In our big wide wonderful world of sports, basketball is my all-time favorite. I love to watch it and once upon a time, I was a guard on a team – the Newburg (N.D.) High School Eagles. I remember Coach Noraker putting me in only a few times, but I will forever be a Newburg Eagle.
Which makes me feel a sort of kinship with the East Grand Forks Sacred Heart Eagles boys’ varsity basketball team. Even though they’ve never met Carson Wentz, they now sense a kinship with the former NDSU quarterback who now quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles.
I say, Go Eagles Everywhere!
If you’re on the bleachers behind the bench at a Sacred Heart boy’s game, you have a bird’s eye view of the purple with gold lettering warmup shirts from Carson’s AO1 (Audience of One) Foundation. The logo is on the front. On the back are the words: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not human masters,” – Colossians 3:23.
Carson started AO1 in 2017. Its mission is, “uplifting individuals and communities around the world by demonstrating God’s love for His people.”
AO1 formed a partnership with Mission of Hope to help fund and maintain a sports complex in Haiti. It also runs a truck for food distribution and outreach in communities where disaster has struck and it operates outdoor youth camps for kids with physical challenges.
Sacred Heart Coach Destry Sterkel hasn’t met Carson either, “but I love Carson and everything he stands for,” Destry said. “He’s a great role model that we need.”
So how did Carson’s warmup shirts find their way to the Sacred Heart Eagles?
Connections were the key.
Coach Destry’s cousin, Brenda, is the wife of NDSU’s new head football coach, Matt Entz, who was the defense coordinator at NDSU when Carson was there.
“I reached out to Brenda,” Destry said, “asking if she thought Carson would be willing to make warmup shirts for us.” Brenda contacted Carson and received an “absolutely” answer.
“He didn’t want to charge us so we sent $500 to his foundation,” Destry said. “Everything he is doing is not for the money. He does it for Jesus Christ who is the only person he wants to impress.”
The warmup shirts are classy and it doesn’t matter if you are watching the team swish the ball through the net or observing the boys on the bench getting caught up in the camaraderie, the Sacred Heart Eagles are a fun bunch to watch.
I like that the Lord’s Prayer is spoken before the game. “We do that at every sporting event,” Destry said, “and usually the visiting team is right up there with us.”
Originally from Nebraska, Destry is in his fifth year of coaching at Sacred Heart. “It’s a great place to be and I love it here,” he said.
There are seven seniors on varsity this year. “It’s a senior lead team and we are making sure we are the best versions of ourselves every day,” Destry said. As far as standings, “we’re sitting right where we want to be,” he added.
I had the pleasure of speaking with three of the seniors.
“It’s awesome to have those warmup shirts,” Brenden Bethke said. “We’re the first school in the nation to have them. It’s a nice message.”
Brenden scored his 1,000 point on January 8, when the Eagles played Warren/Alvarado/Oslo. “It was a great night and it just felt good,” he said. “A lot of hard work goes into it and through the years a lot of people have helped me. I’ve known Coach Sterkel since eighth grade and the relationship is the strongest I’ve had with any coach. I like being with the guys and the family aspect on the team this year. We are keeping that in mind every day.”
Ian Evavold fell in love with basketball in third grade at basketball camp. This year’s team, he said, “started playing varsity pretty young and we meshed with each other. We made it a brotherhood. It’s just a game and we like to have fun with it and play as one unit. We know how we each play and we feed off of that.”
Ian says Coach Sterkel is, “pretty close with us. He’s started this whole energy effort to try to make us better players and to find different ways to stay accountable to ourselves and not get mad at mistakes we make. We match pretty well with him.”
The warmup shirts are, “pretty cool,” Ian added. “We are the only team in America that wears Carson Wentz things. A lot of people don’t like to stand up for their faith, but it’s pretty cool to have the Bible verse and show respect for our Lord and Savior and play for Him.”
Oscar Ortiz says team members, “love each other and we are all friends. It’s a small school and we see each other a lot.”
Oscar also speaks highly of Coach Sterkel. “He’s really smart,” Oscar said. “He teaches life lessons. He says one day we’ll be out in the world and realize it’s not all about basketball.”
Other seniors on the team are Evan Sczepanski, James Votava, Jacob Schepp and John Bergman. Also on varsity are: Adam Sczepanski, Andrew Ogaard, Marcus Crayton, Luke Thompson, Beau Votava, John Fontaine, James Fontaine, Gage Wavra, Sam Gapp, Kobi Tomkinson and Sam Modeen.
I never was a cheerleader but I join Lexie Goetz, Lily Grossbauer, Ireland Hanson, Sarah Kraft, Belia Haas, Aubre Bergum and Cloe Hanson when they shout – Go – Fight – Win — Hometown Eagles.