The St. Michael-Albertville football team is off to a perfect 3-0 start. The improvements senior linebacker Boston Merila made is one of many reasons the Knights are off to a perfect start.
“The season has been great so far,” Merila said. “We made the jump to the Lake Conference. We were excited about it and thought our team was ready for it. I think we have a great shot to compete against the best in the state.”
The offense – so far – has been relying on and playing off the running game.
“Our running game has been strong,” Merila said. “If we get the running game going it opens up the passing game. We have a lot of playmakers who have been getting it done.”
On defense, the Knights’ have used big plays to keep offenses off the scoreboard.
“Our ability to make plays is our strength,” Merila explained. “Sometimes we have gotten the ball pushed on us, but we find a way to make a stop and make a big play – interceptions, fumbles, we have been making big fourth down stops.”
Merila has been in on many of those big defensive plays.
“The season has been going well,” Merila said. “It has been nice to have experience going into this year. My ability to make reads has improved since last year and have made a lot more tackles. I have a couple of interceptions. My work in the offseason has shown up this year.”
Merila – who is a two-year starter at middle linebacker – has used his experience to sharpen his game.
“I read my keys well, I play downhill and like to be physical with the lineman. I pursue to the ball and have a motor that doesn’t have me take a play off.”
Not having to think as much this season has allowed Merila to play faster and better.
“I am a lot more confident with my reads. I know what to look for with certain offenses. It makes it easier to play fast when you have all your keys down and know what to look for in an offense. Having guys show me what to do last year has helped me to help the younger guys this year.”
Up until his sophomore year, Merila played outside linebacker.
“I got a feel for both (linebacker) spots, and it helped me get a better understanding of the whole defense,” Merila told northstarfootballnews.com. “Having the flexibility to play both spots has helped me.”
One of the areas he is continuing to work on is becoming more of a leader.
“I could be more vocal and more of a leader. As a linebacker, you have to be the general of the whole field – taking the stress off our players so they can play faster.”
Once football season ends, Merila’s focus immediately switches.
“I play basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring,” Merila said. “Our football coach says the most important thing to do is play multiple sports. I am a believer in multiple sports. It is good not to limit yourself to one sport and not specialize and get worn down. The skills you learn in each sport help you in football. You have to make time in the weight room, but the other sports also help me in football.”
“In basketball, I am a guard, am a passer and a scrappy defender,” Merila continued. “In baseball, I play second and third base, and am kind of a leader on the baseball team. I had a good season last year; I hit around .400 and hit two home runs.”
Along with summer weight room work, Merila continued to focus on baseball and football.
“I play legion baseball and do seven on seven stuff for football in the summer.”
The senior has received college interest from both football and baseball programs.
“I have some Division III schools looking at me in football and a little more interest in baseball,” Merila explained. “St. Thomas, Gustavus, and Minnesota have been talking to me for baseball. Both sports are important to me, but right now, I am leaning toward baseball for college. I might have more opportunities in baseball.”
Although his future may be in baseball – Merila present is football. The Knights have a big test this Friday when they take on a fellow undefeated Wayzata team. Their three-sport middle linebacker will have to be in the middle of everything if they want to stay undefeated this week and if they want to make a long run in the 6A playoffs.