How does the old song go? If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere?
Well, if the LeRoy-Ostrander football team can succeed in the District 9-South division, it should be in good shape come playoff time. That district features the powerhouses of Section One, Nine-Man, a section that has dominated at the state level with six straight state championships.
"We know we play in a tough district, but if we can get through our district, we know a lot of good things can happen," first-year L-O coach Trevor Carrier said.
The Cardinals made a big statement a week ago when they defeated two-time defending state champion Spring Grove 53-22 on the road.
"To beat the second-ranked team in the state by 30 at their place, with all the tradition Spring Grove has, it was an eye opener," Carrier said. "It was 'Hey, we really have something here.' "
The Cardinals put their 2-0 mark and No. 8 state ranking on the line Friday when they played at Grand Meadow, ranked No. 1 in the state. L-O was just 2-7 a year ago, but returns all but just two players from that squad.
"The boys are playing good ball and are confident," Carrier said. "If you play with confidence, good things can happen. And when you block and tackle."
Carrier spent the last seven years as an assistant at L-O. He credits Aaron Hungerholt, who had coached the team for the last decade, for setting the groundwork for this year's team. The Cardinals have also put in a lot of work in the weight room.
"My defensive coordinator, Dan Lowe, he does a wonderful job with the kids in the weight room, that's No. 1," Carrier said. "And they bought in; I think they appreciate and understand what we do as a coaching staff."
"The weight room has definitely been a bit contributor," senior Carter Johnson said. "Everybody's been hitting it hard. I think it's helping everybody make better blocks and tackles. And everybody's going through people, not just going down on first contact."
Johnson is one of the team leaders along with wide receiver/defensive end Riley Olson and tight end/defensive end Tanner Kasel, who were both All-District last season as juniors. Johnson, running back/linebacker, is coming off a six-touchdown rushing game against Spring Grove. He also rushed for three TDs in the opener.
"That kid is an absolute workhorse," Carrier said. "He puts more time in the weight room than I've seen in a long time."
"It's a lot better, going into games a lot more confident than usual," Johnson said.
Sophomore Chase Johnson, Carter's younger brother, has also been a huge factor. He has excelled running the read-option offense. Chase rushed for 220 yards against Spring Grove and has more than 350 yards rushing in two games, which leads the district.
"He's an absolute lightning rod," Carrier said. "He does a lot of stuff with his feet. He does some stuff with his arm, too."
The Cardinals also have better depth with 28 players on the 2019 squad.
"We've had some lean classes," Carrier admitted. "We went out and recruited and got some kids who weren't out for football to come out. And they've contributed here and there."
Carrier hopes to keep building a program that last went to the state tournament in 2004.
"We've lost so much around here and it's nice to gain that confidence," Carrier said. "Right now the kids know we can play with anybody when we do what we're suppose to do."
"We have a lot of good athletes," Carter Johnson said.
The section appears to be stacked once again with four teams ranked in the top 10 of this week's state poll. But with a stable of solid players on both sides of the ball, the Cardinals could very well make some noise come playoff time.
"I think the boys believe, the coaching staff believes and I think we've turned some heads," Carrier said.
"Everybody just wants to go as far as we can and have fun and keep playing good," Carter Johnson said. "We just have to keep working hard and pay attention in practice and give it our best every game."