Archive for August, 2010

From StarTribune.com

Andover

Dual threat quarterback Tyler Finnes returns but the Huskies lost all of his offensive partners to graduation. Not to worry, said one Northwest Suburban Conference coach, because “coach [Rich] Wilkie and his staff always seem to find and develop good skill guys.” Defensively, the Huskies feature four returning starters with solid credentials. Linebacker Ryan Emmerich earned honorable mention all-conference honors and Gabe Wolfe is poised to reach a similar level. Thomas Anderson (three-year starter) and Tyler Hartmann (most sacks among linemen) anchor the defense line.

Gabe Wolfe, LB, Andover

Though he doesn’t get headlines, Wolfe is poised to give opposing offenses headaches. He possesses the size (6-4, 220), speed (4.7 40-yard dash) and smarts (A student) to make plays sideline to sideline. “Gabe is coming in with much less hype than some of our great linebackers in the past but is probably as good or better than any we’ve had,” Huskies coach Rich Wilkie wrote in an e-mail. “He will be the core and heart of the defense this fall.”

Antonio Ford, RB, Coon Rapids

Injuries limited him to six games but he showed flashes of his game-breaking ability with 191 yards rushing against Champlin Park and 368 yards rushing and five touchdowns against Elk River — as a sophomore. Carried the ball more than 23 times in four of his six games and fumbled just once. He’s prepared to carry the load again after adding 20 pounds in the offseason.

From SportsPrepZone.com

by Troy Misko
Sportsweek staff writer

There is perhaps no position in high school football in which experience is as vital as it is at quarterback.

Coaches will tell you that an experienced quarterback seems to make everything run more smoothly.

Typically speaking, the experienced varsity quarterback is an on-field general, an extension of the head coach or offensive coordinator.

He knows his offense, the skills of the teammates around him and where they should be in every situation.

He has studied the opponent’s defense and is well versed in its strengths and weaknesses.

He’s accustomed to the characteristics of the varsity game, especially the intensity and speed at which it’s played.

And he’s familiar with the bright lights on Friday night.

“If we’re going to have anybody back, it’s nice to have your quarterback returning just because that’s just the most mentally tough position on the field, for offense anyway,” Andover coach Rich Wilkie says.

Experience, however, isn’t required to be a successful varsity quarterback. Nor does an experienced quarterback guarantee success in the win column.

Andover’s Tyler Finnes and Blaine’s Eric Kline proved the former last year as first-year varsity starting quarterbacks. This fall they hope to disprove the latter.

Finnes and Kline, both seniors, return in 2010 a year older, a year wiser. They come back bigger and stronger than they were a year ago. They come back knowing what to expect of life as the starting quarterback of a big-school football program. And they come back eager to prove that the success they enjoyed last season wasn’t a fluke.

Finnes stepped into the starting signal-caller’s role at Andover last season with no varsity experience. He had played quarterback at the sophomore and junior varsity levels, but hadn’t truly experienced the pressures that come with being a varsity QB.

No matter. Surrounded by a bevy of offensive weapons — including seniors Jason Schneider, Zach Nelson and Chase  Vasquez — Finnes made a near-flawless transition to his new role.

He led the Huskies to five straight wins to start the season and promptly established himself as one of the metro area’s top quarterbacks.

“I’ve never had a quarterback, especially as a first-year junior starter, have as much early success as Tyler,” Wilkie said at the time.

Finnes, who threw for nearly 1100 yards and 15 touchdown passes in his first four varsity games, was ranked at or near the top of the metro’s passing leaders in touchdowns, passing yards and completion percentage early in the season.

Meanwhile, Kline was getting his first taste of being a varsity quarterback at Blaine.

Kline spent his sophomore season on Blaine’s varsity roster as a wide receiver. He caught 25 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown as the Bengals advanced to the 2008 Prep Bowl.

But last season, with all-state quarterback James Peterson having graduated, the team sought a new quarterback. Kline, who had impressed coaches with his arm so much in practices as a sophomore that they made him a backup quarterback, was the answer.

He, like Finnes, wasted little time establishing himself as a viable threat at quarterback. But, perhaps unlike Finnes, Kline experienced an initial setback that left him questioning himself in his new role.

He threw an interception on this third play as quarterback.

“I was pretty confident going in,” Kline recalls. “The first two snaps went OK. Then, with the interception, I was just like, ‘What am I doing here?  What is this?’ ”

Kline recovered well enough to lead Blaine to a 53-20 victory over Osseo in that game. The Bengals lost their next game to Centennial, then did not lose again until facing Centennial in the 7AAAAA championship.

