HHS football ends season playing its best ball
The Hastings Raiders football team finished its season with a .500 record of 5-5, including a playoff win over Henry Sibley before losing in the second round of sections to Apple Valley. The team improved by one game on their record from last year after returning several senior play makers.
Head coach Dana Strain said his team’s overall play improved over the course of the season.
“Defensively, we played with great effort throughout the year and we played for each other,” Strain said. “Offensively, we improved throughout the year to the point where we were playing some of our best football by the end of the season, often scoring first and scoring often in the last half of the season. And on special teams, I thought we won on special teams more often than not.”
Strain also said that the Raiders shored up some weaknesses that showed in the first few games.
“We had an issue with turning the ball over early in the season,” Strain said. “I think we improved in that area but it was a point of focus for us throughout, so that was certainly an issue for us to overcome at times. In addition, we focused on execution on both sides of the ball. More times than not, when we had issues offensively or defensively, we could trace it back to our own lack of execution, so that was a point of emphasis for us throughout the year as well.”
Hastings ran for over 1,500 yards as a team this season and passed for over 1,200. Senior quarterback Colin Kummer completed 52 passes on 108 attempts for 823 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Jacob Brown, who replaced Kummer at quarterback when he was injured, completed 38 passes on 83 attempts for 379 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
Senior running back Ovie Embu ran for over 1,200 yards on over 200 carries for an average of over 5 yards a carry, 13 touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Kummer ran for 242 yards on 62 carries and five touchdowns. Another senior running back, Clay Harris, added 148 yards on 37 carries and a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Nathaniel Wiese led the team in receiving with 40 receptions for 628 yards and four touchdowns, an average of over 15 yards per catch. Fellow senior wide receiver Jake Brake added another 18 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Embu also caught 17 passes out of the backfield for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Rogers, Cody Leflay and Clay Harris also added touchdown receptions.
On defense, seniors Josh Miser and Colin Sieh led the way. Miser, from his linebacker spot, recovered six fumbles. Sieh recovered two fumbles and led the team with five interceptions. Nick Blackford had four fumble recoveries and Wiese at safety had two interceptions. T.J. Pottinger had a fumble recovery and two interceptions while Rogers had one each.
Looking ahead to next season, the Raiders are graduating more than 20 seniors from this year’s team, many of whom filled the skill and playmaking positions. However, Strain said that they will build again off underclassmen who stepped up at key moments this season.
“We will hope to build on the continuity and success we established with our guys up front,” Strain said. “I thought some of our younger guys really improved and started to play their best football near the end of the season, and with a lot of returners next year on the offensive and defensive lines, we will look to establish that as a focus point.”
Strain said the team voted for an offensive, defensive and special teams MVP after the season. Miser was voted defensive MVP, Embu the offensive MVP and Kummer, who kicks and punts, as the special teams MVP. He also praised the senior class as a whole.
“I loved working with them (the seniors) over the years, I’m proud of them all and will truly miss them,” Strain said. “They are a great group of guys, but part of sports involves graduating our seniors and looking forward to watching them grow and succeed in that next phase of their lives.”
The seniors who are graduating this year are: Colin Sieh, Colin Kummer, Nathi Gudissa, Nick Blackford, Nathaniel Wiese, Jacob Brown, Zac Pientka, Clay Harris, Jacob Streeter, Ovie Embu, Cody Leflay, Jacob Brake, Avonte Bailey, Alex Parra, Thomas Frias, Israel Jackson, Evon Childs, Jacob Foster, Yohan Morales, Colton Cassidy, Jackson Schichel, Hayden Giese, Anthony Fraser, Nathan Stockman, Josh Miser and Nate Buck. Three of the team’s managers are also graduating, Judd O’Connor, Logan Lutz and Blaine Wasvick.