They came wearing their state championship t-shirts or some other Owatonna apparel. While they might have grabbed some mini-donuts or some sort of food-on-stick, their reason for filling the seats at Fair Square Park on Sunday night was to meet the 2019 Owatonna High School football team and its cheerleaders.

The last event of the Steele County Free Fair each year is the football rally on the United Prairie Bank stage. OHS coach Jeff Williams has introduced the team to the crowd each year. Whether the team is the two-time defending state champs or not, a big crowd attends. He said was skeptical about the concept after being approached the former fair secretary.

"Todd Hale said, 'Hey! We've got this idea. We're going to do a rally at Fair Square Park. All kinds of people are going to come, watch you introduce the kids and the cheerleaders.' And I said, 'Todd I don't think that sounds like a great idea. I think they've got something better to do with their time. And year after year people come even when the Vikings are on."

Williams continued, "I've learned in my 31 years in Owatonna that Owatonnans love to follow our kids. Whether it's basketball teams or hockey teams or football teams."

And it just so happens that this year the Huskies enter the season as the two-time defending state 5A champs. And while they have a gaping hole at tailback based on the graduation of Jason Williamson, they return several All-District players and many starters. And Williams indicated there are some great candidates to carry the football as well.

All-District returners include Zach Wiese, back for his third year on the offensive line. Isaiah Noeldner eventually will be back at center after completing his comeback from a knee injury suffered during the wrestling season. Ethan Rohman was an honorable mention selection on the line as well. Isaac Gefre is back at linebacker after putting up an impressive defensive point total last year. He also set an Owatonna record with his punting average. Isaac Oppegard is back at defensive back after grabbing a school-record 8 interceptions in 2018.

Other returning players on the offensive line include Carter DeBus, Luke Effertz and Carson DeKam. Receivers Ethan Walter, Matt Williams, Oppegard and Payton Beyer are back to catch passes from Sol Havelka or Brayden Truelson, both of whom played significant minutes last season.

On the defensive side, Rohman and Josh O'Daffer played on the defensive line. Zach Stransky played extensively at defensive back as a sophomore. Kicker Sam Henson is back to do double-duty with his time on the soccer pitch.

The team will scrimmage at Prior Lake High School Saturday, August 24 at 9 am. It is open to the public. The season opens on Friday, August 30 against Rochester Century at the OHS football field at 7 pm.

Williams sent fans on their way with optimism, "We're really excited for a great season. We hope you guys come out as you always do and support our boys and our girls (cheerleaders) this fall."

Townsquare Media is thrilled to launch the new Friday Night Blitz show at 9:30 pm Friday nights during the season on Kat Kountry 105FM and on the Kat Kountry app. The show will cover results from across southeastern Minnesota with reports from play-by-play announcers throughout the Townsquare network.