The Med City Freeze, a Rochester amateur football team, has gone back to its roots this season and with smashing success.
In their first two seasons of existence, the Freeze played nine-man ball in the Southern Plains Football League and had strong teams with well-above .500 records each year.
Last year the Freeze moved to an 11-man league, with much more travel, and won just one game.
"Getting guys to away games was tough," said Freeze co-founder and player Tim Nela. "It was a rude awakening."
So this season, in their fourth season, the Freeze went back to playing nine-man football in the SPFL. With a bolstered roster, the Freeze went 7-1 in the regular season and are the No. 1 seed in the eight-team playoffs that begin on Saturday.
"We've bounced back," Nela said. "It feels like this is our best team in our four seasons. It's just the energy and the way the coaches have responded. Everything is just making it a special season."
It would be even more special for the Freeze if they were able to capture a league championship. They posted a 7-1 regular season in 2016, but suffered a loss in the first round of the playoffs.
Jeff Sipple and Storm Soto are the other founders of the team. Sipple is a coach for the Freeze while Soto plays. The team's head coach is Jordan Pogalz, who was the defensive coordinator a year ago.
The Freeze are gearing up to face the Southeast Minnesota Warhawks in the league quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mayo High School.
Med City beat the Warhawks 38-0 in the final game of the regular season. The Freeze will also have home-field advantage in the semifinals (July 20) and championship game (July 27) if they advance.
Med City has a roster of 40 players and has relied heavily on those who hail from Rochester. The team had eight All-Star players this season in Josh Reynolds (linebacker), Andre Davis (running back), Gabe Supalla (wide receiver), Phil Yanson (wide receiver), Ian Naatz (offensive, defensive line), Ted Ohm (defensive tackle), Jonny Christensen (kicker, punter) and Scott Moechnig (linebacker).
Reynolds, a John Marshall grad, has excelled on defense. The linebacker has 10 interceptions, three of which he has returned for touchdowns.
Davis leads the team in rushing, Yanson leads the team in receiving and Supulla is second on the team in receiving and is the team's punt returner. All three are Century grads.
"We have a very talented bunch," Nela said. "They're everything that I wanted for Med City football. It's good to have leaders on the team like that."
Demonte Nelson has been the team's quarterback. Nelson, a native of Georgia, is a former wide receiver at Rochester Community and Technical College.
"He's having a great season," Nela said.
Nela said he is thrilled the Freeze have had such a strong regular season. Now he wants that success to continue over the next three weeks.
"It's been an amazing season," Nela said. "Now we want to finish it off by winning a championship."