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Head football coach John DenHartog said Hopkins High’s 6-1, 255-pound senior tackle A.J. Torfin is “one of the best linemen I have coached.”

John DenHartog, who recently resigned as head football coach at Hopkins High after 17 seasons, is proud of the way this team battled through the trials of COVID-19 this fall.

The Royals finished 3-3 overall, which combined with a 6-3 mark in 2019, meant a record of 9-6 for the last two seasons.

“Overall, I was super pleased with our effort,” DenHartog said.

The one game that got away was a 49-7 loss to Fridley early in the season. The Royals had two shutout wins, including a 34-0 thrashing of Apple Valley in the season opener on Apple Valley’s home turf.

Seven Hopkins players were named to the all-district team at the end of the 2020 season.

They are senior offensive tackle A.J. Torfin, senior center Ryan Papacek, senior linebacker and running back R.J. Chakolis, junior linebacker and running back Aaron Aune, junior defensive backs Robert Buckingham and Jaxon Draack and sophomore offensive and defensive lineman DeShawn Ricks.

“A.J. is one of the best linemen I have coached,” DenHartog said. “And Ryan Papacek started at center for two seasons. A.J. and Ryan are smart football players who knew how to make adjustments.”

Chakolis, who earned five football letters with the Royals, was an outstanding linebacker. He played running back and H-back on offense and had his best game with three touchdowns and 116 yards on 10 carries in a victory over 38-14 victory over Park Center in the season finale. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior is looking for an NCAA Division I football opportunity.

“R.J. is the smartest high school football player I’ve been around in 30 years of coaching,” DenHartog said. “His attitude and leadership make football a better experience for everyone around him.”

Chakolis said that his best position is linebacker, but he will play any position that a college team needs. If he plays on the offensive side of the ball, he would most likely be a fullback or a slot back.

With four all-district players returning next season, the new coach will have a good nucleus.

Aune plays a lot like Chakolis, obviously at the same positions – linebacker and running back. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, he is quick and athletic.

Buckingham and Draack will give the new head coach experience in the defensive secondary, and Lee Hutton will also return.

Ricks was an impact two-way player this year and will likely fill that role again in 2021.

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