Hardrockers have same lofty goals, extra motivation
It was a tale of two halves for the Hardrocker football team last season. After winning five of their first six games, the Hardrockers lost their final fives games of the season to finish below .500.
But this year, head coach Zach Tinker is convinced his team will be more competitive in the RMAC Conference.
South Dakota Mines kicked off practice for the 2017 season on Monday, Aug. 7. The Hardrockers are coming off a year in which they finished 4-6 in the conference and 5-6 overall.
Last year, the Rockers were hit hard by injuries which contributed to their losing streak at the end of the season. Coach Tinker feels his team is motivated by last year’s poor finish.
"What we didn’t do great last season was we weren’t able to recover and get that next one when we did lose one," Tinker said. "So that’s what it’s all about. You got to finish. Get in to those 11 games. Our goal is to get in to 11 games. Be tight in 11 games and see if we can finish those games because we know we’re doing the things that good teams do to finish games."
South Dakota Mines has a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball. But overall, the Hardrockers return a core group of players including quarterback Jake Sullivan.
The junior passed for nearly 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for eight scores before missing the last two games of the season with an ACL injury.
"I’m just blessed to be out here with my team," Jake Sullivan said. "My second family actually. At first it was frustrating. Any injury really is. But when you have the support system like I have with my family and coaches and my teammates, it goes by pretty smoothly. These last couple days of fall camp, it feels like nothing even happened and I’m blessed to be out here."
"We’ve got a lot of guys back who have started games," Tinker said. "How you call them starters, I’m not sure. I really don’t know how you call that. I mean we feel like we have four returning starters on the offensive line. We’ve got Jake back. So we feel like we probably have about seven returners on offense probably. And probably eight returners on defense when it comes to starters so."
South Dakota Mines opens the season on August 31 at William Jewell College in Missouri. The Hardrockers home opener is Saturday, Sept. 9 against Dixie State.