The Elk River football team will look to make the Class 5A state tournament for the fifth-consecutive season in 2021. The Elks have appeared in every state tournament since 2016 with the exception of 2020 when there was no state tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elks head coach Steve Hamilton said he expects Team 130 to be competitive in the North Central Blue District and Section 6-5A.
“It’s hard to say after one week [of practice] exactly what we’ll look like, but if we stay healthy, we have a lot of depth and a lot of players that we feel comfortable getting out there,” Hamilton said. “It will allow us to stay a lot more fresh than some years where players can’t come off the field. I don’t think that will be the case this year.”
“Offensively, we fell good where we’re at,” Hamilton said. “Defensively, it’s probably the most athletic group we’ve had. All of them can run well. We’ve got some young guys that played last year as sophomores that will be back. It’s hard to single out [a single player] because we feel good about the depth that we have and we rotate a lot of players.”
Head coach: Steve Hamilton coached Elk River’s Team 125 to the program’s first Class 5A state title in 2016. The Elks were state runner-ups in 2017 and state semifinalists in 2018 and 2019. Hamilton has more than 20 years of coaching experience at the high school level.
Key returning players: Junior quarterback Cade Osterman is in charge of Elk River’s high-flying offense known for its rushing game. In 2020, Osterman played in seven games for the Elks at quarterback. He threw four touchdown passes and eight completions for a total of 181 yards, averaging 12.1 yards per reception and 25.9 yards per game. In addition to his passing game, Osterman ran for three touchdowns and 309 yards, averaging 44.1 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Elks are anchored by senior safety Jack Sumstad. Sumstad played in seven games for the Elks in 2020 with 37 tackles and was the Elks defensive MVP.
Players on the rise: Junior defensive back-running back Myles Gordon played two games in 2020. He ran for five yards on two carries, averaging 2.5 yards per carry.
Noteworthy games: Elk River’s 130th season of football will begin with two road games. The team’s home field, Jerry Schempf Field, is undergoing renovations. The field may be ready in time for Elk River’s home game against Alexandria on Friday, Oct. 15, but if it isn’t ready in time for this season, it will be ready for the 2022 season.
Hamilton said the Elks feel comfortable playing anywhere.
“We’ve always told the kids, ‘We’ll go play people in the parking lot,’” he said. “We don’t care where we play. It’s a mindset of we’re going there to play a game and do our job. Whether its here or somewhere else shouldn’t matter.
“Everyone’s excited when this thing [Jerry Schempf Field] opens up because it’s going to be a great stadium and a huge upgrade over what we had. When everything’s done, I don’t know if that will be this year…but when everything’s done, it’s going to be one of the nicest facilities in the state.”
Team 130 opens the season on Friday, Sept. 3, at Cambridge-Isanti at 7 p.m. The Elks first home game will be against Northwest Suburban Conference Rival Coon Rapids on Friday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. at Zimmerman High School. The Elks will travel to Rogers High School back-to-back weeks Friday, Sept. 24 and Friday, Oct. 1. On Friday, Sept. 24, the Elks will host Buffalo at Rogers High School before returning to Rogers High School, this time as the visiting team, for the annual River Battle on Friday, Oct. 1, against 2020 Section 6-5A champion Rogers. The Elks will host Alexandria on Friday, Oct. 15, at Jerry Schempf Field if the field is ready. If not, the game will be played at another location.