Kline was largely responsible for his team’s run.

Whatever questions might have existed before or during the season-opener were erased by his play during Blaine’s seven-game winning streak.

That interception he threw on his third play at quarterback? He apparently learned something from it. It would be more than five games and more than 150 pass attempts before he would throw another interception.

He threw only three on the season — versus 16 touchdown passes — in 240 attempts, becoming incredibly efficient in Blaine’s system.

He completed more than 83 percent of his passes in three different games, including going 29-for-34 for 305 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Maple Grove.

“I think in one game he had 23 straight completions,”Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “That’s just phenomenal. He’s very accurate. He doesn’t take a lot of chances. That’s our number one rule for quarterbacks — take care of the football.”

Finnes was similarly successful in taking care of the football for Andover. For much of the season, anyway.

He endured a rough stretch in which he threw 13 interceptions in four games. Still, he managed to guide the Huskies to triumphs in two of those games.

He finished the season with 15 interceptions in 307 attempts. But interceptions thrown can be a deceiving statistic. They show up as a stain on a quarterback’s record, but the stat doesn’t take into account things like receivers breaking off routes or running incorrect routes. It doesn’t account for passes tipped by receivers before ending up an opponent’s hands.

And it certainly doesn’t consider some of the game situations that don’t exactly favor a quarterback.

Said Wilkie of the games in which Finnes threw multiple interceptions:

“He did have a couple rough games in there that I think I would take credit for. He didn’t play very well against Anoka, but Anoka had a really good game plan and I didn’t coach very well. I didn’t call very good plays.

“So sometimes if kids aren’t having good games, especially my quarterback, I can take that responsibility because there’s probably a chance that I didn’t call a very good game or have a very good game plan.”

Those games were exceptions at Andover last year, as Finnes led his team to a 7-3 record and the Section 7AAAAA semifinal before losing to Centennial. Finnes finished the season with 25 touchdowns and more than 2200 yards passing.

In four games he went interception-free while throwing at least three touchdown passes, including in a 42-14 win over St. Francis in which he completed 18 of 20 attempts for 227 yards and four touchdowns.

As impressive as Finnes and Kline both were throwing the football, their respective passing statistics tell only part of what made them so successful last season.

Both were also adept at running the ball.

Finnes rushed for 622 yards and 10 touchdowns and Kline ran for 833 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those numbers were solid in themselves. Now consider how good they looked when those numbers were combined with their passing totals.

Finnes accumulated 2948 yards (rushing and passing) and 25 touchdowns. Kline was responsible for 2491 yards and 30 touchdowns.

“They’re both true dual-threat quarterbacks,” Wilkie said of both quarterbacks.

The ability of both players to tuck the ball and run can’t be overlooked when analyzing their impact on a game. It forces defenses to be wary of allowing their linemen to penetrate too deeply past the line of scrimmage or committing too many linebackers to pass coverage.

Both players have good size and speed — both are 6-4, weigh between 185 and 195 pounds and run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds — and possess an uncanny ability of taking a broken play and turning it into positive yardage with their feet.

“I think if teams are going to design a game plan against us, they do have to account for Tyler’s running ability,” Wilkie said.

“It’s funny because last year he passed for a lot of yards and people asked him, ‘What kind of quarterback are you?’ And he said, ‘I’m a running quarterback.’ I’m sure he enjoys throwing passes for completions, but I think if he had to pick between the two, he’d just run it.

“I don’t know if Tyler was sacked last year.  I would have to go all the way back through the film to look at it. If he was sacked, it wasn’t a drop back where somebody came off the blind side, one of those 10-yard deals. It might have been where he was scrambling up and didn’t quite get back to the line of scrimmage.

“But I can’t remember him getting sacked last year. He’s pretty heads up back there about feeling pressure and moving around. And for a kid who likes to run the ball, I think that’s part of it too. He’s not afraid to say, ‘I didn’t get the right read; I’m out of here.’ ”

The situation isn’t much different at Blaine, with Kline running the offensive show.

“When people think of our team, they think, ‘You throw the ball so much, you’re going to turn the ball over,’ ” Gerrety said. “We’re not going to make dangerous throws. We would rather lose three yards or scramble. That’s what Eric really brings to the table — his ability to make stuff happen and make good decisions about where to throw the football and where not to throw it.”

Kline and Finnes both made plenty of good things happen for their teams, especially considering they were varsity rookies at their position.They mastered the learning curve in practically no time last season.

And they set the bar high for this season.

