Grand Meadow senior Dustin Copley hopes his COVID days are behind him, but he might want to take some extra caution if a game against Lanesboro is looming.

Last season Copley was among a number of Superlarks who missed the Section 1 9-Man championship contest against Lanesboro because they had to quarantine after being exposed to COVID.

Copley had the start of his senior season delayed as he missed the opener — also against Lanesboro — because he had COVID. Grand Meadow lost both the contests to the Burros, including 28-0 to open 2021.

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“I’m feeling a lot better right now,” Copley said. “Yeah, that was a terrible feeling to miss that first game.”

The speedy Copley is expected to be a big part of Grand Meadow’s success this season. After missing the opener, he has returned and made an immediate impact. In the second game, he took the opening kickoff back 76 yards for a touchdown and the Superlarks went on to defeat Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda 53-16.

It took Copley a while to regain his conditioning.

“The first game when I came back, I couldn’t breath after some of the runs, I was so tired,” Copley said.

That didn’t stop Copley from rushing for 127 yards and three touchdowns in just 10 carries.

In the third game on Sept. 17, he rushed for 118 yards and three more TDs in a 38-0 win over Houston, and he felt as good as new.

“The next game I felt absolutely amazing, actually,” he said. “I don’t know how it came back so fast, but I felt pretty good the second game.”

'He's very fast'

Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan says Copley has the ability to score whenever he gets the ball in his hands. Copley has proven that point with seven TDs in two games.

“He’s very fast,” Sloan said. “He’s one of the fastest players we’ve ever had. With that, he’s kind of a threat to take it the distance anytime he touches the ball.”

Copley is mainly a running back, but on some plays he lines up as a wide receiver. He plays safety on defense and also returns kickoffs and punts. He really enjoys returning kickoffs because he has a little more room to use his speed.

“We’re just trying to work on getting him in one-on-one situations where hopefully he can make somebody miss and maybe break a long one,” Sloan said.

“I always like to get outside and in the open field to use my speed because I know that’s my main thing,” Copley said. “But this year I’m trying to use more strength and run into people.”

Copley, who is about 6-foot and 175 pounds, has added 10 pounds of weight since his junior season. He has noticed his added power.

“I’m trying to go through holes faster and harder with my strength,” he said.

Copley has been on the Grand Meadow varsity since he was a freshman. This is his third season as a starter and he has seen his game grow over the past year.

“I feel like my vision got better, seeing the hole and knowing what cuts to take,” he said.

Grand Meadow has a recent history of Prep Bowl success. After placing second in the state in 2012, the Superlarks won four straight 9-Man state titles from 2013-16. Copley grew up watching those teams and would like the same success his senior season.

“We definitely go hard every practice,” he said. “That’s our main goal, to definitely go to the state championship like in the past years. The different thing about our team this year is we’re more speed (orientated), but we can rely on our strength sometimes.”

Copley also plays baseball for the Superlarks. He played basketball but quit after his sophomore season due to pain in his knees. Despite his speed, Copley never wanted to give up baseball to run in track and field.

“I like baseball way too much to do that,” he said.

Copley would like the opportunity to play either college football or baseball. He has received some inquiries from Division III and II football coaches. But first he wants another shot at playing Lanesboro, which would have to come during section play.

“I hope so because I haven’t gotten my chance against them yet,” he said.