Maverick football kickin’ it at camp

The Minnesota State football team has not played a regular season football game in a normal season since 2019. They did, however, play a few exhibition games this past spring to stay sharp.

Minnesota State began their spring season in a scrimmage against the Morningside Mustangs in Sioux City, Iowa. Next, came two home scrimmages against Gustavus and Grand View and a neutral site scrimmage against Minnesota-Duluth. 

Coming into the 2021 season, the Mavericks were voted first in the NSIC preseason coaches poll with 12 first place votes, also claiming the top spot in the NSIC South division. Although we have not seen the team play in a while, everyone is still high on them having another great season this fall. 

Minnesota State is also ranked highly in the AFCA Division II coaches poll. The Mavericks come in at second place only behind West Florida, who defeated Minnesota State in the Division II national championship in 2019. 

The Mavericks begin their 2021 schedule on Thursday, Sept. 2, at home in Blakeslee Stadium against the Northern State Wolves. In the meantime, they have been on the practice field preparing themselves for the season. 

“We are looking forward to getting back on the gridiron and representing Minnesota State as we defend our 2019 NSIC Championship with high hopes to compete in the NCAA playoffs,” head coach Todd Hoffner said in a statement for Maverick Athletics. “We are looking forward to the leadership from our super seniors as they return to play and extended their education with dreams of becoming a champion. The core returning players of our team is strong and we look forward to integrating the newcomers to achieve our team’s dreams.”

Looking back, the Mavs did lose several key components from their run to the championship in 2019, including former running back Nate Gunn, quarterback Ryan Schlichte, linebacker Zach Robertson, and receiver Shane Zylstra. The Mavericks do, however, have a lot of division one talent joining the program to begin this season so there is a lot to be optimistic about.

What feels like the biggest loss from the 2019 season is Mavericks’ all time receiving leader in yards, touchdowns, and receptions Shane Zylstra. Then brings the question, who can fill such a big role that Shane left the program?

Although Minnesota State may not have their clear answer just yet at wide out, they do bring a lot of promising talent to the program through the transfer portal and returning players from the 2019 season.  Deyon Campbell, True Thompson, and D.J. Barber highlight the newest additions to the Mavericks receiving core, while Jalen Sample, Parker Gloudemans, and Nyles Williams return from the 2019 team. 

The Mavs also bring back a veteran quarterback in J.D. Ekowa, who got to play in all 15 games in the 2019 season. Ekowa is a proven dual threat quarterback, but can also throw in the pocket.

As we closely approach the start of the 2021 season, there is a lot to be optimistic about. There will be a lot of new roles to be filled, but the Mavs seem ready to do so.

Kickoff for the first game of the season begins at 6 p.m. on September 4 in Mankato against the Northern State University Wolves.

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