It could be difficult for Kline and Finnes to have better seasons than they did last year.
They came in as first-year starting quarterbacks with minimal expectations. Both exceeded those expectations and put together outstanding statistical seasons.

Both helped their teams win. Accordingly, both received good grades from their coaches for their on-field efforts.

“I would give Eric a B, maybe a B+,” Gerrety says of Kline’s junior season.

“If I’m rating him as a top quarterback in the state, I would give him a B+ as a junior.  Understand it was his first year. If I was rating him as a first-year guy — you know, did he meet first-year quarterback expectations? Absolutely. I would give him an A+.

“He’s not as A+ quarterback yet, though. But as a first-year starter as a junior, he did as well as you can do. He had three interceptions on the year. That’s pretty doggone good.”

Wilkie gave Finnes a similar review for his performance as a first-time starting varsity quarterback last year.

“I would say he had pretty much an ‘A’ season for us,” Wilkie says. I don’t think we could’ve gotten more out of him.”

Both Finnes and Kline, admittedly, benefitted last year from being immersed in a strong offensive system and being surrounded by some experienced and talented players.

“The system around me helps,” said Kline, who last year had senior Mike Thai take some of the attention off him by rushing for 868 yards and 16 touchdowns and catching 60 passes for four more touchdowns.

“I give all the credit to other players and the coaches because they put me in the right positions to make plays. We’ve always had pretty good skill on the outside. They’re always making plays. You just have to give the ball to them and let them make plays.

“The quarterback is just almost like a point guard. Just give the ball to the play-makers and let them make a play for you.”

Finnes had the likes of Schneider, Nelson and Vasquez as receivers. The three combined to catch 151 of Finnes’ 201 pass completions last season. They were on the receiving end of all but two of his 25 touchdown passes.

“I had the support of our great coaches and I had the chance to work with some of my teammates like Jason [Schneider], Zach [Nelson] and Chase [Vasquez],” Finnes said. “They kind of helped me to step into my role as quarterback.  They made it really easy to step into that role.”

Kline and Finnes both lost some of their primary weapons to graduation. Thai is gone from Blaine; Schneider, Nelson and Vasquez from Andover. The result is even higher expectations of both quarterbacks. They’ll be expected to become better, stronger leaders than they have ever been.

“I think it’s time to for Tyler to become — and this is true of all of the seniors, but maybe more so when you’re a quarterback — a more vocal leader,” Wilkie said.

“I think he’s going to see more this year where there are going to be big eyes looking at him. First-time starters are going to be looking to him for leadership. He has to be that guy to make people feel comfortable out there and make the adjustments on the fly on the field with guys and kind of become that coach on the field.

“I think that’s what we’ve been able to do with our past senior quarterbacks when they’ve had their second year.

They’re supposed to take control out there and really make their teammates better.

“From a physical standpoint, Tyler a good as any high school quarterback around. He has speed and a great arm. I would say the leadership is where he’ going to make his strides this year. He’s going to become a better leader and kind of that field-general thing where’s he able to make his teammates better.”

On that subject, Finnes said:

“…Last year there were other leaders to step up. I finally started to be a leader toward the end of the season. This year, especially, I think I’m going to try to help other kids out and make sure they know what they’re doing. I’m going to try to be a good motivator, just getting people going…”

At Blaine, Gerrety is going to do his best to help manage the expectations on Kline, while helping him become a great leader..

“I think the pressure changed a little bit,” Gerrety said. “I’ve worked with him on that, talked to him about that. I don’t want him to feel pressure. I want him just to do what he does. I want him to be a great leader for our program and compete with our kids and be the guy we all lean on when we need big plays. I have no doubt that he can do that.

“I think people expect a lot out of him, which is natural because he’s a returning starter and he led his team to the section championship game and threw only three interceptions on the season.

“We just want him to be a kid, to be a leader, and do the best he can do. With that expectation, I feel really confident that he’s going to have a great year.”

From SportsPrepZone.com

by Troy Misko
Sportsweek staff writer

Antonio Ford wore number 25 last season as a running back for the Coon Rapids football team. This year he might as well forego a jersey number and wear a target on his red and white jersey.

Last year was something of a breakthrough season for Ford, now a junior.  It was last fall, in his second varsity season, that Ford earned some attention with his efforts running the ball for the Cardinals.

Rushing for more than 100 yards in a few games — much, much, much more than that in at least one game — will do that for a running back.
Ford, a virtual unknown outside of Coon Rapids prior to last season’s first game, opened his 2009 campaign with 191 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in a loss to Champlin Park. Word leaked quickly how dangerous he could be with his 5-9, 176 pound frame busting between the tackles.

