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Backus Wolverines reborn - First home game is Friday

There have been no Wolverines in Backus since the school merged with Pine River in 1991, but on Friday, Feb. 17, the Wolverines will return to their den in the old Backus gym.

Though it might seem like adults would be responsible for the return of the Backus Wolverines basketball team, credit goes to two local "cubs."

"The boys did all of the work," said team mom Carrie McAllister. "It kind of started with Clayton Borman (15) and Isaac Krecklau (16) having an idea. They did most of the footwork."

Borman and Krecklau, both Foothills Christian Academy students in Backus, originally wanted to join sports in the Pine River-Backus School District, but due to Minnesota State High School League policies, private school students aren't eligible to join teams without a cooperative agreement between schools.

"They could apply for cooperative agreement but have not done that at this point," Pine River-Backus Superintendent Dave Endicott said by email. "It would then be up to the PRB School Board whether they wanted to enter into that cooperative agreement."

"We are so excited for it," McAllister said. "It's great to see the boys come together. I think part of it started when they registered for football and couldn't play even though they thought they could until the day they went to register."

Krecklau said Borman came up with the idea to start their own team.

"He started practically the whole thing," Krecklau said. "He asked if I was coming to this school. I said yes, so he said we should start a basketball team. We got hyped up."

"I was going to play basketball in Pine River this year and I was really excited about that, but God kind of put it in my heart to come to this school," Borman said. "I still had that passion for basketball. I realized Isaac was coming here and he plays a lot of basketball, so I thought we could figure out what we could do."

Borman and Krecklau reached out to the other students coming to the academy and convinced as many as they could to join the team. Among them were McAllister's twin sons and five others ranging from grades six to eight with varying degrees of athletic experience.

Next, the team needed basketballs, jerseys and coaches. The Bormans contributed to the purchase of the jerseys, and $150 was scraped together for basketballs. The boys themselves contributed to other costs.

"The hardest part of getting the whole thing together, Isaac and I have probably put in $300 toward this," Borman said. "For two teenage boys to put together that sort of money. ... Once we got the foundation established, then people realized we were going to go through with it and started jumping on the bandwagon and helping us a lot. It was hard to keep dedicated. So many nights I would call the school and we couldn't get the games lined up or jerseys were expensive or we couldn't afford basketballs or the gym floor was slippery. It just all added up."

For coaches, Borman's father, Corey, stepped forward along with Micah Eveland, a former Pine River-Backus Tiger well known for his prowess on the basketball court.

The team ultimately decided to take back the old name, though the decision wasn't unanimous.

"It was more me, Zack (McAllister) and Darian (Sims) that wanted that name," Krecklau said. "It would bring all the older people back. They were the Wolverines, and we thought it would be cool to bring it up again. I like it a lot, actually."

"Personally, I didn't agree with the name," Borman said. "The closest one next was we would be the Foothills Falcons. That one just got voted out slowly. Wolverines is all right though."

The team did not, however, claim the old purple and gold colors. Instead, the new Wolverines are blue.

The team is not yet in a conference, but it had its first non-conference game Jan. 17 at Lake Region Christian Academy in Baxter.

"We lost against those guys a lot, but the coach is making us work harder," said Krecklau. "Every time we miss a layup we have to run a killer. After our first game he made practice a lot more strict."

Friday, Lake Region Christian School in Baxter will come to face off in the Backus gym. The Wolverines have been working hard with hopes that they might win their first home game even though Lake Region has players much taller than even Backus' tallest.

"Coach Eveland says if we had boxed out and made more layups we could have scored a lot more," Krecklau said. "We've improved, I think, a lot."

Whether there will be more athletic teams in Backus is uncertain. For now the students are trying to get donations together for bleachers and a small scoreboard. The gym no longer has either since the Backus school was closed. The team is hopeful that the school and its teams will only grow with time.

"I think it will feel better when we get bigger and more expanded," Borman said. "This is only our first year, and God's blessed us so far so I hope we'll keep receiving blessings and continue to grow."