The boys broke even.
Augustana football kicked off the year with a 1-1 record, falling to Minnesota State University 38-7 in week one, but returning reenergized in week two against Minot State for a 28-20 win.
Ten experienced defensive linemen return to the field from a successful 2016 season in which the Vikings went 8-3, tying for third overall in the NSIC.
Three starters from the offensive line also return to play alongside new starting quarterback Ryan Rubley, a transfer student from the University of Tulsa.
Head coach Jerry Olszewski noted how seasoned players will have to prepare themselves for a higher level of play.
“A lot of them need to step up their role this year from being a second or third option, to being a starter or a first-option,” Olszewski said. “That’s going to be a big part of our success.”
106 players strong, Olszewski remains confident in the team’s abilities going forward with the season, despite an early loss.
“[We had to] get back to the office and make sure we’re putting the best plan together that we can for our kids to be successful,” Olszewski said. “Football is a simple game when you really break it down, but the parts have to equal the whole—and that’s what we’re after.”
The 2017 season also welcomes two new coaches, including defensive coordinator Jordan Malone and linebacker coach Brian Hermanson.
Logan Swanson, a sophomore defensive tackle, maintains that the Vikings will have a strong season going forward.
“After the first half [against Minot State], everything sunk in,” Swanson said. “We started playing our Viking football that we’ve been seeing in fall camps. We have high expectations and hopes for the rest of the season.”
Both Olszewski and Swanson credit a positive and close-knit team culture to the program’s success.
“Our football team is very family-based,” Swanson said. “We all love one another. We’ll do anything for a brother who either goes down on the football field or needs to be picked up for the next play.”
Even with 27 of the total team players entering as freshman, John Waters, a senior linebacker, has no worries about a shifting team dynamic.
“It’s not necessarily different,” Waters said. “Players change, but expectations don’t. From being a freshman up to being a senior, we put the best 11 guys on the field that we can. We’re just trying to be successful every week as with every year.”
Waters also noted that the current starting defensive line is filled primarily with men who have been playing together for five years, aiding in communication and an increase in trust on and off the field.
“It’s really about leaving a legacy, and what you want the football program to be remembered as,” Waters said. “We try to create a culture of coming to work everyday and doing your job. We have high expectations. We expect to win every game for the rest of the season, and if we do that, it’ll give us a chance to get into the playoffs and take our dreams even further.”