Denfeld News

Sept. 20, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Saints compete for first time as a football team
By Jon Nowacki

Jake Olson felt a bit overwhelmed when he reported for the first day of football practice at St. Scholastica last month.

Olson had 45 players on his high school team in Esko, but at St. Scholastica he was among 92 players crowded into a campus lecture hall, eager to get started and be part of history.

That history starts today when St. Scholastica plays the first intercollegiate football game in the school’s 96-year history. The Saints face Wisconsin Lutheran at 1 p.m. in Milwaukee. Olson, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound freshman, is expected to start at quarterback and also punt.

“This is a great honor,” Olson said. “It feels really special to be part of the first team in school history, and to be the first starting quarterback is something that one day I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about.”

The roster has since trimmed to 84 players and is a who’s who of Northland high school football. Olson, who threw for 1,005 yards as a senior at Esko and also is a running threat, played under a similar system in high school and earned a slight edge over backup Alex Thiry of Cambridge, Minn.

The Saints feature Christopher Henagin of Cloquet in the backfield and Mike VanMassenhove of Superior at receiver.

“There are a lot of people on this team who people from the area will recognize,” Olson said. “The first day of practice felt like an area all-star team.”

Olson is a nursing major who talked to Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State but chose St. Scholastica for his career. He said having football on campus was a bonus.

Other players such as safety Phil DesMarais, a 2006 Duluth Denfeld graduate, were among about 15 players who already were enrolled at St. Scholastica when the school announced it was adding football. DesMarais said he received NCAA Division II interest from Winona State, Augustana and Concordia-St. Paul.

“I had an idea coming out of high school that St. Scholastica was thinking about adding football, but I came here for my major,” said DesMarais, who is going into exercise physiology. “I had a couple of Division II offers but kind of wanted to stay home. This has been a big plus. It’s not as much of a year-round commitment as Division II, but from August to November, it’s time to play ball. It’s exciting. We’re starting a legacy.”

St. Scholastica coach Greg Carlson expects that to be a legacy of class. The team planned on traveling to Milwaukee in three charter buses.

“We’re going to look like an NFL team when we pull up there,” Carlson said. “This is our first ever football game, and I’m taking every player regardless of whether he is injured and can’t play. I just didn’t think it was fair to leave a player back on campus when history is being made.”

St. Scholastica is expected to start as many as 17 freshmen today and was picked to finish last in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. Carlson didn’t know what to expect facing teams loaded with seniors and juniors.

“I’m mainly concerned with seeing effort and improvement every day,” Carlson said. “I want us to be a better football team in Week 3 than we are now, to see more improvement by Week 6, and by Week 8, I want this team to be the best it’s ever going to be.”

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