From the fair to the field Southland athletes balance football and 4-H

Published 5:08 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

ADAMS — It’s a sunny afternoon in mid-August and the Southland football team is already in its second week of practice.

Beyond the grassy practice field lies a farm with the sounds of cattle echoing as players are shouting out football terminology in preparation for their first game of the season, which is only one week away.

It’s a unique year in Southland this season as the Rebels are set to play a “zero week game” which takes place a week before most of the state begins playing. That early start is complicated by the fact that the Rebels roster is full of players who are active in farming and 4-H. Five of those players will be showing their animals at the Minnesota State Fair, which runs from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4 in St. Paul.

Email newsletter signup

Those five state qualifiers are Andrew Timm, Beau Sathre, Brandon Thome, Preston Sayles and Lawson Jax.

The timing of 4-H and football have made for a hectic few weeks for the players, but it’s also taught them time management and discipline.

“With football starting early, we had to really balance football practice with being over at the fair to take care of our animals,” said Jax, who shows dairy steer and beef. “It kind of throws a wrench into the system for our first game because we show that day. It sucks, because we’ll show and then we’ll come back and hopefully make it back for the start of the game. We might not get back until halftime, but we’ll throw the pads on and go out and play. Doing both builds a lot of character and it makes you more mentally strong. A lot of things don’t bother you as much when you’re used to that physical labor.”

Timm has shown Hereford beef for years and he’s even seen national shows. He knows all too well how quickly things can take a turn for the worse in showing animals, just like it can on the football field.

Three years ago Timm was showing a steer, which broke its leg coming out of the gate. The steer had to be put down on the spot.

“That was one tough time. You just have to get over it and move on,” Timm said. “It’s just a way of life. You have to bounce back and you can’t sit and dwell on it. Your work ethic is pretty good when you do something like showing calves and then going back to football.”

Southland head football coach JJ Galle likes the work ethic of his players who are in 4-H, but it’s made holding practices difficult. Galle was short by about 10 kids on some days during fair week, but he was fine with his players showing their commitment to 4-H.

The only thing he asked is that his players communicate with him directly instead of working through their parents.

“There have been a lot of challenges,” Galle said. “They didn’t get much time off after summer activities, but they’ve done a good job. We didn’t have much of a break and then having their fair, we’ve tried to make practice work.”

Thome, who shows breeding heifers, says that he is accustomed to getting up at 6 a.m. every day to wash and walk his animals during fair week and he’s also learned to save enough energy to still be able to go out and compete on the football field.

“We’ve been very busy. You try to get here whenever we can and sometimes it just doesn’t work out, but the coaches have been great about working with us,” Thome said. “A lot of times you have to get your work done on the football field, so you can get back and help out on the farm. The work never really stops when you add all of it together.”

Southland is looking to turn things around this season after losing many close games last season. With most of their roster back, the Rebels certainly have the potential to make a turnaround.

“We need to be disciplined and not be satisfied. We’ve got to work hard, be enthusiastic and play selfless,” Galle said. “Last year we missed out on a couple of plays here or there and we didn’t finish games. We want to make it a point where if it’s a 10 yard sprint, we need to go 10 yards and not nine and a half yards. It’s the little things.”

Southland will open its season against Lanesboro next Friday at 7 p.m.