The Sauk Rapids-Rice Storm finished the 2017 season with a bang, with wins over Alexandria and Hutchinson to close out the regular season and a win in their playoff opener against Osseo. The Storm finished the season with a 6-4 record overall.

Senior offensive lineman Jacob Schloe says that they are looking forward to building on their 2017 campaign, with the o-line returning many players. Four of Sauk Rapids-Rice’s starting offensive line from 2017 is returning to the team this season.

“I feel like our offensive line, having a lot of returning guys (will be a strength),” Schloe said. “Having that experience from last year and carrying it over to this year’s team.”

“We feel very good about our offensive  line,” coach Phil Klaphake said. “We also have a three-year starter at quarterback, we have a three-year receiver and other talented kids (on offense).”

Senior safety Tanner Andvik, who practices across the line of scrimmage from the Storm’s offense every day, says that the offense will be very good.

“Our offensive line is pretty much the same except for one guy,” Andvik said. “The offense is going to be really good.”

The Storm is coached by former St. Cloud State quarterback Klaphake, who will be entering his third season with Sauk Rapids-Rice. Senior quarterback Cade Milton-Baumgartner says that Klaphake has the program in a good place.

“It’s been awesome, he’s brought us to a point where it’s been really exciting to win games again,” Milton-Baumgartner said. “Before he got here we weren’t in a very good spot as a program, but now it’s upward from here.”

Schloe agrees that Klaphake has changed the culture of the team for the better, and the players can tell the difference in how the student body has supported the team.

“Freshman year, it was pretty rough around here, not a lot of school spirit,” Schloe said. “As the years have gone by, school spirit has increased drastically and with that our programs have gotten a few more wins than in the past.”

Klaphake is quick to credit the kids, not the coach, for the culture change with the program.

“It starts with the kids, it really does,” Klaphake said. “I remember growing up in Princeton, and I remember Sauk Rapids-Rice when they were in the Rum River Conference.

“What I remember of Sauk Rapids-Rice was big, tough physical teams, and then there was a bit of a lull,” Klaphake said. “The lull happened with the move from the 4A level to the 5A level, and that wasn’t due to a lack of talent- the 5A level is tougher.”

Klaphake said the team started to believe last year that they were done being at the bottom, and started to believe that they weren’t a “Rum River Conference team” anymore.

“We worked really hard and had some success (in 2017),” Klaphake said. “Now it’s, can we continue that, can we continue to build on that, because our league is tough.”