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Doug Wolter: Get ready for football season

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sports Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

Only a few weeks to go before the start of a new high school football season. Life is good. Soon we will have the end of summer, but the start of football season is a wonderful consolation prize.

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Here are a few thoughts to ponder as we look ahead to gridiron action:

Double-E reloads

Two years ago, Edgerton/Ellsworth posted a dream season, going undefeated en route to the state Nine-Man championship. Today, quarterback Isaac Heard, who threw for five touchdowns and set a Prep Bowl record with 368 yards passing in the team’s 36-28 victory over Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, is about to start his freshman season at Northwestern College.

Meanwhile, the Flying Dutchmen, who went 9-2 in 2012, are hoping to have another solid season.

“I think we’ll be a different team,” said head coach Andrew Fleischman Tuesday. “We lost a lot of really good seniors last year. But fortunately, the kids are working really hard.”

Four players who participated on the state championship team return to provide a nucleus of proven winners. They are lineman Austin Mertens, middle linebacker Tyler Kurrasch, linebacker Jorge Lopez and lineman Wyatt Schaap.

I was not surprised to see that the pairing of Edgerton and Ellsworth has gone well over these past four years. The two towns have produced fine young athletes for a very long time, and it didn’t take a genius to predict that — should the two towns come together in an amicable pairing — more success would follow.

Fleischman, however, expects some tough conference competition ahead, with Mountain Lake Area, Hills-Beaver Creek and Westbrook-Walnut Grove — programs that, themselves, have a great store of success to draw from — leading the way. The Flying Dutchmen mentor also has the foresight to look to Clinton-Beardsley, which won the 2012 state championship, as a powerful obstacle in the section.

Fleischman’s Dutchmen have a lot to live up to if they’re to match their recent past. But the coach knows he’s got some dedicated gridders in camp.

Like he says, himself: “Hard work doesn’t graduate.”

Shadrach’s time

Wade Wacker was a remarkable quarterback at Jackson High School playing for his father Tyrone in 1985 when he led JHS to the state Class B championship.

You’d be hard-pressed to name a better all-around boy athlete in southwest Minnesota over the last half century.

This fall, Wade’s son Shadrach will take over the reins at quarterback at Jackson County Central. Shadrach, a senior, helped the Huskies to a second-place finish in state Class AA last year, and now he will go under center for his high school team just like his dad did.

No doubt, there will be comparisons. And comparisons are always difficult and usually at least a little unfair. Sons are always expected to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, and we often forget that they are not carbon copies; they are their own persons with their own unique sets of talents and personalities.

Fortunately in the Huskies’ case, they appear to have enough talent so that no one player should be unfairly burdened.

“We’ve got two (all-conference) honorable mention offensive linemen who are highly regarded,” says head coach Tom Schuller.

That would be Nolan Hohenstein (LG-DT) and Matt Schmidt (LT-DE). Also back are offensive center Chris Baker and safety-wide receiver Darnell Taylor-Breck.

Schuller believes his Huskies are stronger and faster this year, and they’ll run the option with Wacker handling the football.

“I think we’re gonna be pretty good. The kids have had an awfully good year in the weight room,” Schuller said.

On the road again

The Worthington Trojans will be road warriors until the latter part of September. Even their pre-season scrimmage is on the road.

After traveling to Mankato East High School Aug. 24 to scrimmage there, the Trojans open the season with a road game Aug. 30 in Fairmont. Then it’s on to Southwest Conference rival Luverne on Sept. 6 and on the road again to play in Redwood Valley’s homecoming game Sept. 13.

Worthington finally comes home beginning Sept. 20 for three games. WHS hosts Windom on Sept. 20 and then returns home for its own homecoming Sept. 27 against Annandale. Another home game is set for Oct. 4 against Marshall.

Worthington is at Pipestone Area on Oct. 11 and at home Oct. 16 against Jackson County Central.

Sectional tournament action begins Oct. 22. Not that we want to make any predictions at this point.

So far, so good

The 2013 Trojans concluded weightlifting conditioning last Thursday and began a four-day mini-camp this week. Head coach Brad Grimmius said two-thirds of the squad showed up on the first day of camp, and most of the other ones had reasons to be missing.

After posting records of 2-7, 1-7, 3-6 and 3-6 in the last four seasons, coaches, players and fans are anxious to see an improvement. Grimmius is still gauging what he’s got this fall, but he likes what he sees so far.

The Trojans should have better team speed in 2013, he says, and they should be faster and stronger. There are some holes to fill on the line, but the numbers are up from 2012, and they’re notably up in the freshman and sophomore classes.

Another plus is the fact that WHS will use the same offense that was used last year. Worthington moved from a spread offense to a wing-T last season, and that extra year of familiarity will be helpful to the players.

Late last season, Grimmius recalls, “you could see it start to click with them.”

Momentary AD scare

New Worthington High School athletic director Josh Dale, who took over this summer for the retired Mike Traphagen, survived a scare early in his tenure. Seems that he discovered that no officiating crew had been secured for the first WHS football game of the season. It was a simple case of miscommunication, he said. A contract had been sent out but never sent back.

So Dale made a few hurried contacts and sent out a mass email to rectify the situation. Someone in Marshall came to the rescue in short order, causing him, he said, to do “cartwheels at my house.”

The incident also served to remind him that the sports community in this neck of the woods strives to be as helpful as possible.

“That made me realize how people really work for one another. That was good to know. I wasn’t on my own,” Dale said.

Dale also says Traphagen, “a very organized guy,” has greatly helped him in the transition.

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