September 26, 2022

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Key pieces return for Knights football in 2022

WCA/A’s Anthony Sykora (11) and Cole Anderson (10) celebrate a touchdown during the 2021 season opener against Barnesville. Sykora and Anderson are two of the five captains to lead the Knights in the 2022 season. Photo by Brooke Kern / Grant County Herald

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WCA Football Preview

Brooke Kern

Grant County Herald

Several key pieces from the 11-2 West Central Area/Ashby Knights football team are back for a 2022 campaign. The goals are simple – great effort, discipline, and making the school and community they play for proud, said head coach Nate Wood, who enters his fifth season as head coach and eighth year overall with the program.

“We want to do the right thing, give great effort, and be disciplined,” said Wood, who doesn’t want to put any added labeling pressure on the team after a runner-up Class AA state tournament finish in 2021. “We can’t spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror or too far down the road. We need to focus on the present, enjoy the moments and memories. When adversity strikes, and it will, we need to be mentally tough and resilient enough to stay focused on our goals.”

After getting a taste of success in 2021, this returning core is hungry for more of it in 2022.

“This is a hungry group that has had success in the past and has worked hard this offseason to elevate their play,” Wood told the Echo Press. “I think any time a team makes the state tournament, let alone loses the state championship by one, it creates this sense of high expectations.”

The sense of elevated expectations is both a blessing and a curse, Wood noted.

“It reinforces the desire to uphold this success, while at the same time, doesn’t really mean anything as this is a new year and a new team,” Wood said of graduating nine starters this past spring, including Carson Spangler, Colton Lindquist, Hunter Norby, Matson Hoff, Ryder Staples, Torin Olson, Evan Paulson, Sam Heeter, and Ruebens Swanson.

The Knights return feature running back Anthony Sykora, who recently verbally committed to Minnesota State University Moorhead for both football and wrestling. Sykora led the Knights with 1,156 rushing yards on 191 carries for 16 touchdowns. He is also a top returner on defense with 49.5 tackles last season.

Sykora, who was an all-district player and all-section player in 2021, shared the team’s Offensive MVP award with other top offensive returner Cole Anderson. Anderson, the all district honorable mention and all-section player, had 30 catches for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Other key elements returning include Beau Robinson, Nas Dotts, and all-district and all-section player Tyler Stone.

“We have great numbers and have had excellent summer participation in workouts and practices,” Wood told the Echo Press. “We have some key playmakers returning who have shown excellent leadership and some younger guys with a desire to make a difference.”

Brady Lindquist, Adam Lohse, Brett Amundson, Will Rustan, Blake Flint, Cam Anderson, Hunter Gruchow, and Ben Bye are some of the athletes who could jump into bigger varsity roles this fall, Wood said.

Osakis and Sauk Centre are going to be the top programs to compete with in Section 6AA, which also includes Pillager, Staples-Motley, and Wadena Deer Creek. Osakis competes in the same district, Midwest White, as WCA/A. Barnesville will also be a strong district contender.

The Knights open the season Friday, Sept. 3, in Barnesville. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.

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