There may not be a more inspiring story in high school football than that of the tiny Stephen/Argyle Central High School Storm and their charismatic head coach, Mark Kroulik.
While other high schools under 100 students (total) might forgo a football team altogether, the schools of Stephen, MN and Argyle, MN banded together, and the Stephen/Argyle Storm have collected seven football state championship titles under head coach Mark Kroulik, who led the team from 1994 – 2009. Six of those state championship titles have come since 2003.
Nothing like rooting for the little guys, is there?
Head coach Mark Kroulik, succeeded this year by former assistant football coach Jamie Lunsetter, has been a fixture in Minnesota high school football for the last fifteen years. Kroulik often had the Stephen/Argyle Storm up and on the field practicing before sunrise (the locker room opened at 5:30 a.m.). Kroulik is also known for his speech-making abilities in the locker room and on the field.
Most notably, under Mark Kroulik’s guidance, the Stephen/Argyle Storm won five consecutive nine man football state championships, from 2003-2007. Actually, most notable of all is the fact that under Kroulik, the Stephen/Argyle Storm held the Minnesota high school football state record for most consecutive wins at 76.
The 76-game winning streak came to an end in the high school football playoffs in 2008 – a heartbreaking loss, since the Stephen/Argyle Storm had gone 9-0 for the season up until that game. Though they lost their bid to play in the championship game in 2008, the tiny Stephen/Argyle Storm came back and won the state championship again in 2009 – which also happened to be Kroulik’s final year as head coach.
Oh, and Mark Kroulik is also the principal at Stephen/Argyle Central High School.
What is nine man football? Some schools in rural areas, such as Stephen/Argyle Central High School, are too small to play traditional eleven man football. Rural schools often don’t have enough students. So, they play nine man football instead.
In nine man football, the lineup consists of a quarterback, a tailback, a fullback and five linemen. There is an additional player in the backfield that often plays either tight end or an additional wide receiver.
The thing about nine man football – at least at Stephen/Argyle Central High School – is that no player plays any one position. Instead, if you play an offensive lineman, than you play a defensive lineman, too. If you play quarterback, you also play a linebacker, or a cornerback. Or if you play running back, you also play defensive back.
So, it’s twice the work for the players of the Stephen/Argyle Storm than it would be for kids at a bigger school. They each have to learn two positions – one offensive, and one defensive – and they have to be good at both. That’s a much taller order than it would be for a traditional large school with an eleven man football team.
Not only that, but Stephen/Argyle plays with fewer guys on the football field, which means Storm players need to work even harder while they’re out there. Makes that 76-game winning streak look pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
United in 1996, Stephen/Argyle Central High School fits the mold for a tiny, rural school that would need to play nine man football. Stephen/Argyle Central High School binds the small northwest Minnesota towns of Stephen, MN and Argyle, MN together in school district 2856.
According to the Stephen/Argyle Central High School website, Stephen and Argyle are located roughly fifty miles northeast of Grand Forks, ND. Stephen/Argyle Central High School is located in Stephen, MN; the elementary school is located in Argyle, MN.
Stephen/Argyle Central High School averages less than nineteen students per class, with only 96 enrolled students. Total.
One of the most amazing things about Stephen/Argyle Central High School is that despite their emphasis on athletics, the school doesn’t charge students for participating in sports. Of course, if they did, they might not have enough Storm players for the season. Nevertheless, it allows every student who is willing and able to participate in Stephen/Argyle athletics to play.
And play they do. Despite the head coach change this season, Stephen/Argyle Central High School will rise to the challenge as they attempt to take their seventh state championship title in eight years. Kroulik has been such an influence as the Storm head coach, that news sources from Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, MN published stories about Kroulik’s retirement.
Nonetheless, under Lunsetter, the Stephen/Argyle Central High School Storm is ready to take on whatever gets in their way. And if they need one of those famous Kroulik speeches, they know where to find him. In the principal’s office.
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