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"That was a great bunch of kids," Martens says, recalling his previous, mostly senior team. "They did well all the way through school, not only in sports but in class and in other extracurricular activities. They were an easy group to coach, at least for me. They responded to the serious, intense approach, and that's the kind of personality I have."
The present seniors are well aware of the record and general reputation of their predecessors, both of which rankle them. "We heard about those guys all the way through school," says Rick Jensen. "What super studs and students they were. Our class is meant to be the rowdy one, and I guess I'm meant to be one of the worst rowdies."
"What do you do to be a rowdy?"
"Not so much, at least in this town. Just messing around, you know, not caring that much about school or what people think of you. I guess it's what they call attitude."
"They were always big on that school-spirit stuff," says Randi Noel of the departed seniors. "We laugh at it. I don't play football for the school or Martens. I play it for me. They think I'm a rowdy because I hang around with Rick."
As a matter of fact, Jensen, the football lover, had seriously considered not playing in his senior year. He felt he had not been given enough playing time as a junior, that Martens had unjustly favored the straight-arrow seniors he found more compatible personally. By summer Jensen had changed his mind. "I suppose I cooled off," he says. "I got to thinking how bad I'd feel sitting in the stands watching all these guys play. Another thing is, my old man is a real football freak. He used to play here, and he runs the scoreboard for home games. If I hadn't played, it would have been a bad fall around the house."
Martens gives no indication that his redheaded fullback-linebacker is on any kind of a bad list. "He's a tough kid," the coach says, "and he has a real feel for this game. He may not be the greatest practice player, but that's just his temperament. On Friday night Rick comes to play. You never have to worry about him putting out.
"This is a funny bunch. There are a lot of good kids, but they are not very cohesive. They don't give you a team feeling. There are no real leaders. They all look up to Jensen and Steve Hunt, but those two just play their own game, do their own thing. Cree and Noel do some hollering and talking, but the rest don't listen much. Jeff Schutter is going to run the team fine—he's a strong, smart, dedicated kid—but he's more of a technician, not the inspirational-type quarterback. I guess that's going to be my job, bringing them together, finding out how to reach them."
Martens' main worry this season is lack of depth. "I may have as many as nine people playing both ways, including Jeff, and I usually like to give the quarterback some rest if I can. Some of my people are really going to be dragging in that last quarter."
There is a venerable conditioning drill Martens uses during the hot August two-a-days. He stands in the center of a big circle and tosses the football at random to one of the players, who starts sprinting around the circle clockwise. The man next to him takes off in pursuit, then a third man starts chasing the second, and so on until the entire squad is chugging around, chasing itself.