The Menahga Braves are back as a football team.

The last time Menahga fielded an independent team was in 2005. The Braves finished with an 0-8 record that year.

Starting in 2006, Menahga and Sebeka formed a cooperative to play football as the United North Central Warriors. The Warriors posted a 54-78 overall record in 14 seasons, highlighted by a 9-3 record and a trip to the state Class AA semifinals in 2015. UNC also went 7-2 in 2007 and 7-3 in 2009. After dropping down and playing a 9-man schedule during the regular season, UNC ended its final season with a 40-12 loss to Pelican Rapids in last year’s Section 8AA quarterfinals.

Starting this year, Menahga and Sebeka will compete as separate teams with the Braves playing a junior varsity schedule in hopes of returning to varsity status next fall.

Kevin Sommers, who was an assistant coach for UNC the past six years, will take over as the Braves’ head coach. Sommers will be assisted by Trevor Horning (defensive coordinator and running backs coach) and Todd Frie (special teams, wide receivers and defensive backs coach).

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“This season I want everyone to have a positive experience, learn life lessons and have fun,” said Sommers. “I hope to have more guys come out next year and have the players who are out this year hit the weights and get bigger. Over the next years, I want to see the program grow from 30 players to 40 players and keep turning out better men at the end of the season.”

Being counted on to lead the Braves this season are three players who played key roles on the defensive end for the Warriors last season: juniors Ivan Anderson and Ethan Hendrickson and sophomore Logan Torma. Anderson was third on the team with 25 solo tackles while adding 47 assists, Torma had 17 solo tackles and 30 assists, and Hendrickson had three solo tackles and six assists. Anderson and Hendrickson, who will return at the linebacker spots, also filled in at running back last season. Torma will return at defensive end and play tight end.

Also returning from last year’s UNC team that finished with a 2-7 overall record are Dylan Rasmussen, Brock Mullen, Dan Noland, Marcus Peterson, Brandon Rousa, Justin Gonska and Paul Bernardo. Returning to the football field this season are Charlie Hodge, Ryan Tolk, Isaiah Usher, Kaylor Howard, Quincy Jantz, Nick Treinen and Henry Salmon.

“Having a new team, there’s lots of opportunities out there for everybody. We’ve had lots of new guys come out that haven’t played football before that are just athletic,” said Sommers, whose team opens the season at Pine River-Backus on Oct. 12. “We are ready and working hard to get things ready for Week 1. We should be competitive.”

Oct. 12 - at Pine River-Backus, 4:30 p.m. Oct. 20 - vs. Staples-Motley, 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27 - vs. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 5 p.m.
Nov. 2 - at Park Rapids, 5 p.m. Nov. 5 - vs. New York Mills, 4 p.m. Nov. 9 - vs. Lake Park-Audubon, 4:30 p.m.