In Jack Ihrke’s eyes, Saturday’s high school All-Star football game is yet another career milestone moment he can share with his old man.
A football section championship for his Plainview-Elgin-Millville team? Check.
An 11-1 season on the gridiron, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA before finishing the year in the state quarterfinals? In the books.
For Jack’s father, Bill, also happened to be his high school football coach at PEM. Bill’s the high school principal, to boot.
That makes Saturday’s Minnesota High School All-Star Football game a welcomed second chance of ending Jack’s high school career with a win, while his Dad calls the shots.
Bill will coach the South All-Star team in Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State, as his squad, with his son playing defensive back, takes on the North All-Stars.
“It’s an experience not many fathers and sons can have,” Jack said. “For him to be my high school coach, and All-Star coach — it’s a good life playing football for your Dad.”
Bill knows his way around winning, too, going 125-37 in 15 years at PEM, including four section titles and a Class AAA state championship in 2002.
His son took notes, too. The senior was a three-year starter at running back and also played linebacker this fall. Racking up 17 tackles for loss this fall, Jack’s prowess extended past football, as he was also a two-time state wrestling tournament entrant. And as PEM’s shortstop, Jack’s squad went 18-3 this spring.
But this week, it’s been all football. Jack took the week off from his summer landscaping gig to spend time at St. John’s University for training camp with his All-Star teammates leading up to Saturday’s big game.
WCCO caught up with the father-son, coach-player combo, just the third in All-Star game history.
What was your highlight from the 2012 season?
Jack:My favorite memory was beating the former state champions, Caledonia, on their home field (to open the 2012 season).
How do you balance the father-son, coach-player relationship?
Bill: It’s not easy. You have to separate it on the field, because we’re part of a football team and you have to keep the family relationship separate.
Jack: You can’t think you’re special because you’re the coach’s kid. We got to share the experience of winning the section title together. That’s what I like about it.
Are you guys living football all the time? What happens at home? Talk about better blitz packages?
Bill: I think Jack puts down the line at home, even though I like to talk football at home. We usually watch a lot of film at school. For the most part, home is home for us.
Jack: I like to keep the coach-player relationship on the field, just so it doesn’t become too much at home.
What’s been the best part of the week-long training camp at St. John’s University?
Jack: The best part about it is the relationships we’re making with all these guys. There’s lots of guys from different town sizes, backgrounds and cultures. We’re all coming together as a family.
Bill: It’s been a great experience. We have some talented kids, and some great speed compared to what you usually have on a high school team.
What’s the goal for Saturday’s game?
Bill: Unless you’re state champs, your high school season ends on a loss. Of the 88 kids playing (on Saturday), 44 have a chance to end their high school career on a win. We want to give them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Jack: It’s my last opportunity to leave it out there and feel good about it. And playing with that mentality, good things are going to happen.
How did you feel about playing one more game together?
Jack:It’s kind of like the last hurrah for us. I pretty much leave in a month for college.
What did you two do for Father’s Day?
Bill: We were going to go fishing, but I had boat motor problem. So we had a cookout.
Jack, why choose to play football next year at Winona State?
Jack: I’m redshirting and I got on scholarship. I’ve always been around the school and a lot of Plainview guys have gone there and they have had positive experiences.
My grandpa, Arley Ihrke, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Dad played there, too.
Do you think there will be a bit of pressure being the third Ihrke to attend Winona State?
Jack: I think that a lot of people will have expectations, and because of that, it’ll push me even more. Some kids fall apart under pressure, but our coaches say pressure makes a diamond. And I hope I can develop into what I can be.