Just by taking a look beneath the bright lights of Ted Slavin Field, it is apparent that there is a different energy surrounding this years’ Wolverine football team. From the intensity of the drills to the focus of the players, it is clear the Wolverines have a chip on their shoulder and a hunger to win unlike ever before. Much of this new desire comes from the addition of Aaron Huerta as Head Coach, who has brought a new energy to the team.
When thinking about Wolverines football over the past few seasons, the first word that comes to mind is instability. Over the past four years, the Wolverines have struggled with constant turnover at the head coaching position, with four different head coaches over the last four years. Despite the terrible circumstances, however, Huerta has truly gotten this team to buy in.
“I think coach has brought a real culture of winning to HW,” said linebacker Bill Coleman ‘24. “He keeps us disciplined and focused and doesn’t take excuses.”
Huerta’s work truly began over the summer, when the possibility of a season itself was still on the line. Whether it was hosting zoom workouts, film review, or a socially distanced lift, Huerta was always looking for opportunities to keep the team together and focused. The hardest stipulation of the return, however, was the rule against physical contact, which forced the Wolverines to take unique measures in their practice routines and focus primarily on getting stronger.
“We worked out four days a week in the weight room and on the field,” said Huerta in an interview. “We are stronger and in good shape because of all the hard work the kids put in. Those practices also brought us closer together as a team. We were able to push one another and hold each other accountable. Those are the things that make a great team.”
Finally, after months of preparation and socially distanced lifts, the Wolverines were cleared to compete in games and practice with full contact, something which had been over a year in the making. While the team was obviously thrilled to hear this news, there were many more safety protocols that proved to be challenging. Athletes had already all been required to wear masks and take temperature scans, but they also were forced to Covid test every week in order to compete.
“I think the hardest part is the scheduling,” said Huerta. “With having kids trying to get to campus at 4 pm every day, you never know what time they are going to make it so then practice starts later and then of course ends later.”
In the past two weeks, the Wolverines’ hard work has paid off with two big wins to start the season. While the team struggled to get going in the first game, they got their footing and began to dominate towards the end of the game, eventually closing it out 20 to 19 against St. Genevieve. The Wolverines carried that energy into their second game, winning an exciting game 48-29 against Salesian. When asked about the rest of the season, it is clear Huerta plans to continue to get better.
“Of course we want to win every game!” said Huerta. “We have started off strong and so we hope we can keep that going. As the coach though, I want to see us improving every week. I want to see us playing our best game week 6 and look back see that we have come a long way as a team.”