Team: Waconia High School football
Coaches: Pat Foley (head), Mark Grundhofer (defensive coordinator), Collin Bender (defensive line and special teams), Mike Johnson (offensive line), CJ Schuh (quarterbacks and offensive coordinator), Derek Muhre (junior varsity offensive backs), and Tom MacDonald (junior varsity defensive backs).
Conference: Wright County
State appearances: 1992, 2007
2011 finish: The Wildcats finished the 2011 season 5-5, collecting victories over Orono, Litchfield, Grand Rapids, and Mound-Westonka in the regular season. A three-game losing streak troubled the Wildcats in late September, falling to Hutchinson, Annandale, and Delano three weeks in a row. The Wildcats rallied to finish the regular season with two wins over Grand Rapids and Mound-Westonka. Waconia finished sixth in the WCC.
They pulled off an exciting 45-42 victory over Willmar in the first round of Section 2AAAA. The season ended Oct. 29 in the second round of sections, when the Wildcats fell 44-28 against Mankato West in a 44-28 contest.
Key losses: The Wildcats lost three All-Conference players from last season including quarterback Maxx Williams, running back Logan Baumann, and Alex Willems (offensive line), along with a handful of other seniors.
Key returners: Even with the departure of Williams, Baumann, and Willems, Waconia returns many key players to this season’s squad. All-Conference running back and linebacker Riley Trnka returns, along with 2011 All-Conference Honorable Mention players Mitch Green, Wylie Ferron (tight end), Ryan Mattson (defensive back/wide receiver), and Tommy Gove (wide receiver/free safety). Other returners include Drew Johnson (offensive line), Jacob Fettig (receiver/defensive back), and Jesse Voglegesang (offensive line).
Trnka, Mattson, and Fettig were three of the top rushers in 2011, while Mattson, Gove, Ferron, and Trnka were the team’s top receivers, along with Baumann. Trnka led the Wildcats with seven sacks last season, while Gove snagged two interceptions on the field.
Taking over at quarterback will be senior Cody Clark, who got some playing time last season in the shadow of Williams.
“He got some good experience,” Foley said. “He’s really been working hard in the off-season.”
In 2011, Clark completed 13 of 25 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Teams to beat: Everybody, according to Foley.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” he said.
Annandale returns much of its talent-filled squad this season after advancing to the state semifinals in 2011. Conference newcomers include Holy Family Catholic and New London-Spicer. The Fire of Holy Family were the Section 2AAA champions last season, finishing their 10-2 season with a loss to Fairmont in the first round of the state tournament. New London-Spicer was 6-3 last season, continuing a strong football tradition. They were the Class AAA champion in 2009, after a perfect 14-0 season.
Changes for 2012: Due to enrollment numbers, there are a lot of changes happening in high school football this season, from the conference to the class level, with the addition of Class 6A (AAAAAA). This season, the Wildcats will move from Class 4A to Class 5A, the only Wright County Conference team to do so. The Wildcats’ former section, 2AAAA, has been divided up with Eden Prairie, Prior Lake, and Shakopee all jumping up to play in Class 6A. Come section time, Waconia will play in Section 2AAAAA, with former section-mates Chanhassen, Chaska, Mankato West, and New Prague. Northfield will also join the section.
“It will be interesting to see where we’re at [at sections],” Foley said, as the Wildcats will be one of the smallest teams in Class 5A.
Goals: “We always like to threaten for the conference championship,” Foley said. With two scrimmages this weekend against Henry Sibley and Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the Wildcats should be ready for their first game next Friday, Aug. 31, when they host Annandale. Game begins at 7 p.m. at Meuwissen Field.