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Sean Jacobson, right, is one of New Life’s five captains this fall. (Submitted photo by Steve Rooker)

A new, winning attitude: Teigland takes over Eagles' football program

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A new, winning attitude: Teigland takes over Eagles' football program
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Gene Teigland has never held a varsity head coaching job before.

You wouldn’t know it by watching him lead New Life Academy’s football program.

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“He’s handling it like a 25-year veteran,” Senior captain Ian Harder said.

Teigland learned how to handle a program during his years as an assistant at Becker, which has established itself as one of the top AAAA programs in the state.

“That was a great preparation for me in terms of how do we prepare for practice, what kind of mentality do we need to get better, how do we grow from year to year,” Teigland said.

But this is just his first year as head honcho of the Eagles, and Teigland is taking over a New Life squad that won just two games in 2013.

Still, that doesn’t mean Teigland is ready to accept losing this fall.

And he doesn’t expect his players to do so, either.

“He’s really brought a new attitude with winning, because we’ve struggled in the past,” New Life senior captain Seth Rice said. “I think we can do it this year and he’s gone a long ways toward helping that.”

That shift in attitude could make all the difference for an Eagles’ squad that was so close to flipping the script last season. Four of New Life’s seven losses came by seven points or less a year ago.

“Seeing the record, I didn’t know much about the New Life Academy program, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much talent is actually here, which has been fun to work with and these are great guys,” Teigland said. “They want to learn the game. [Former coach Paul] Mork did a great job of building a foundation of guys wanting to play football. I guess I’ve been surprised with how great these guys are and how well they’ve been listening and taking the coaching.”

That’s helped Teigland as he’s worked to implement his system. On the offensive side of the ball, Teigland said he likes to stay 50-50 between the run and the pass, and on the defensive side he likes to have his guys get after it and keep opposing offenses guessing.

“One thing I learned from Becker was they had a great system. It’s not overly complicated, but they just do it really well,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to get to, as well.”

Teigland’s simplistic system has been easy for the players to grasp in a short period of time. By the fourth day of fall practice the players had most of it down.

“I think it’s complicated, but he’s teaching it in an easy way so we can all understand it and learn it better,” Harder said.

Regardless of the plays or schemes New Life runs, Teigland hopes his squad does so at full speed.

“If you’re going to make a mistake, make it at full speed,” Teigland said. “Just get after it every play, play with passion and do everything you can at full speed. Hopefully that translates from football and into their life, their relationship with Christ and into their daily work with school and beyond school. Just to do everything full speed.”

Teigland said he takes an enthusiastic approach to coaching.

“I think that the best way to enjoy life is just to have passion, so I’m definitely enthusiastic and encouraging, but I’m very competitive,” Teigland said. “I don’t like losing, but you always want to win the right way. So as a coach I try to instill that into these guys, winning is important, it definitely is, but at the same time we want to do it the right way. Let’s do it with passion and enthusiasm.”

That fervor for the sport has brought fresh faces to the program, as players who haven’t suited up before, or haven’t put a helmet on for a long time, have joined the football team this season due to Teigland’s presence. One of those players is Sam Horner, a star on the Eagles’ baseball squad that won the Class A state title this spring, who went out for football for the first time since he started high school.

“I just think his youth is exciting for everyone on the team to see,” Eagles’ captain Ty Frazier said.

Teigland hopes that newfound zeal for the football season extends to Friday nights.

“I would love to see a renewed passion for the game, so that come Friday night, fans are excited,” he said. “Just a genuine excitement and higher energy on the field. Better tackling, more speed, just want to raise up so there’s a great love for the game. I think if you do that, wins will take care of themselves. So I think that’s really my overall goal for these guys is just to have a blast playing with full passion, and then it’s our job as coaches to put them in the best position to do it, so hopefully they can turn in the wins.”

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