MINNEAPOLIS — Brainerd's Ron Stolski and Pierz's Leo Pohlkamp have a combined 74 years of head coaching experience between them. They've experienced just about all there is about high school football — coaching great players, winning championships, suffering heart-breaking defeats.
Both have had the opportunity to coach in previous Minnesota High School Football All-Star games, Stolski in 1979, Pohlkamp in 2004. The opportunity to coach a second time, in Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota, just adds to their career highlights and achievements.
Stolski, the winningest coach in Minnesota State High School League football history (330 wins), is head coach of the North team. Pohlkamp, head coach at Pierz, is one of Stolski's assistants. And, Brainerd Warriors running back Jordan Hayes and offensive lineman Joe Haeg will play in the contest.
“I'm honored to be coaching in it again,” Stolski said Wednesday at media day. “It's fun. I'm honored to be with this staff. We were fortunate enough to choose this staff, and we're coaching like crazy. We're not treating this lightly. You can ask Hayes that, or Haeg.”
Pohlkamp, 191-72 in his career at Pierz, marveled at the talent assembled for the game.
“It's always exciting to see so much talent come in,” he said. “We're deep at every position. In high school you're always looking for who can play where. We know these kids, where they can play. It's just a matter of coaching them now.”
The North will run a 3-4 defense, similar to what Pohlkamp runs at Pierz. He relishes the opportunity to coach with people like Jeff Ferguson of Totino Grace, Shannon Gerrety of Blaine Flint Motschenbacher of Detroit Lakes and former Totino Grace coach Dave Nigon.
“I'm really learning a lot from those guys,” Pohlkamp said. “I feel like I'm at a clinic and I’m also coaching in an all-star game.”
Pohlkamp also appreciates the opportunity to coach with Stolski, the longest-tenured head football coach in MSHSL football history (49 years).
“My brother Joe coaches with Ron, now I get to work with him,” Pohlkamp said. “He's a very good motivator. He's good with people, he's a great people person.”
Hayes, who rushed for 1,431 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall, and Haeg, a mammoth 240-pound tackle, agreed all-star week has been a lifetime thrill.
“It's been a great experience so far, meeting new guys, just bonding as a team,” Hayes said. “It's kind of like starting all over again. It's real fun to get to live the high school experience one more time.
“It's been an amazing experience,” Haeg said. “You meet a lot of new guys. A lot of guys you played against, you meet them, and they're really nice guys. You think they're the enemy on the game field but now they seem like nice guys. The team has been bonding really well. We've come together as a team pretty well.”
Hayes hopes to play a “fundamentally sound game” Saturday.
“We're going to split carries, but if a guy gets rolling I guess we're going to leave him for a little bit,” said Hayes, who will red-shirt at Northern State University (South Dakota) next fall.
“I'm going to take one year off, get bigger, get ready for the next season,” he said.
Hayes has had two weeks to reflect on finishing second in the 4x100-meter relay with Joe Nelson, Dan Lauer and Grant Reuer at the Class 2A state track and field meet. They missed winning the championship by 8/100ths of a second.
“Right away I didn't know whether to be happy we got second or mad we lost by 8/100ths of a second,” Hayes said, “but I guess after looking at it I was happy with the finish. We were coming in like the 13th (seed). We were happy to jump up a few notches and get second. We really ran a great race there.”
Haeg, who helped Brainerd average 29.3 points and 344.8 yards a game in 2010, believes the North possesses the strength in the trenches to give the South trouble Saturday.
“I just hope everyone plays their best,” he said. “We have a good offensive line. Hopefully, everyone comes off the ball hard, and we get some good blocks for our running backs.”
Haeg will red-shirt next season at the University of North Dakota.
“I'm going to gain some weight and get bulkier,” he said, “and the next year hopefully be playing some, probably offensive tackle.”