He immediately became the must-stop guy on Coon Rapids roster.

It showed.

He ran for a combined 78 yards in his next two games as teams began to game-plan toward him. He began seeing eight or nine defenders keying on him out of the backfield.

He went over 100 yards again in his team’s fourth game, rushing 25 times for 112 yards and a touchdown against Andover .  It wasn’t his best game and it wasn’t his worst, either. And it certainly wasn’t much of a hint of what he would do the following week against Elk River.

Ford turned in a record-smashing effort as he ran all over and around the Elks on a rain-soaked field on Oct. 2. He knew he was having a big game. His teammates and coaches knew he was having a big game. Everyone, it seemed, knew he had a chance surpass 231 yards on the ground to break Coon Rapids’ single-game rushing mark.

But no one knew that he was going to bury the old record, not to mention the Elks, quite like he did.

Ford easily eclipsed the old school mark, carrying the ball 40 times for 368 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-12 Cardinals victory. His performance ranks as the 22nd-best for single-game yardage in Minnesota high school football history, according to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association.

“We didn’t know he had the ball that many times,” recalled Coon Rapids head coach Jon Young. “We knew he had a couple of long runs, but I guess we didn’t know he had that many yards.

“It was a sloppy field. It was raining, so we kept the ball on the ground a little more than we normally would. We were up too, so we just wanted to keep the clock rolling. We didn’t need to throw. And we had advantageous field position the whole night. It was sort of like a perfect storm, so to speak.

“I knew he clipped 200 [yards]. I was wondering if he got the school record of 231. Someone said he had 40 carries and I thought, probably about 240 yards. Then I heard 368 and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.”

Ford’s gauge on his output wasn’t any keener.

“I didn’t know I had done that much,” he says. “My coach just kept on telling me I was close to breaking the record. It was just a motor for me the whole game. I just kept trying to run as hard as I could. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know I had 40 carries.”

If Ford was a relative unknown in the Northwest Suburban Conference before that game, he no longer would be. His days of toiling in anonymity ended abruptly.

So, too, did his chances of immediately proving his breakout performance against Elk River was no fluke. He broke his hand during the game when he fell on it awkwardly after stiff-arming an Elks defender en route to the end zone. He missed the next three weeks.

Three weeks never seemed so long to Ford. He’s a staunch competitor and not being able to participate in games or practices for that time was more painful than the injury itself.

“I was miserable for those three weeks,” he says. “I really wanted to be in the game. When I was on the sideline watching, it just hurt me not to be out there with all my teammates.”

Ford returned in time for the Cardinals’ Section 7AAAAA playoff game with Centennial. Against the fierce attention he had grown accustomed to seeing — and more deservedly so than ever after his showing against Elk River — he carved out 86 yards on 23 carries in his team’s season-ending 34-15 loss to the eventual section champion.

While the loss stung, it marked the beginning of the next phase of Ford’s prep career.

His days of surprising opponents with his running abilities were already long gone. Opposing defensive schemes would forever be tilted toward him. He was a marked man.

Any question he might have had about this was quashed when word got back to him that opponents reportedly had been criticizing his game, suggesting that he was overrated, that his record-setting game against Elk River — a last-place team — was a fluke; that he ran too upright, wasn’t so hard to tackle and didn’t have breakaway speed.

“He heard through the grapevine that a couple teams thought he wasn’t that good and that he went down too easily,” Young said.

“I heard that, [too]. Last year I did run like that. This year is going to be a whole different story. I’ve been working on all of that throughout the off season. I’ve been running with more of a knee bend. I’ll be ready for those that were talking last year.”

They better be ready for him — the new and improved Antonio Ford, that is.

Ford didn’t work during the offseason just to change the angle at which he runs. He worked on his decision-making at the line of scrimmage.

Also, Ford worked on his route-running and pass-receiving techniques.

And, in typical Antonio Ford fashion, he worked tirelessly in the weight room, on the track, on the practice field and at the dinner table to transform not only his style, but his body itself.

Ford will reintroduce himself to opponents this fall as a bigger, faster version of the player his coach refers to as “an athletic wrecking ball.”

Ford added more than 15 pounds to his frame since last season. He now tips the scales between 190 and 195 pounds.

“He looks like a totally different kid this year,” Young said.

And Ford apparently didn’t sacrifice any of his running ability to pack on the pounds. He also improved his 40-yard dash time to 4.57 seconds.

The result, Ford expects, will be that he’ll be a better all-around running back.

“This year, it’s going to be a little bit different,” he said. “Last year in my running style I used my finesse and my quickness to evade tacklers. This year I’m going to try to give it back to them more.

