Vandercook Lake football coach Daniel Midena will oversee the Jayhawks transition back to 11-man football.
VANDERCOOK LAKE -- The Vandercook Lake football team has a new coach, and a plan to head back to 11-man football. Daniel Midena has his Jayhawks in the weight room and in camp for summer work, preparing for a 2023 junior varsity season with an eye toward returning to 11-man football in the Cascades Conference in 2024. “I want the kids to be able to compete, have fun,” Midena said. “I don’t think these kids are experienced enough, ready for the varsity level, so I don’t want these kids to go out and not enjoy the game of football. I think having them play a JV season will benefit them in many ways and benefit the program in the long run.” Vandercook Lake players spent June doing weight lifting and skill work. “They’re working hard, they’re getting faster, getting stronger,” Midena said. “We’ve had a lot of kids showing up, so that’s good.” Low numbers plagued the Jayhawks in their final year in 8-man football in 2022, needing for forfeit several games and going 0-4 in the games they did play, capped off by a 70-0 loss at Concord. The Jayhawks are expecting 35 for the first week of practice in the fall, though the numbers for the summer work have been a bit shy of that. “I think building relationships with these kids, teaching here too has helped, so I think No. 1 this summer we’ve done a nice job of having guys showing up and doing the work,” he said. Midena is not looking just to the near future but to build beyond that. Vandercook Lake will hold a youth camp July 25-26. Midena himself coached the middle school level the past three years and now moves into a high school level where a lot of the players in the next few years will have already worked with him. “Every great program starts with a great youth program,” Midena said. “I think that’s where we start is down at the youth level.” In addition to the move to play a JV schedule this fall comes a move back to 11-man football. Following a winless 2019 season, the Jayhawks moved from 11-man football to 8-man in 2020, going 4-2 and outscoring opponents 224-155. But Vandercook Lake went 3-6 in 2021, then winless again in 2022 before the reset, and return to 11-man this year. “I’ve never coached 8-man football, so for me it won’t be a problem, and I don’t think for these kids it would be a problem,” Midena said. “You’re still going to tackle, block, run the football. So all those things are still involved in the game.”