Male Area Athlete of the Week: Two-way player Ervasti leading Verndale


After injuries have sidelined him the previous two seasons, the Verndale senior running back and middle linebacker is healthy and last week ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in the Pirates 62-16 win over Ortonville.

“He’s always been a leader for us,” Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen said. “He’s had the misfortune of having ankle injuries his sophomore and junior season. This year, he’s one of the captains and his intensity has been there always. From the time he was a freshman as our leading tackler until now he’s always had the intensity and is ready to go all the time.”

The injuries have helped Ervasti have perspective.

“I just try to not take too much for granted,” Ervasti said. “Last year, I was doing pretty good until I got a high ankle sprain. I’m just doing what I can with what I got and enjoying every moment.”

Ervasti was quick to credit his offensive line for his performance on the ground.

“Show grit and never quit is the Verndale way and my line made it so easy for me,” he said.

So far on the year, Ervasti has rushed for 646 yards and 11 touchdowns on 53 attempts. He’s added three 2-point conversions. He’s also recorded 33 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and six tackles for loss.

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“He’s in really good condition and has been extremely active in the weight room,” Mahlen said. “He’s worked really hard to be in good shape and this year he hasn’t had to play more than a half in all of our first four games. He’s always had that energy and he’s what I call a football player.”

Mahlen said Ervasti is averaging about 12 yards per carry, which he says can be credited to the competition Verndale has played early in the season. However, Mahlen added last year Ervasti ran the ball effectively against good teams.

“He had a pretty high average last year,” Mahlen said. “A lot of that is again his conditioning and weight lighting. He’s in pretty tip-top shape for a high school athlete.”

Mahlen couldn’t decide whether Ervasti was a better middle linebacker or running back.

“He’s a pretty good linebacker,” Mahlen said. “Running the ball you need to have good linemen blocking for you and defensively he’s been pretty solid every year.

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“He’s pretty easy to coach. He’s always giving full effort in practice and games. He’s always thinking about football.”

Last year, Ervasti was named to the All-Section 4 Nine-Man team and finished the season with 588 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 71 carries. He recorded 26 tackles as well in the limited time he saw due to injury.

“Seniors always seem to step it up a notch,” Mahlen said. “He’s been pretty steady all the way through. His improvement has been maturity.”

Ervasti added maturity is a big part of his success.

“I just try to take it one obstacle at a time,” he said. “I try to lead by example. I love the game and try to understand it better. I’m always in the weight room and maturing when getting older is just a part of it.”

Other notable performances:
Football: Sivert Klefsaas, Staples-Motley, rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
Louis Sobiech, Little Falls, caught four passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Darby Boelter, Pequot Lakes, caught three passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Zac Jones, Pierz, caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Year: Senior

School: Verndale

Sport: Football

Position: Running back/linebacker

Highlights: He rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

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