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Sticking with it - Players, coaches from three programs reflect on streak-busters

12/01/2017, 8:00am CST
By Brian Jerzak

Winona Cotter, Kimball Area and Kingsland ended long losing streaks in 2017

Cover photo from

Real character is not revealed in victory but in defeat.

For most football players, it's easier to put in the work at practice if they're expecting the payoff of a win at the end of the week than practicing for a team that is struggling.

Three teams in Minnesota ended multi-season losing streaks in 2017. The character the players on those teams – especially the seniors who fought through multiple seasons of losing – showed what character, and growing up, is all about.

Northstar Football News spends a lot of time highlighting players and programs that do their fair share of winning -- for obvious reasons. We thought the three programs and their players earned recognition for their perseverance.

After trying to write this article in many different ways, it seemed like interjecting would only get in the way of the kids' words. Sure, each player and team had slightly different reasons for sticking it out, but the overall theme is clear: the kids were playing for something other than themselves.

Winona Cotter: Playing for Each Other

Austin Griffin (Chuck Miller/Winona Daily News)

Snapped a 23-game losing streak snapped with a 31-22 victory over Medford in Week 1.

Austin Griffin – Sr., Winona Cotter RB/LB

Try to explain your feelings when it became clear you were going to win.

"Winning the first game felt amazing. It was the game of the year, and the whole team was excited to go out and compete. It was the first win for Cotter since 2014. After the game, the whole team and all the fans were very excited."

Why did you stick it out?

"I kept playing because I love to play football. I love competing and playing with my friends. It was pretty awesome to go 4-4 in the regular season and see all of our work finally pay off."

Caleb Glodowski – Sr., Winona Cotter OL/DL

Try to explain your feelings when it became clear you were going to win.

"It was happiness. We had just won at home, and it was exciting."

Why did you stick it out?

"Football is my favorite sport, and I've played with these guys since I was little."

Winona Cotter coach Seth Haun

"It takes a special type of kid to be willing to play through the tough years, to play through the changes in the coaching staff that we had had three or four years in a row before I came back two years ago. They are good kids. They bought into each other. They played for each other, and the rest took care of itself."

Kimball Area: Playing for the Community

Payton Schiefelbein (Amanda Garding via Tri-County News)

Snapped a 42-game losing streak with a 31-16 victory over Upsala/Swanville Area in Week 6.

Payton Schiefelbein - Sr., Kimball Area RB/LB

Try to explain your feelings when it became clear you were going to win.

"It was really quite an amazing experience to end such a long streak especially because it meant a lot to the community which I love. During the last quarter, I picked off the ball and returned it for a touchdown to seal the deal so to speak. The feeling after was complete shock. All my teammates went nuts, and I have never felt so many slaps on the back. Not only had we just broken our losing streak, but we had also just beat the state ranked undefeated Upsala team. The whole team had been working hard all year, and now the work was paying off. The team and I were in tears before the game was over. I remember vividly making the last few tackles and crying the whole time."

Why did you stick it out?

"The reason I stuck with football through all the years is that there is no other sport that gives you the ability to hit someone as hard as you can running at full speed. To me, it doesn't matter what the score of each game is so much, but more how much you can hit the opponent before the game ends. I love tackling, and I would have played football the rest of my life if they would let me."

Kimball Area coach John Benson

"The last time the seniors won a game was in 8th grade. You talk about a group of kids that aren't going to quit; they all stuck it out. When you go 0-42 people are going to kind of laugh at you and they never that that affect them."

Kingsland: Playing for the love of Football

Ethan Fenske (Christine Vreeman/Spring Valley Tribune)

Snapped a 50-game losing streak with a 35-14 victory over Hayfield in Week 8. 

Ethan Fenske – Sr., Kingsland QB/S

Try to explain your feelings when it became clear you were going to win.

"In the second half, I was kind of enjoying myself and having fun – not really worrying about the scoreboard anymore because we haven't had that feeling in the last five years or so. I was constantly looking at the scoreboard – looking at the score because I knew that would be my only win in my varsity football career."

Why did you stick it out?

 "I love football. There is no other sport like it. I knew in 8th grade I was going to stick with it through my varsity career. You only get so many years of football, and I knew as long as there was a program I would continue to play. It wasn't a matter of winning or losing. Since 10th grade, I knew there was a chance (breaking the streak) would never happen, but we had a group of kids that I thought we could be the group that pushes us over the edge. We had kids quit because we were losing so I did have that thought that I might not win a game in my varsity career."

Kingsland coach Brent Stinson

"The biggest thing about those three kids was their leadership. I put it on them to leave their legacy – how did they want to define their career? One of them was debating even coming out at the beginning of the year. I told him you only get one senior year and you have a chance to leave your mark and change history for this program."

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