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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 10/27/2012 4:21:35 PM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

At Hopkins, at Wayzata, at Eden Prairie. That is how the Edina Hornets’ regular- season football schedule concluded. Any team – especially a program that has not finished above .500 since 2007 – would like to get one win and would be thrilled to get two. The Hornets got three.

Edina’s breakout year has been one of the surprise stories of the football season. Not surprising was the way they handled Robbinsdale Armstrong at home Friday night in the first round of the new 32-team tournament in Class 6A.

The Hornets’ offense was on point early and built a 28-0 halftime lead. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and were able to run and pass out of the spread formation for the entire first half.

“We have played physical on the offensive and defensive lines (all season),” said head coach Reed Boltmann. “That has been a key. We haven’t turned the ball over. We have had good tackling and solid defense. This group of kids is great to work with. They come out and do their work and do their job. They are a family and a fun team to coach.”

Senior quarterback Mark Handberg showed an accurate arm and good movement in the pocket Friday, but that accuracy was nothing new. Handberg completed 68 percent of his passes during the regular season.

The defense came up with turnovers – including a first-half interception by senior cornerback Derek Todd -- and didn’t let the overmatched Falcons get anything going on offense. That wasn’t anything new, either. The Hornets’ 4-3 defense allowed only one team to score more than 20 points all season.

“We fly to the ball. We gang tackle,” said senior captain Miles Lerner. “Everyone is being aggressive. We all read our keys and are flying to the ball. All 11 guys, all going after the football.”

Team unity is a theme I heard over and over when I asked people connected to the program about the keys to Edina’s domination during the final half of the season.

“We just have a solid group of seniors this year,” said Edina High School principal Bruce Locklear. “We are not surprised by the senior leadership we are seeing. The kids have really come together, have played extremely hard and have executed well. It has been fun to see.”

“They play as a team,” said senior student Jake Barry. “Of course we’ve got some pretty good players who are always making big plays, but it is fun to watch them play as a unit. They are like little pieces of a bigger puzzle in the way they play. Their defense is great. It has been fun to watch them play so well together.”

“We have had great leadership from our seniors and our captains,” added Boltmann.
“We are a team,” said Lerner, the middle linebacker and leading tackler. “We are a brotherhood. We are all in it together. We are all working together, flying around the field.”

The programs’ success has energized the entire school.

“There is such an energy around the season this year -- there always is – but this year has been extra special,” said Locklear. “When you can compete with the types of teams we have in this conference and experience success, kids get excited about it.”

One kid who is certainly excited about it is Barry.

“It has been the best span as a student in my entire time at Edina. No one saw it coming. Coming into this year I would always come to football games, but now kind of being a part of their season as a student and as a fan has been incredible. I have so many friends on the team it is great to see them succeed. It has just been crazy.”

The team and fans all point to the same game that got them thinking this season could be special.

“The real turning point was our homecoming game against Minnetonka,” said Lerner. “What a rush. We held them in overtime. It was unbelievable and really showed what we have in us. That is when I thought we might be able to break through and make a run.”

Barry agreed.

“I was on the field for the Minnetonka game – the overtime win over Tonka for homecoming – that is when the gears started turning for me as a student and as a fan.”

Boltmann said, “When (senior captain) Coleman Foley intercepted that pass to win the game against Minnetonka, it made us believe we can beat these elite teams and we can play with them. I think we dominated the line of scrimmage in those games and if you can hang with them on the line of scrimmage you have a chance to beat those elite teams. It has been a fun run.”

Boltmann felt he saw something in his team even before the season started.

“We knew coming in from last year. We have a lot of guys with experience. We don’t have a lot of elite players, but we have kids that care about one another.”

The outcome Friday was decided by the middle of the second quarter and the starters were pulled by Boltmann before the end of the first half. The Hornets ended up with their first easy victory of the season with a 35-6 win. They finished the regular season at 7-1 and the biggest margin of victory was 14 points. There have been a number of reasons the Hornets have been able to win so many close games.

“Number one, we have been healthy,” said Boltmann.

“It comes back to the team never giving up,” said Lerner. “My mentality and I think a lot of the guys’ mentality is all out every play. You just have to be on and giving 100 percent. We are a team and we are a brotherhood. We stick together no matter what.”

Coming into the season, the Hornets used everyone else’s doubt as part of their motivation.

“It has been a lot of fun,” said Lerner. “There were some questions coming into the season, but I feel like guys all over the field have really stepped up, are making plays each night.”

“We played everyone’s homecoming,” said Boltmann. “We played Minnetonka for our homecoming and then we played Hopkins, Wayzata and Eden Prairie for their homecomings. I think we kind of took offense to (getting scheduled for everyone’s
homecoming) and everyone picking us fifth in the conference. We like being the underdog. We have had some good teams and some good players, but we haven’t been able to get through that barrier of winning at Wayzata and at Eden Prairie.”

Edina got through that Lake Conference barrier twice this season. After the results of this season, teams won’t be so quick to schedule the Hornets for homecoming. At least they won’t if they are looking to get an easy win. This year’s Hornets have a little more sting than some teams are going to want on homecoming night.


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