AUSTIN EDITION -- L/P faces adversity
Lyle/Pacelli hits road to face defending conference champion
By Scott A. Kolb
It's only a couple of weeks into the football season and Lyle/Austin Pacelli coach Mark Buntje has already faced enough adversity to last him for years.
The biggest blow for Lyle/Pacelli came this past week, when junior running back Chris Bergstrom was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his knee and is out for rest of the season. Bergstrom injured his knee returning a kick in the season opener.
Bergstrom expressed his optimism on the sidelines at last Friday's game that a possible return this season could happen by homecoming. Those hopes were dashed in an examination by doctors at the Mayo Clinic earlier in the week. Bergstrom will undergo surgery in October and start rehabilitation for next season.
Gone from the L/P offense is the leading rusher last season in the Southern Confederacy. L/P was the favorite to win the conference this season, but now it appears their prospects are dim.
"This is one of the worst blows I've ever had in coaching," Buntje said. "Chris is such a great team leader and he was in great shape heading into the season. But he's got another year and hopefully, after the surgery he'll come back for a banner senior season."
The news gets even worse as the L/P Athletics head to Nicollet on Friday night to play the defending conference champions. In addition to winning the conference last season, the Nicollet Raiders were the state runner-up to Verndale in the Prep Bowl.
"The kids are disappointed, but now we have to quit whining and step up," Buntje said. "The season isn't over and we still have a good team. The guys that are on the field will have to play better and make up the slack."
Despite the loss of Bergstrom and the six-game suspension of quarterback/safety Jake Kaput, the cupboard isn't bare for L/P. Kyle Fett, who was hurt in the first game of the season, returns as the long snapper and he'll add depth to the line.
With the injury to Bergstrom, sophomore Kellen Blaser has stepped to the forefront of the L/P offense at tailback. Blaser responded with 116 yards rushing last week on 24 carries against Grand Meadow.
"Blaser carried the load last week and he'll have to do it the rest of the year," Buntje said of his top runner. "He's up for the challenge of being the main back. Kellen played a lot last year and even though he's only a sophomore, he knows how to run."
Another sophomore that is key for L/P is quarterback Caleb Martin, who made his first start last week. Martin was 7-of-17 for 96 yards and a pair of interceptions in his debut.
"Caleb will have to learn to mix it up and throw the ball more," Buntje said. "We have to get the receivers involved more on offense. Caleb is learning in a trial by fire, but he's an athletic quarterback and can make things happen."
Due to the recent personnel losses, L/P is now one of the younger teams in the conference. Youthful enthusiasm is nice, but it hasn't worked too well in recent years against Nicollet.
"We have to just go out and play some ball," Buntje concluded. "We're kind of back to where we were last year with a young team, but the kids have worked hard in practice all week. We're not real fond of Nicollet, two years ago they beat us 70-0 up there and we haven't forgotten."
"We're not throwing the towel in. A win on the road would put us back in the running. There are no real dominant teams in the conference and it's not like last year when they went to the Prep Bowl, so we're optimistic about our chances."
BOX; Lyle/Austin Pacelli at Nicollet
Friday, 7 p.m., at Nicollet
Records: Lyle/Pacelli is 1-1, 0-1 in the Southern Confederacy. Nicollet is 2-0, 1-0 in the conference.
Last week: Lyle/Pacelli lost to Grand Meadow 30-6. Nicollet defeated Granada-Huntley-East Chain-Martin Luther 28-16.
Last meeting: Nicollet beat L/P 49-7 in Lyle. Nicollet has outscored L/P 119-7 over the last two years.
The series: The two teams have met seven times since they both went to nine-man in 1993 and the only L/P win was back in 1998. L/P coach Mark Buntje, who is a fan of the Oakland Raiders of the NFL, is 1-6 in his career against the Nicollet Raiders.