwine, who hasn’t played football since his freshman season, Streier stated.

Overall, E-G had “smaller numbers than usual’’ come out when practiced opened Monday night. “We also knew we were going to. We had a lot of kids still on family vacations,’’ who will be coming back in the next couple of days.

Streier added the staff knew the incoming freshman class would be a bit smaller, so a bit of recruiting was in order. “We’re working on recruiting some kids and we’ve definitely gained a few new faces that we haven’t seen in quite a while. It’s a work in progress.’’

There is also some work to do to replace the 10 graduated seniors.

“It’s definitely not easy. We lost a lot of our line,’’ Streier said, and only two linemen return.

Those seniors “had a lot of leadership. They had a lot of experience. We’re just telling the young kids they’re going to have to step up. It’s not an easy task to fill, but we have people and players at least willing to at least give it a shot. They’re willing to fight for a starting position if that’s what it takes to get on the field.’’

The coach has liked what he’s seen from his team so far due in part to summer work that was put in.

“We had a good group in the summer,’’ said Streier, who worked out consistently, conditioned, lifted weights and practiced their football skills. Others that couldn’t make specific training time got their work done in other ways.

“We are happy’’ with how they came into camp, he said. “The ones we needed to bulked up.’’

Monday night’s first practice was “very good’’ for a first day, Streier said. “We saw some great things obviously. We saw a lot of things we still need to work on, but the kids were excited to be back and they’re definitely ready to play some football.’’

The team is also excited for the first game on Aug. 30 against East Central at home. “They’re more looking forward to finally getting to hit some kids and hit the other (jersey) color.’’

In addition to getting ready for the opener and winning games, “our biggest goal right now is getting our younger kids up to speed with our offense so they can have success at the JV (junior varsity) level,’’ said Streier. “We feel pretty confident in our varsity kids and where they’re at currently. We also want to start also making sure those JV and younger kids are developing at a younger age rather than their senior year, late junior year.’’

The players also come into 2019 with the same coach they ended 2018 with. That is important for the young players after Streier took over for Derek Malner midway through last season when he was deployed overseas as a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

Streier said it is up in the air when Malner will return.

“When he knows, we know. We keep in touch. He’s able to talk to us. We communicate frequently, which is nice. But we’re looking forward to him coming back, whenever that might be.’’

Streier also believes the midseason change was a factor for the team, which is coming into this season with more understanding of the situation.

“It definitely throws kids for a loop. They really respect him. They definitely miss him. They ask about him. You have to tell them, ‘You’ll know when we know.’’’

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