Prep Football

Dan Anderson of MFL MarMac is the 2019 Gazette area football coach of the year

Hard-nosed Bulldogs had historic season

MFL MarMac head coach Dan Anderson is the 2019 Gazette area coach of the year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
MFL MarMac head coach Dan Anderson is the 2019 Gazette area coach of the year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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MONONA — Dan Anderson reflected on the coaches who made an impact in his life.

He played for Decorah Hall of Fame coaches Dick Wuest, Bill Post and Dennis Olejniczak, learning the toughness and dedication demanded to play hard-nosed football. As an inside linebacker at Upper Iowa, defensive coordinator Craig Johnston introduced him to an enthusiastic and fun style of play.

Anderson cut his coaching teeth and studied the Wing-T offense as an assistant to West Central Hall of Fame coach Steve Milder.

“I wouldn’t have gotten into coaching if I didn’t have a good experience as a player,” Anderson said. “I had some really good ones.”

Anderson was inspired to follow in their footsteps. In the second year of his second stint as MFL MarMac’s head football coach, he produced a season that would make any of them proud.

MFL MarMac posted an unbeaten regular season and set a school record in wins, going 10-1 and advancing to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

The Bulldogs’ memorable season included just their second playoff appearance and first postseason victory before a hard-fought loss to eventual Class A state runner-up Grundy Center.

Anderson is The Gazette’s 2019 coach of the year.

List: Meet the 2019 Gazette all-area football team

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“I have finally started to sit back and think about what we’ve accomplished and try to figure out exactly why and what we’ve done,” Anderson said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for our team, our coaches and the community.”

Anderson served as the Bulldogs’ head coach from 2005-07 and stepped away to devote more time to his family. With his children older and another opportunity to guide the program, he consulted his family to make sure he had everyone’s blessing.

“I just felt it was a good time,” Anderson said. “I had coached this year’s senior class in middle school as seventh and eighth-graders. I knew what we had. They’re good kids and when the job opened up I knew I wanted to get back into it eventually.”

Like the impact coaches had on Anderson as a player, he had done the same for his current athletes. All-state running back Kutter Anderson (no relation) said playing for the head coach is fun and inspiring.

“He expects us to always go 100 percent on everything from practices to games, and it always pushes us to make sure that we are always doing our best,” said Kutter Anderson, a senior who rushed for 1,241 yards and 15 touchdowns. “You feel a sense of pride whenever you strap it up for Coach because you know he’s going to put you in a good chance to win.”

MFL MarMac went from 4-5 last season to a district championship this year. The Bulldogs produced their first winning season since 1993 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The program thrived at all levels, going a combined 26-2.

“We’re getting things changed around,” Dan Anderson said. “We’re having success, not only at the varsity level but the (junior varsity) level and our middle-school teams were both undefeated.

“We’ve done a great job of turning things around but we’re not done yet. I think we have some good groups of football players coming and I think we’ll stay competitive for years to come.”

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At the heart of it is a hard-nosed, physical brand of football powered by a rush game and complemented by the pass and an energetic defense. Dan Anderson praised his coaches for an open-minded and collaborative approach to game plans. One of his challenges was convincing assistant Brandon Burke to stray from his spread offense roots and incorporate more passes from the Wing-T.

“Our kids know our identity,” Dan Anderson said. “We pound the ball, attack, use all parts of the field running the ball and then we play-action and try to hit the deep ball.”

The 41-year-old head coach prepared his players mentally and physically for competition and practice. He meshed a “tough love” style with excitement and the willingness to try new things.

“He is always a great teacher,” Kutter Anderson said. “A lot of the older guys that have played for him have learned a lot more than we thought we ever could.”

The Bulldogs embraced a team-first mentality. Whether they were a two-way starter, played one side of the ball or a scout-team player, everyone held an important role in the team success. The coach appreciated their effort and toughness that resulted in wins over teams like 2018 state semifinalist Edgewood-Colesburg, South Winneshiek (twice) and Lisbon.

MFL MarMac’s team mantra was “Forget about yourself and you’ll never be forgotten.” It was the cornerstone of an unforgettable season.

“We all took that to heart,” Kutter Anderson said. “If we just worry about our specific jobs, no matter our stats, we will win and do great things and people will never forget us.”

The ultimate focus is much more than plays and schemes, conditioning and lifting or wins and losses. Dan Anderson wants to build relationships with his players and assistants, beginning an annual spring fishing trip together.

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The goal is to use football as a teaching tool. The sport can provide the foundation to succeed off the field.

“I want to teach them some life lessons through football and build relationships with these young men,” Dan Anderson said. “Hopefully, down the road they come back and the things they learned in football will help them out in life. I hope they learn more than just football.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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