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In memory of lost teammate, Vinton-Shellsburg has historic season

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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VINTON, Iowa (KCRG) - For a long time, the Vinton-Shellsburg Vikings were a team that opponents did not take seriously.

“I think our first game in program history we lost 13 to zero,” said head coach Kyle McAbee. “Didn’t register a single shot on goal,”

McAbee was on the program’s inaugural team in 2011 and has since transformed the Vikings’ program into a winner.

“It’s come quite a ways, as far as the youth program,” McAbee added. “These guys are fruits of that labor,”

Led by a group of 11 seniors, the Vikings have quickly become one of the state’s best teams, finishing the regular season a perfect 14-0.

“At the beginning of the season. I don’t think anyone really took us seriously,” said senior defender Ethan Rollinger.

The team’s success on the field is due to their cohesiveness. 11 players on the field all working as one, but that bond wasn’t formed just by playing together growing up. It was fortified after the loss of one of their own.

“The best way to honor someone is with success and Mike is our why,” McAbee said.

Mike Betterton was a key member of Vinton’s team who died just months before the pandemic started.

“He is the biggest impact going through all of our minds when we’re playing,” said senior CJ Rickels.

“He watches over us,” senior David Lapan-Islas said. “That was probably another huge thing that pushed us this year to get where we are right now,”

Betterton’s spirit was never lost. His jersey hangs on the bench at every game and while he may not play on the team anymore, he’s still the heart and soul of the Vikings.

“Mike was always that player that was keeping our heads up and we made a mistake. He was always there for us,” Rollinger said.

Vinton-Shellsburg is one of the state’s top goal-scoring teams, and coach McAbee will be the first to say that in some instances, there was someone close by helping them out.

“it’s like Mike’s helping us. We had one against Dyersville back in from 47 yards out,”

Despite the hardships, the Vikings are as close of a team as you get. Moving forward as one, they’ve set their eyes on a postseason that lays ahead, keeping everything they’ve lost close by along the way.

“What we what we went through as a team, we know on the field that nothing is going to hurt that as bad as that did,” McAbee said. It definitely motivates us to work harder.”

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