Harvey Shew Field has remained vacant since the Lumberjacks claimed the Semi-Pro Football League Championship July 25. Cleats, pads, and the bright red helmets have been neatly tucked away.
The 40 men, whose careers would have ended following their high school or collegiate careers, will get some time off as they tend to the aches and pains they've accumulated in their return to the grid iron.
Mitch Feierabend of the Brainerd Lumberjacks ripped away the ball during the Lumberjacks' victory in the Semi-Pro Football League Championship July 25 at Harvey Shew Field in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
J. J. Kern, however, is already looking at the program from top to bottom in early preparations for the 2010 season. Since the end of the season, Kern has already begun recruiting players, searching for sponsors, and modifying the playbook for next year. "We need to keep getting better every year," Kern said. "From the fans in the stands, to the entertainment of the field, the plays we run and how we play."
The 2009 season set a precedent for the Lumberjacks, but the goals for next season go beyond defending their championship.
"We had nothing to lose (this past season) because we were just trying to get something started," Kern said. "This next season there is a lot more sense of going to the next level because now we have something established, and we have something to lose."
The next level consists of not only laying the foundation of becoming a premier team in Minnesota, but going beyond and facing off against other league champions from around the Midwest.
As 2009 SPFL Champions, the Lumberjacks earned their right at playing those teams this year, but funding prohibited the team from extending their season throughout the summer.
"Being a new team with limited funds available we won (the championship) and we were done," Kern said. "However, next year, we are hoping to get more sponsors and being better funded to go longer into the season."
For that reason, Kern is already looking for sponsors for the 2010 season. He recognizes the role that sponsors play for the team, but Kern must also put his focus on adding to the roster and expanding the play book.
"The majority of our players seemed really excited about how we ended and are excited about coming back next year," Kern said.
Kern will be looking to address depth issues during the off-season as he looks towards the Central Lakes College Raiders in hopes of adding some pieces to the puzzle.
"We have a large class of about 30 players from CLC becoming eligible," Kern said. "We hope to get some of those players. CLC is going to be a big place for us to recruit, in order to continually keep in young players."
Kern and the Lumberjacks will also be holding a few tryouts during the off-season. The first will be Sept. 29 at Anytime Fitness in Brainerd.
As the team grows and gains experience, so will the plays that Kern calls.
"We have to get more plays on offense and defense," Kern said, "But as always, I want to make sure that we are prepared to execute the plays we do call and not get above and beyond what we can do with the amount of practice we can get in."
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