Wildcats looking for first win since 2008
BREWSTER -- With the beginning of a new high school football season comes a fresh start for the Southwestern United Wildcats, who have not won a game since Sept. 26, 2008.
The Wildcats have gone 0-9 in each of the past three seasons and have endured a 31-game losing streak since their last win, but SWU is looking forward to reversing the trend in 2012.
A change from 11-man football in the Southern Minnesota Conference to 9-man competition in the Southern Confederacy Conference for the regular season may be beneficial for the Wildcats, who are also switching things up offensively in an attempt to find a spark.
"We're looking forward to a good season," SWU co-head coach Jeff Drent said. "We want to be competitive in every game and find a level of consistency in how we play each week. It will be exciting to play a new schedule in a new conference against some new teams."
SWU is implementing a new offensive scheme this season, emphasizing a varied running game that relies on timing and precision. Drent says the Wildcats are a "work in progress" with the new offensive style at this point.
"We're taking some steps in the right direction," Drent said. "There are still a few things that we need to keep working on, so we'll keep making adjustments and try to execute the way that we are capable of."
The Wildcats' offensive line will be important to the transition. Senior Mark Ferguson (6-2, 190), who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, is projected to be SWU's starting center.
Senior Mykil Vonk (5-10, 210), junior Ernesto Fonseca (6-2, 175), sophomore Jonathan Hussong (6-0, 180) and sophomore Austin Milbrath (5-10, 165) are all candidates to fill the two guard spots up front, while junior Levi Taylor (6-3, 185) and sophomore Jake Getzel (5-7, 210) will see time at tight end for SWU.
Seniors Justin Jass (5-6, 150) and Matthew Soto (5-7, 145) will likely split time triggering the Wildcats' offense at quarterback, while junior Aaron Fest (5-10, 155) could also see time under center.
"Justin and Matthew are pretty interchangeable and can move around to different positions if needed," Drent said. "Aaron has the best arm of those three guys and could help us if we need to throw the ball a bit more."
Senior Kurt Schmitz (6-0, 180) returns as the featured running back for SWU, while senior Eric Haberman (5-9, 175) is moving from the offensive line to fullback this year. Senior Erik Jass (5-6, 150) will be the Wildcats' primary wide receiver.
"Those are the guys we're looking at for the most part on offense," Drent said. "There could be a few sleepers who could also contribute, as we do have a decent group of sophomores."
Vonk and Ferguson will solidify the defensive line as tackles, while Haberman and Taylor look to create havoc off the edges as ends.
Sophomore Jordan Hall (5-8, 155) will provide depth as an end, while Fonseca, Hussong, Getzel, Milbrath, junior Christian Mariscal (5-8, 159) and sophomore Branden O'Connor (5-9, 126) are among the other players who will contribute on the line or as linebackers.
Schmitz returns to anchor SWU's defense at middle linebacker, while the Jass boys -- twin brothers Justin and Erik -- will man the cornerback (or outside linebacker) spots in the Wildcats' 4-3 base defense.
Soto, Fest and junior Skyler Sievert (5-1, 101) will rotate in as safeties in the Wildcats' defensive secondary.
"We'll have a lot of the same guys going both ways," Drent said. "These guys are going to get an opportunity to play, and we're excited to see what they can do. It should be a fun season."
SWU opened things up Thursday with a road game at Nicollet and will host Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman in Brewster Friday.