Head coach: Sam Baker
Assistant coaches: Mark Grundhofer, Mike Johnson, Collin Bender, Michael Johnson, Terry Gammell, and Nick Hackman
Captains: Hunter Baumann, Cole Sawyer, Nick Hukriede, Charles Frempong-Longdon, and Nathan Glynn
Conference: Wright County
Section: 2AAAAA – Chanhassen, Chaska, Mankato West, New Prague, and Northfield
2012 finish: The Wildcats are coming off their first losing season in eight years, after a 1-8 record in 2012. The ‘Cats only victory of the season was a 35-19 win at Mound-Westonka, keeping Waconia from finishing last in the WCC. Waconia lost in the first round of sections to New Prague in a 38-19 loss. Six of the 11 conference teams went on to play in section final games, with four advancing to the state tournament.
Changes for 2013: The Waconia football program is getting revitalized under new head coach Sam Baker. Baker comes to Waconia as a former assistant coach at Chaska High School, and he has laid out a plan for the WHS and younger teams, all under the umbrella theme of “today is the day.” Baker said the players, parents, and community have already bought in to the philosophy.
“The kids have done a good job of adjusting to how we do things here,” Baker said.
Before each home game, the players will participate in a “Wildcat Walk” which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Unhinged! Pizza parking lot. Players will lead fans to the stadium in what should be a team spirit-raising walk.
In addition this year, each facet of the WHS team has taken on a nickname and adopted a flag, so don’t be surprised to hear about The Empire (offense), The Dark Side (defense), or Showtime (special teams).
Key returnees: Cole Sawyer and Charles Frempong-Longdon return as “two of the best ends in the conference,” according to Baker. Cody Ellis, Nick Hukriede, Hunter Baumann, Tyler Myrvold, Kellen Routsinoja, Shannon Storley, Eli Teeselink, and Jesse Vogelgesang are just a few of the familiar faces on the Wildcat squad. Despite losing a handful of very talented, stat-topping seniors last year, there are plenty of players remaining to improve on the team’s 1-8 record.
“We’ve got a lot of great leadership,” Baker said.
Key newcomers: Many new faces should pop onto the football field this season and Baker said younger players will become a strength of the team. The program boasts 30 freshman.
“We’ll be young at a few spots which will turn into a strength as we progress,” he said.
Teams to beat: “Every game for us is a focus, and every team is a team to beat,” Baker said.
The season will be approached on a game-to-game, practice-to-practice basis, always focusing on the task at hand.
“Focus on today for a better tomorrow,” Baker said.
As far as strategy is concerned this season, Baker expects it to be about 50/50 between a passing and rushing game, but said it all depends on what the players excel at and what the opposing defense brings to the field.
Goals: Baker said the team seems to be well-rounded throughout the field and aims to be different.
“We want to be different than everybody else,” he said. “We want to have a swagger, an identity about ourselves.”
The Wildcats will operate under the acronym FAMILY, meaning “forget about me, I love you.” For Baker, this means improved team play and cohesion, and the expectation that every player is all in, all the time.
First game: Waconia begins the season this Friday, Aug. 30 at Annandale. Baker said the Cardinals are a successful program and should be a great opponent.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us just like any game in the WCC,” he said.
The first home game will be Sept. 6 against New London-Spicer.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com