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Tigers hoping to build off win

Rusty Grisim is the team's "heart and soul."1 / 3
Junior quarterback Ben Schramski says the offensive line is a big reason for this year's success.2 / 3
Senior starting fullback and middle linebacker Connor Schulz is setting his sights high. "We want to win HVL Gold," he said.3 / 3

Rusty Grisim dealt with the feelings of losing on the football field for too long.

Playing for Lake City since he was in seventh grade, Grisim had yet to win a game at any level. On Friday night, Grisim and the Tigers snapped a 21-game losing skid by beating the Hayfield Vikings handily, 48-6.

A team that had not won in nearly three years ran for 266 yards against the Vikings and controlled the game from start to finish - leading 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. Ask the coach or players and the win was anticipated even if it was long-awaited.

"We expected ourselves to win like that," Grisim said. "If we would have won by a touchdown or two or if we had lost we would have been disappointed."

Lake City coach Trevor Narum was pleased with the execution he saw on the field and Grisim is a main reason why this season is looking up.

"Our heart and soul is Rusty Grisim," Narum said. "He's probably the best natural leader we've had here in a number of years ... he's the captain of the captains and the guy everybody rallies around.

"He takes care of a lot of things so I don't have to."

Narum has been the head coach at Lake City for the past four years and Grisim has played varsity since his sophomore year. The two have a good relationship where Grisim helps keep the players positive and trusting in Narum.

"He's a great guy," Grisim said of Narum. "We all have a lot of faith in him ... he's a great motivator."

"He wants to win just as much as we do," Connor Schulz added. "It's been a rough couple years for him, as well as us."

Schulz, a senior and transfer from St. Croix Lutheran, sees a culture change within the players even if his classmates are lagging a little behind.

"That change hasn't really set into the school yet or the town," Schulz said. "We just need to keep stepping up and see what happens from there."

Schulz has also added over eight yards per carry as the team's starting fullback.

The development of junior quarterback Ben Schramski is another catalyst for the Tigers' success. After a sophomore season in which he struggled to get the offense going and threw eight interceptions, Schramski has been much more comfortable in his junior season. He has put together solid albeit not spectacular statistics, throwing two touchdowns and completing nearly 58 percent of his passes in the first two games.

Schramski is not the only junior giving the Tigers better production this year. Mitch Kuchinka has run for 173 yards and two touchdowns so far and Jake Griebenow has three total touchdowns, two receiving and one on a 92-yard interception return.

As a team, Lake City is built on the bedrock of running the ball and stopping the run. The Tigers are leading the Hiawatha Valley Gold division in rushing defense and second in rushing offense.

"Our line has improved greatly," Schramski said. "We've controlled the game at the line of scrimmage as was evident last week in Hayfield."

A real measuring stick for the Tigers comes this Friday when they travel to face Triton for the first time since 1996. The Cobras are coming off runner-up finish at the Class AA State Football Tournament and a 12-1 record. They have lost their first two games this year.

"Historically, they have a fantastic program," Narum said. "They're going to be tougher than nails ... it's going to be a great challenge."

"The expectations are high, it's going to be a dogfight because they're a good coached team," Schramski added.

While they were able to celebrate the victory on Friday night and Saturday morning, Narum rejects the notion that the team has turned a corner knowing that there is a lot more work left to do.

"Someone asked me, 'do you feel like you've turned the corner'" Narum said. "Well we've won one game. You can't say that we've turned the corner, we have to prove a lot more than that but I like the direction we're going."

Starting small, the Tigers are new to winning games but the players exude an honest confidence and want to make a statement this year. Grisim, Schramski and Schulz all have offered the same goal for the season, to be champions of the Hiawatha Valley Gold division.

"We want to win the HVL Gold," Schulz said. "We have to win a few more games to get there, but we're ready to put in the work and ready to do what needs to be done."

The Lake City Tigers (1-1, 1-0 HVL) travel to Dodge Center to face Triton on Friday.

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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