Countdown to kickoff: ‘The buzz is here, there’s a vibe’ Lutheran football looks to continue growth in Luedke’s second year

The ‘Saders posted a 6-4 record in 2022 which included a playoff win
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 11:01 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Many high school students nowadays probably don’t know who Tom Petty was. A while back, that could be true for some Lutheran football players. But the team is now familiar with the late rock star and his 1989 smash hit ‘I won’t back down’, the team’s theme song for the 2023 season.

“Since we’re the smallest school (in the BNC) we got to focus on that, not backing down,” junior DE/LT Evan Nitz said.

The team certainly isn’t backing down from expectations following a 2022 season that saw Lutheran snap a five-year playoff drought. Last year also brought stability to a program that was on its third head coach in a three-year span.

“Practices are going much smoother, we don’t have as much friction between the coaches and the players regarding what to do and what not to do so consistency is the word I think I would use right now,” Lutheran head coach Jeff Luedke said.

“We know we can go farther, we just have to stay together as a team and not argue and bicker on the football field,” sophomore RB Gavin Sanders said.

The team will be tested quick as they open against three playoff teams in Winnebago, Byron, and Stillman Valley. Last year Lutheran fell to Byron and Stillman but took down Winnebago in the final week of the regular season to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

“We’re not going to catch anybody by surprise, A. expectations are going to be higher for us, B. and C. I think the kids are buying into the program that we set up last January,” Luedke said.

The buy-in is apparent heading into 2023. Lutheran ended last year with just 22 players after a second-round finish in the class 1A playoffs and enters 2023 with 40 players on the roster. The program is also building toward a future as well as Lutheran now as a JV and 8th-grade team.