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Chris Murphy, Published November 26 2013

Underwood football team ready for the big dig with a state title

Underwood, Minn. - There’s an unknown gem in this town of 341 residents. Just like Underwood on a map, it’s hidden.

Underwood High School football coach Chuck Ross has his metal detector ready to dig it up, but it will first require a Rockets’ win Friday in the Minnesota Class 9-man state championship game.

“I want to dig it up really bad,” Underwood senior linebacker A.J. Montgomery said. “I want to find it really bad.”

There’s a 2006 state-qualifying medal buried next to the goal post at the Underwood High School football field. It represented how close the Rockets came to their first state title game, as the 2006 Rockets fell in the semifinals.

Ross buried it with seventh and eighth graders, who went undefeated during their junior varsity season. He told those seventh and eighth graders they would dig it up when the Rockets won their first state title.

Ross was planting an idea that Underwood football could win a state title. Those seventh-graders grew into the seniors currently on the Underwood football team that is one win away from the program’s first state title.

“I said, ‘Between you two grades, you have a lot of potential to be something special. This will give you something you can visualize and see, and hopefully you’ll work hard at it, because it’s not going to come easy. If

you continue to work hard, you’ll be able to come back some day and dig it up,’” Ross said.

For an undefeated junior varsity, everything seemed easy, but Underwood found out the hard way that winning a state title was anything but.

“We were a really motivated class and we thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to dig this up,’” Underwood senior center/linebacker Max Kollar said. “As we went along though, we realized how hard it was.”

The senior class for Underwood lost 18-12 to eventual state champion Cromwell in the state semifinals as freshmen in 2010. The Rockets then lost in the section semifinals as sophomores and the section championship as juniors.

The seniors thought the only thing they would be digging this season was snow from their driveway.

“Thinking back to May, we didn’t think we’d amount to much of anything,” Underwood quarterback Adam Creek said. “We lost the whole team basically because they were all seniors. We didn’t have a lot of confidence in the young kids that were coming up, but once the season started going on, we started to get into a habit and got confidence in winning games and here we are.”

Underwood lost two of its first three games and Montgomery, who came into the season as the starting running back, tore an ACL in the first game. The Rockets won nine of their next 10 games, topping No. 2 seed Wheaton-Herman-Norcross and top-seeded Verndale – both of which the Rockets lost to earlier in the season – for the section crown. After that, it was just a matter of beating the No. 5 and No. 6-ranked teams in the state.

They did just that.

“It’s really a Cinderella story,” Ross said. “It was a rough start to the season. To keep improving throughout the season and give yourself a chance to win a state championship, it’s a Cinderella story that will hopefully come true.”

Driving by and missing Underwood is just a blink away, especially since there’s no stop light in the town. In its first trip to the state title game in program history, the Rockets are looking to put Underwood on the map.

“The medal thing wasn’t really my thing because I came here a year later, but you can feel it,” Creek said. “I’m a part of this class and this community, and it’s a pretty cool thing. It would be great more for this town more than anything. We’ve shown ourselves how much we can play, but this would be for the town.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548