Perham football: Team ups tempo in search for state title
With 18 returning seniors and new coaching methods, the level of excitement is high within Yellowjacket football.
"No walking!" is a phrase you will hear shouted out often on the practice fields at Perham football practice.
It's a phrase, first-year head coach Aron Velde hopes is instilled into the minds of the Yellowjacket football players as he looks to have a team always ready to hustle and always focused on staying a step ahead of the other teams they'll encounter in the 2021 season. It's a phrase he hopes he won't have to keep repeating.
Thankfully the 18 returning seniors offer great leadership for the team and the new head coach. Players like senior middle linebacker Brian Ramos have noticed an added drive in their new coach and in each other as they've gone from optional summer practices to high-speed workouts in August.
Ramos said it's the connections with his team that will make them successful.
"I loved the coaching staff before, but I don't think we could have gotten better replacements," Ramos said.
Ramos said the team had high hopes last year despite the COVID chaos. He believed they could have gone to state then and can do so this year.
"I believe we have chance to make it to semi-finals, obviously the end goal is state title," Ramos said. "I truly believe in our team that we can make it that far, but it's one game at a time."
"We're gonna be tough this year, we're gonna play hard and play fast," Rian Solberg said. He and Ramos agreed the team's leaders know what they need to do.
Defensive coordinator Josh Fuller is entering his second year coaching in Perham and said he's seen an increase in the tempo this year that he's excited to see that move over to the playing field. He believes the team and coaching staff has been quick to latch onto new ideas of how they can prepare the team for showtime.
Fuller brings eight seasons of assistant coaching while in Moorhead, then in Pelican Rapids and from the outside of the game as an official.
The drive behind Velde's coaching is from his other football experience including his days playing high school ball in Fergus Falls, then onto North Dakota State University as a receiver. After an injury, Velde moved to coaching while working as an English teacher.
He started coaching in college at Fargo South High School. While there, the team won the state AAA title in 2010. The Bruins had another state playoff run in 2011, and it was after that that he moved to Frazee for his first teaching job. While at Frazee, he coached for three years under Jim Rader.
After he married and went back to school for his master's degree, he and his wife moved back to Fargo. This time he coached under now retired Jay Gibson at West Fargo High School. The team had two state semi-final appearances his first two years there, and after that, "we were able to put it all together and go undefeated to a state AAA title in 2017," Velde said.
After that success, Velde and his family moved back to Perham, where he coached under Knutson for the past three seasons. Knutson resigned in 2020 with Velde taking over this spring. During his three year stint with the Yellowjackets, Velde coached the varsity wide receivers and defensive backs, assisted with play calling, and helped the program set several single game and season records for receiving. He was on the staff that helped lead the Yellowjackets to the Class AAA semifinals in 2018.
He's thankful for the opportunities he has had to work with great coaches.
"I've been very fortunate to get to work with a lot of great coaches who mentored me and taught me what it means to be a good coach and, more importantly, a great teacher," he said. "I've also been blessed to get to work with hundreds of great student-athletes along the way."
He's also pleased to work with a group of experienced players.
"It's a pretty neat year to become the head coach because we've a lot of great leadership from our older players on the team, it's made my job pretty easy," Velde said. "There's no big egos, they all want to do the team thing."
Velde said the team has great leadership, an impressive offensive line, balanced passing and running, and a drive to compete.