WIBAUX — Jeff Bertelsen can't stay away from the game of football.
The longtime head coach of the Wibaux Longhorns took a brief hiatus after the 2016 season, but Bertelsen is back on the sidelines calling the shots this fall.
"I was able to watch my younger son, Chase, play at Rocky and did that for a couple years. I was always still kind of dabbling a little bit. (Craig) Lunde, who had taken over, got me up a day or two a week helping out. I was still participating in the Rocky football camp and the (8-Man Bob) Cleverley all-star game," Bertelsen told MTN Sports over the phone. "We have 12 kids out this fall, which is really good numbers for us right now. ... I enjoy it so much. This is such a fun group of kids that I've already got a chance to work with part time the last few years and now taking over as the head man and getting them to understand what I expect and who I am and whatnot."
Wibaux has been home for Bertelsen nearly his entire life. Bertelsen won a pair of 8-Man state titles with the Longhorns in 1991 and 1992, then played tight end at Dickinson State. Following his playing days, he was an assistant to Kirby Eisenhauer for three years in Wibaux, which concluded with a state title in 2000. Bertelsen then coached Wibaux to eight 8-Man title game appearances, winning in 2001 and 2014.
Bertelsen racked up 154 victories and just 20 losses in his 16 seasons at the helm for Wibaux.
"My goal is to make sure that we compete all four quarters and see where things kind of fall," Bertelsen said.
One big change to the Wibaux football program since Bertelsen's coaching days is that the Longhorns now play 6-Man football. After playing and coaching 8- and 11-Man his entire career, Bertelsen admits there will be a learning curve. However, spending time under former head coach and current assistant Craig Lunde over the past few years has given Bertelsen a slight head start on preparing for the transition.
"We basically swapped roles," Bertelsen said of he and Lunde. "He wants to go watch his son Tel play at Dickinson, so we've kind of swapped roles, but he still helps me out since he works in the school. (Lunde) was a little more spread, little more wide open. My background is line up and see what we can do going straight ahead. I'm not sure this 1st and 15 in 6-Man is going to work, but we're sure going to give it a try. ... I got a taste of it, but I still think I'm pretty green. I've got a lot to learn in the 6-Man game as far as if we can do the things we want to in the blocking schemes and whatnot, then defensively it's so wide open. You've really got to work on discipline and becoming great open-field tacklers or you're in trouble."
Bertelsen will be diving right into the fire, as the Longhorns play in one of 6-Man's most competitive conferences. The 6-Man East has produced the last four state champions and has had a team in each of the last five, including the 2018 and 2019 meetings between Wibaux and Jordan, which the two sides split.
"There's great competition in the East here. Jordan, Richey-Lambert, Froid-Medicine Lake last year and Savage is always tough. You just know every week you're going to have to line up and give it your best game," Bertelsen said. "There's nobody you can line up against and go, 'Whew. Finally we got a break.' It's a ballgame every single week. And that's good. That makes you better and prepares you for the playoffs if you're fortunate enough to win enough games to make the playoffs in this division, because, man, every week is going to be a fight."
Bertelsen will make his 6-Man debut on Saturday, Aug. 28 at home against Broadview-Lavina.