St. Mary’s head coach Dan Smrekar is jumping into his 44th season as the Saints’ head coach. And as an eight-time state champion, he knows what it takes to turn the page going into a new year.
“We don’t look back for one thing,” Smrekar said. “It’s a new team, you know. We talk about there are no entitlements. This team has to earn whatever it’s going to earn.”
‘Earning it’ starts at the top with a senior class hoping to pave the way in showing the Saints’ winning tradition.
“I think it’s so important that the younger players feel like they’re part of your program,” Smrekar said. “I think the way to do that is by using your older players and use them as coaches. They’ve been through it, they know what we want as coaches, and so I think that gives them a little bit of responsibility, a little bit of ownership on what kind of team we have.”
This year’s team will look much different than last year’s state champs with six all-state players graduated from the roster. That includes replacing the Class AA player of the year, as well as filling the quarterback position.
“Each quarterback wants a little different feel if they’re rolling out or with their pass blocking or something like that, but I’ve played for Nick when I was on the JV squad and so I know him pretty well and what he wants,” senior lineman Jack Weikum said. “The whole team just needs to communicate, get what Nick wants and we’ll execute.”
Things will look different across the line too, as the Saints shift to the new 11-A division with many new opponents ready to test their team.
“We think it’s a great challenge for us,” Smrekar said. “We’re really looking forward to the new competition and the challenge for us. We think we’re up to it. Mostly we’re looking forward to it.”
No matter the division the Saints are marching on with a chance to win their sixth state title in the last eight years.
“We’ve just go to come out with the same mindset,” Weikum said. “Don’t care who’s across the ball. Just do your job and get it done.”
The Saints open their season on the road on August 28 against Fargo South.