High school football: Injured during regular season, Ethan Loss back in time for Mahtomedi’s magical run

Ethan Loss played varsity football for Mahtomedi as a sophomore and junior, and spent last summer working up to the biggest year yet — his senior campaign. For years, this specific group of Zephyrs held state championship aspirations and Loss, a starting receiver and defensive back, is a key piece to the puzzle.

In Mahtomedi’s opener against Apple Valley in early September, Loss and the Zephyrs’ defense forced a stop. Then came the ensuing punt, which Loss went back to return. He fielded the kick, and then…

“As I was rounding the corner, I just felt a pull,” he said.

It was a hamstring injury, and those can be fickle. At that point, there was no exact timeline for return. His senior season could have been over like that. The thought of not being able to return to action did cross Loss’ mind, but he instead focused on the work required to get back on the field.

“I was definitely really disappointed, and at the time I was pretty angry. I’d worked all summer getting ready for the season and knew it was going to be a big year for us,” Loss said. “I knew I had to work really hard getting back so I could be able to play and finish my senior season out.”

Loss rehabbed for weeks on end with his physical therapists and trainers, whom he credited profusely. He missed the entire regular season, but was able to return in time for Mahtomedi’s section semifinal against Cretin-Derham Hall.

He’ll play in his fifth straight game Saturday, when Mahtomedi meets Mankato West in the Class 5A state title game at 4 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It’s awesome. I’m just super excited to be able to play for a championship on Saturday,” Loss said. “Since we were little, winning a state championship is one of the coolest things. So, getting an opportunity to do that … since there isn’t a game after this, we’ve got to put everything out there.”

Loss has made countless contributions throughout Mahtomedi’s playoff run. In its semifinal win over Robbinsdale Cooper, he had three catches on offense and added six tackles and an interception on defense.

But even when he wasn’t playing, Loss remained an integral part of the team’s success. While he acknowledged it was difficult, Loss tried to become something like a coach on the sidelines during the regular season, imparting wisdom and encouragement.

Pictured at the TCO Sports Garden in Vadnais Heights on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, Mahtomedi senior receiver and defensive back Ethan Loss is savoring the Zephyrs’ playoff run after missing the regular season with a hamstring injury. (Jace Frederick / Pioneer Press)

“Ethan was the first guy there helping them and giving them encouragement. That’s the beauty of Ethan, it’s never about Ethan. He is the most humble kid, and he’s there to do whatever he can to help us be successful,” Mahtomedi coach Dave Muetzel said. “Just continuing to support them, which others did as well, but when they see Ethan doing it, that brings everybody on board. It just kind of sets a tone that this is the expectation.”

“You can’t ask for a better teammate than Ethan Loss,” senior lineman Jason Lynch said.

Senior running back Jordan Hull referred to Loss’ potential return almost as a carrot for Mahtomedi.

“We definitely knew if we kept working hard throughout the season, then once he comes back, we’re going to be hard to play against,” Hull said. “Having that for our team was very good.”

Mahtomedi made it through the regular season with just two losses, to perennial powers Spring Lake Park and St. Thomas Academy. Loss was proud of how his team performed without him. And the entire time, he was pushing himself to make sure he was ready when the time came.

“I knew I just had to work really hard in PT, rehabbing, just to get it back to full strength so I could come back and help my team,” he said.

Muetzel said there was an “excitement” around the team the week of Loss’ return. He caught a 37-yard touchdown in the first quarter of that section semifinal.

“The biggest part was it was just fun seeing him be able to be back,” Muetzel said. “He worked his tail off trying to get back, so just the excitement that someone who gets rewarded for putting a lot of time and effort into it, that was what’s fun for us.”

Loss is grateful this journey has extended to its maximum length. Five games is a legitimate senior season, and each has been of the utmost importance. All that’s left, he noted, is to “finish it out.” Regardless of Saturday’s result, Loss will be going out on his terms.

“That’s the exciting part is just to be out there where he wants to be, out on the field, doing what he loves to do, and doing it with guys that he’s been doing it with for the last 10 years.” Muetzel said.

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