For the whole off-season, Barnum football coach Mike Klyve preached to his players about how important an opening-game win could be for the team's season. After winning one game in the previous two years, getting off to a 1-0 start would be sweet indeed.
Then his team went out and did it.
Stepping up to Class AA this season, the Bombers defeated an Aitkin team that went 7-2 last season by a 12-6 score in last Thursday's season opener.
"I was proud of the kids," Klyve said. "Not surprised, but proud. They were tired of other teams dictating to them and they decided how it was going to be against Aitkin."
The twin Nynas brothers — quarterback Tyler and running back/lineman Jake — sparked the Bombers to victory. Tyler Nynas threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Kielty in the second quarter for the game's first score, and then hooked up with Drake Weets from 10 yards in the third period. The Bombers survived a 25-yard scoring dash from Aitkin's Luke Pelarski in the fourth quarter and held on to win.
For the night, Tyler Nynas completed eight of 15 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing 17 times for 98 yards. Jake Nynas rushed nine times for 55 yards and had a stellar game on defense, making 15.5 tackles and recovering a fumble.
Quinn Casey rushed 16 times for 69 yards and Tony Robinson added three carries for 40 more yards. The Bombers rolled up 366 yards of offense on 57 plays.
But it was the defense that was the story. Aitkin ran only 38 plays from scrimmage in the contest and Barnum forced three turnovers.
"You could tell they wanted to get after it," Klyve said. "The defense played outstanding. The offense played a big role, but we held Aitkin and that was great to see."
Barnum overcame some early frustration and held on in a poised performance.
"As a team, they stayed together," Klyve said. "The last couple of years with a young team, when things fell apart under adversity, stuff in the huddle could fall apart. That didn't happen against Aitkin."
The first win coming in the first game may well pay dividends for the rest of Barnum's season.
"It's a strong foundation," Klyve said. "It's a huge win against a quality opponent, so it's even bigger. Now we have to build on top of the foundation and not linger on it."
Next up for the Bombers is Rush City (0-1) at Barnum Friday night. The Tigers lost their opening game 21-6 at Pine City and should be loaded for bear.
"We can't spend too much time thinking about the Aitkin game," Klyve said. "Rush City comes to town Friday whether we're ready or not."
That said, it's impossible not to enjoy a bit of a glow from the opening game win.
"These kids set a goal for themselves, went out there and met it," he said. "We believe in the kids.
"Every week for the last couple of years, even coming off losses, we watched the film on the smartboard and once you close the video, that's it," he added. "The game's over. Nobody wins games on the momentum from the week before. We have to play better now because now there's film on us and other teams start figuring you out. We need to be disciplined and find more effort. It's a big win, but we have to take another step."