North football opens season with record numbers

Fifth year North football head coach Jim Honsa has got to feel a little optimistic as the football season heads toward its home opener Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. against the South St. Paul Packers.

Greeting the Polars coaching staff on opening day of practice were some 150 athletes.

“This is my 11th year (Honsa was assistant for six years prior to his taking over the reins in 2001) as part of the North football program,” Honsa said. “This is the largest number of kids we’ve had out. In fact it is the largest group that anyone can remember.”

In meeting a record turnout of players, coach Honsa and his assistants - he has revamped the coaching staff - recently spent a day with the Minnesota Vikings and were guests of Vikings head coach Mike Tice during a pre-season session at Mankato.

“Our staff went to a day of training camp,” Honsa said. “We sat in on meetings. We were on field with the coaching staff. We picked up some great ideas. It was just a great experience to see and be a part of that level of football.

“We were able to bring back some ideas and have changed some things as we related those new ideas to the kids. One thing that was reassuring, was it was nice to also see that (the Vikings) do some of the same exact drills as we do. The entire experience was very beneficial for our staff to have that opportunity.”

In an attempt to turn the North football program around, coach Honsa has turned to some new faces for help. He has recruited some experienced coaches. He has concentrated on getting several faces of people who have at least 10 years experience in coaching on many levels.

Tom Rooker is one person who has coached at the high school, as assistant and head coach, and at the college level. Also new to the North staff are Ed Johnson, Joe Persuitti and Randy Buck.

A couple of returnees will be Jon Wessel and Jamie Oliver.

With the number of new faces both on the field and within the coaching staff, Honsa is hopeful of a turn-around from the 0-9 season of last year.

“We have great numbers,” he said “The kids are excited. We have an excellent, experienced coaching staff. But we have a long ways to go. We have to work on overcoming a lot of adversity in the attitudes of the kids and among a lot of people. We need to concentrate on what it is we want to accomplish. We have to work hard toward getting things turned around.”

A couple of faces who should lead the Polars in the upward climb will be senior captains Matt McQuiston, Tom Albert and Dan Helm.

This trio will be bolstered by junior captain Steve Jagodzinski.

McQuiston is a fullback and safety while Albert will see action as an offensive lineman. Helm goes both ways as an offensive and defensive lineman. Jagodzinski will play as a tight end on offense and as a defensive back.

The North Polars football schedule

(Note: Regular season games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.)

— Sept. 2, South St. Paul at North; Sept. 9, at Sibley; Sept. 16, Hill-Murray at North; Sept. 23, at Richfield; Sept. 30, Simley at North; Oct. 7, at Mahtomedi; Oct. 14, at Tartan; Oct. 19, St. Thomas at North.

Looking at the Classic Suburban Conference (CSC), coach Honsa succinctly pointed to overcoming a breeze from the east as being the best way to attain the CSC title.

“The road (to the conference championship) always leads through Mahtomedi,” he said.

A year ago, the Zephyrs posted a CSC mark of 7-0 and are expected to be a contender again this season.

The Polars open against Classic Suburban Conference runners-up a year ago (with a mark of 7-1-0), South St. Paul.

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