The young men on the Academy of Holy Angels football team have something special to play for this season.
The team has dedicated their play to their fathers – and for good reason because – as a couple of the squad's captains are learning – life is sometimes all too fragile.
Offensive linemen Erik Nygren and Jake Pierce share a bond off the field. Nygren lost his father, Nathan, on a July camping trip because of an ailing heart. While Pierce's father is still living, he has been diagnosed with a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.
According to KARE 11, while football has helped Nygren in the healing process, it's been an escape for Pierce and an opportunity for the two and the rest of their team to come together and support and learn from each other.
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Football has come under a lot of fire recently for the health problems that it's been linked to. But those who have played the game talk about the unshakable bonds or brotherhood forged by playing the ultimate team game.
It is that brotherhood that has teammates rallying to support Nygren and Pierce. According to KARE, the entire team has dedicated their season to both fathers.
"What we're focusing on is being there for each other, supporting each other, loving each other," Stars coach Jim Gunderson told Minnesota Football Hub.com. "What we're dealing with [Erik and Jake], we've let them know they're not alone in this thing. We're for each other."
Holy Angels is 3-1 on the season. They are coming off their first loss of the season to Orono. The Stars have played in two straight state Class 4A tournaments, including the 2013 Prep Bowl. They will play at Chaska on Friday night.