Male Area Athlete of the Week: Verndale running back rushes for over 250 yards
Verndale junior earns male area athlete of the week
Hillcrest couldn’t stop Jaden Schulke last week.
The Verndale junior rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns as the Pirates won 56-27 over the Comets.
Schulke’s first score came on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone for Verndale’s first touchdown. He rushed in the two-point conversion to give the Pirates their first lead at 8-6.
In the second quarter, Schulke scored on another 1-yard run and ran in the two-point to make it 24-6 Pirates.
With 42 seconds left in the first half, Schulke got his third touchdown on a 10-yard run to give Verndale a 32-6 halftime lead.
“It felt pretty good,” Schulke said. “We obviously played pretty well and it was fun. The O-line was making wide gaps. I mean, you could walk through them untouched. It was pretty easy.”
In total, Schulke carried the ball 30 times and was responsible for more than half of Verndale's 473 rushing yards.
“I don’t know if I expected 255 yards, but we expected him to be our lead back,” Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen said. “We expect him to do well and he did really well.”
As a running back, Schulke is not the typical bruising back the Pirates have had in the past.
Mahlen estimates Schulke weights around 140 pounds and uses his elusiveness to shake off tacklers.
“He is just a really good, instinctive runner,” Mahlen said. “He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he really sees the field well and just has natural cutting ability that you don’t teach a kid. They just have them or they don’t. Some of the things he does are hard to teach. He’s not a bruiser, but he’s still hard to bring down.”
Schulke also plays defensive back for the Pirates secondary. Last season, he finished with 15 solo tackles, with five tackles for loss.
“He’s our safety and coach (Greg) Johnson runs the defense and he’ll move him around and use him in different spots,” Mahlen said. “He’s a very good tackler and comes up well on the run and makes good plays there.”
Schulke added: “Playing hard defense goes into playing hard offense and that’s how I play. I probably like offense a little more than defense because I like moving the ball and scoring touchdowns.”
Last season, Schulke finished with 323 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 34 carries which was third on the team.
He said last year’s All-Area football player of the year Gideon Ervasti was a mentor to him in how he runs the ball.
“Last year, we had a pretty good running back in Gideon Ervasti who I kind of look up to,” Schulke said. “He ran the ball hard and that’s what I came out to do.”
Schulke also has a bad taste in his mouth with how the Pirates season ended in a loss to Wheaton in the Section 4-9 Man Final.
“We just want to win some football games and go a little farther than the Fargodome,” Schulke said.
Mahlen said Schulke is turning into a leader for his football team.
“He gets along great with everybody,” he said. “He’s laid back and is one of those leaders by example.”
Schulke made a point to say he gets good advice from his head coach, who is in his 54th year at Verndale.
“He always tells us to play hard through everything and even if we are tired or not,” he said.
Other notable performances:
Football: Reese Young, Pierz, rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries against Holdingford.
Kirby Fischer, Pierz, scored two touchdowns against Holdingford.
Evan Lunde, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored two touchdowns against Staples-Motley.
Teshe Loer, Wadena-Deer Creek, caught 10 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown against Staples-Motley.
Irvin Tulenchik, Pine River-Backus, threw for 160 yards and four touchdowns against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Cross-Country: Lane Hoefs, Wadena-Deer Creek, won the New York Mills invite in 18:09.18.
School: Verndale High School
Position: Running back
Highlights: He rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns against Hillcrest.