SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Augustana football team accomplished a lot in 2021 including a nine win season, an NSIC regular season title and a home playoff game, but this year’s senior class will be remembered for a lot more.
Augustana finished the regular season with a 9-2 record, earning them a first round home game in the Division II Playoffs. However, the Vikings would fall to Bemidji State, 28-24.
“I think it was an excellent example of Division II football with two quality teams getting after it,” Augustana head coach Jerry Olszewski said. “They played a good football game and we quite didn’t get it done. Congratulations to them, but I just feel for our seniors and the guys here.”
This year’s senior class had to face a challenge unlike any other in the COVID-19 pandemic, which took away the entire 2020 season, forcing the team to practice for an entire year.
“We’ve been through a lot. Watching boys become men is a real joy and t hen you add in COVID and not being able to play ball and to go through the number of practices that they went through,” Olszewski said. “This group of seniors never paused and I don’t know, some programs maybe pulled apart during COVID, but ours galvanized.”
“With the COVID too, we all went through it knowing this is our last year, but we had two years. We had a two year senior season,” Augustana senior Logan Swanson said. “We got to build even more relationships with each other and have even more fun for the game that we love and that’s truly special.”
Saturday’s season ending loss still doesn’t take away from what the Vikings were able to do in 2021, which included a 9-2 regular season record and a conference title.
“The eleven games prior to this give you the opportunity and then it’s one and done. We talked all week, sixty minutes for sixty more, but the eleven games previous, this is a good football team,” Olszewski said. “It’s one of those things where you’d like to ride this as long as you can, because these kids are special. They’re going to be great leaders in their communities, they’re going to be great husbands, great fathers and great professionals. You know, you’ll miss them. Part of you dies every time you say goodbye to them. This group is really, really, really special.”
This year’s seniors made quite the impact in their time at Augie. The Vikings went 25-10 over the past three seasons.
“Since we were freshman, our goal has been to make Augustana a football school and I’m proud to say that we can leave Augustana saying we made Augustana a football school,” Swanson said.
“We want to be known nationally as a good football program and these guys put it on the map. When you go out an recruit kids, it’s not ‘who are you?’ It’s different and I can’t thank them enough,” Olszewski said.
“The program has created such a culture of inviting these freshman in and creating a family,” Augustana senior Kyle Saddler said. “When you look at the senior class, it’s just something special and I’m 100% sure that next year’s seniors are going to be the same way and set the culture of the program like that.”
Despite losing 22 seniors to graduation in 2021, Augustana still returns plenty of talent for next season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys returning. There’s some major seniors that we’ll miss, but like Logan said, their legacy is to make sure they give what they can to this program and expect to win when you walk out of the tunnel,” Olszewski said.
“What I hope most is that, these young guys take after and keep building the program and see even more for them next year,” Saddler said.