by Bob San
It will be difficult for the Osseo High School football team to repeat the success it enjoyed in 2011 when the Orioles had their best season in 25 years. Osseo took second in the Northwest Suburban Conference with a 7-1 record and won two games in the section before losing to arch rival Wayzata in the section final to finish 9-2.
Most of the key players on that team have graduated, leaving eighth-year head coach Darrin Lamker with a very young squad.
“We are very young, with only three returning starters on each side of the ball,” said Lamker, who has a 43-26 record at Osseo over seven seasons. “It will be hard to duplicate what we did last year but I am really pleased with how the kids are progressing.”
The top returning player is senior running back/defensive back Bridgeport Tusler. The 6-foot, 195-pound Tusler is a two-time all-conference performer and was named the NWSC special team player of the year last season. A tough runner with good hand, Tusler had 850 yards in rushing yards and 350 in receiving yards in conference play. He already has received scholarship offers from North and South Dakota.
“Bridge is looking awesome,” Lamker said. “He has really stepped up to be a great leader and is taking care of everything. If we can keep him healthy he is going to have a heck of a year.”
The other two returning starters on offense are senior receiver Javon Stephens and senior lineman Tyler Sims.
One of the biggest holes the Orioles have to fill is at quarterback, a spot anchored by D.J, Hebert the past three seasons. Lamker is looking for senior Garrison Gillard and junior Matt Miedtke to handle the signal calling this fall.
Defensively, Tusler will be joined in the starting lineup by senior linemen Lamar Wallace and Rakeem Felder and senior linebacker Troy Kray. Wallace was an all-conference player and Kray led the Orioles in tackles last year.
Despite his team’s lack of experience, Lamker still looks for the Orioles to compete well.
“I want to improve and peak in the late season,” Lamker said. “We want to play our best football at the end of the year and it will take us a bit to get going.”
The conference will be strong again with Champlin Park the heavy favorite to dethrone Anoka as the champion.
“Champlin Park is tough. They should not lose,” Lamker said. “Then it’s Blaine, Maple Grove and Osseo. We should finish third or fourth.”
The Orioles do get a break because they won’t have to take on the Rebels, a team they beat on a miraculous last-second touchdown pass last fall.
Osseo opens the season at home against Centennial Thursday, Aug. 30.