December 7, 2022 at 8:33 p.m.
Sauk Centre football star will be recognized at Vikings game
SAUK CENTRE- Eli Fletcher faced a major decision before the fall sports season arrived.
The Sauk Centre High School senior, the most prolific scorer in Prairie Centre North Stars boys’ hockey history, had received a tender to play junior hockey for the Alexandria Blizzard of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL). It was a chance for Fletcher to showcase his talents for scouts across the country and a gateway to collegiate hockey.
However, if he took this offer, it would mean the swift, unceremonious end to his Sauk Centre Streeters football career, a journey that saw him take considerable strides as a running back and linebacker.
Ultimately, Fletcher chose football, and at the tail end of a marvelous campaign full of making defenders miss and tackling opposing ball-carries with unnatural assurance, the Sauk Centre multi-sport athlete has been named to the 2022 Minnesota Vikings High School All-State Team.
“I’m glad for the opportunity and honored to be a part of the All-State team,” he said.
This choice came knowing the Streeters had unfinished business. Fletcher was amongst a diverse, team-driven group of senior leads who shared the same vision: a trip to the Class AA Minnesota State High School League Tournament. Fletcher, like the rest of his teammates, played with an unselfish approach. When other playmakers like quarterback Matthew Warring or wide receivers Hunter Danielson or Jay Neubert received looks, the four-year starter was willing to block, and worked in tandem with a strong offensive line.
“He’s a player that understood that he couldn’t do things on his own,” said Charlie Warring, head coach. “He understood the big picture that it’s a team game.”
This team-first mentality translated to on-the-field success for Fletcher, who was named to the Mid-State All-District Team after accumulating over 1,200 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns on 214 carries for the Class AA state-qualifying Streeters team.
“He kept his legs moving and he fought for every yard he could get,” Coach Warring said. “That was his nature; that was his mindset. He didn’t give up.”
While the six-foot, 195-pound back was more than capable of gaining extra yards with sheer physicality, Fletcher also brought a different dimension: his ability to catch passes out of backfield and outrace defenders with his speed.
“Last year, I had a calf injury and an ankle injury,” Fletcher said.
“I didn’t want to sit out this year. That was important, just going to the weight room and working on flexibility and mobility and speed, compared to only doing strength.”
This instinctual, developed quickness helped Fletcher not only as a running back, but also as the Mid-State White Sub-District’s Linebacker of the Year. As the “quarterback of the defense,” the Streeters relied heavily on Fletcher’s ability to work sideline-to-sideline, cover receivers working out of the flat and over the middle of the field and make sure tackles.
“I think the key on defense was our defensive coordinator, Curtis Krump,” Fletcher said. “He really got everyone in position. I knew what everyone was supposed to do and where everyone was supposed to be, so it helped me not have to think and just play my game.”
While his individual accolades were satisfactory, Fletcher and the Streeters cared only about how many games they could play together and what they could accomplish as a complete unit. So, when the Streeters took down Osakis 27-6 in the Section 6AA Championship Nov. 4 to lock up a trip to state, it became a moment forever preserved in the young Streeter’s memory. Being a part of such a historic run, which included wins in six out of seven games, also gave Fletcher a chance to see how one sport and one team could bring a community together.
“Going to the Fargodome, there were so many people there,” he said. “They supported us and even watched online. I knew a ton of people watching the game at Monticello on a livestream. The community really surprised me, to be honest. I’ve never felt that before.”
This rollicking rollercoaster of a season culminated in a rare accomplishment, as Fletcher was selected to the 32-member All-State Team by local media, staff members for the Minnesota Vikings and state high school football coaches. The team will be recognized before the start of the Vikings’ game against the Indianapolis Colts Dec. 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Fletcher, a Vikings fan his entire life, received the news through a text from his dad, Shawn, who he will be attending the game with.
“I’ve watched every game and really enjoy watching football,” he said. “I’ve never been to U.S. Bank, so that will be pretty exciting.”
And when the Sauk Centre native stands on the field he has seen on TV so many times already, it will not only be the culmination of many memorable football experiences, but the finishing touch on a career that almost ended differently.
“It was the right choice to stay my senior year and play football and play with all of my friends,” he said. “We had a good entire group.”