“I’d say I’m more balanced. I can outrun a defender as much as I can pound them or shake them or whatever.”

“He’s a power, thumper back,” Young said. “He’s not a scat, breakaway guy. He’s so physical. He’s very punishing. He wants to hit you before you hit him. He’s going make you earn a tackle.

“In our camp this summer, he couldn’t get tackled. He might struggle in a game or two because that’s going to be everyone’s game plan, to stop him, but he will hurt some people that are trying to tackle him.

“He’ll be a little bit different in his running this year. Last year he was a little bit upright and he went down a little bit easy.  He’s ready to rectify that.”

So Ford could stand out even more this fall, even if opponents continue to try to stack eight or nine guys against him. It will be, for him, business as usual.

Truth is, Ford has always stood out  It didn’t take a 368-yard effort for eyes to gravitate toward him. At least not at Coon Rapids. He was an eighth-grader at Coon Rapids Middle School when he caught the attention of a Coon Rapids assistant coach.

“One of the coaches on the team taught math at the middle school and said, ‘Hey, you have to look at this kid,’ ” Young recalled. “He was really impressed by his demeanor and his physical status. [Ford] just looked so mature. We brought him into the weight room with all the other eighth-graders and it was unbelievable. He was one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had here in the eighth grade. Over and over and over, he just worked, worked, worked.”

The Coon Rapids varsity coaches took note and created a plan that would have Ford practicing with the varsity squad in the summer before his ninth-grade year. It wasn’t something they would normally do with someone Ford’s age, but all indications were that he was ready for the challenge.

“We thought he was pretty good,” Young said. “He was just head and shoulders above everybody else as a freshman.  Physically he’s really mature. And mentally he could handle the workload.  Emotionally and maturity-wise, he could handle it. I mean, he acted like he was 17 when he was only 14. So we had him with us the whole year.”

Ford started on the junior varsity squad and earned his way into varsity action in six games at running back and special teams as a freshman. He rushed 43 times for 259 yards and three touchdowns as a third-string running back on the varsity squad that season.

As impressed as the Coon Rapids coaches were by Ford’s on-field, in-game efforts as a freshman, they were even more impressed by his everyday training habits.

Ford quickly established himself as a coach’s dream — one of those rare athletes that comes along every decade or so, if the coach is fortunate, and possesses an elusive total package of advanced athletic prowess, competitiveness, coachability, desire and dedication.

Sure, that sounds like a bit much, but Young, a Coon Rapids standout three-sport athlete in the early 1990s, is effusive in his praise for Ford.

“We’ve had some really special athletes come through Coon Rapids and he’s one of those kids that’s really special,” Young said.

“But he might be the most special. He might get that tag. We won’t know until he graduates what his legacy will be, but he’s setting a new bar of work means and what conditioning means and what taking care of your body means. His nutrition habits, his sleeping habits and how he takes care of his body are exquisite. He lives it, 24-7.

“His biggest attribute is that he works harder — he has some natural instincts, he has some natural gifts — but he works harder than anybody we’ve had. In my association with Coon Rapids football — there’s about a 12-year window that I’ve been a part of Coon Rapids High School — he’s the hardest-working kid we’ve ever had. Ever had. I’m going back to when I played and I can’t think of anybody. He’s just is unparalleled with his time commitment and dedication. His willingness to put in hours and the work he puts in are second to none.

“His other great trait is that he is so willing to be coached. He could easily pull the prima donna card or think that he’s the best athlete in his classes; he could try to get away with not working or listening that well or being inattentive. He doesn’t.  He absorbs coaching so well. He acts like he’s just an average kid. He trains like he’s an average, blue-collar kid. He always knows no matter how good he gets, he can always get better.

“We haven’t had to challenge him. I’m not kidding. It sort of sounds like I’m talking about a dream scenario and I am.  He’s a coach’s dream. We don’t have to motivate the kid.

“His standards are higher than ours.  His practices are legendary. He goes like it’s Friday night every single day. Every single day. So we don’t have to motivate him, which is a pleasure. We just coach up some technique and ball security things and how to improve his speed. It’s nice. There’s no motivation needed there.

“He just goes and goes and goes.”

Ford down plays his work ethic. To him, it’s nothing unusual.  It’s who he is, the way he was raised.

“My dad helped build my work ethic ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “I’ve always been trying to get better.

“My dad always told me if you want to be the best you have to perform and do what you have to do to be the best. I’ve always kept that thought in my mind. “Whenever I know that I’m just sitting around, I know that there’s some kid out there that’s doing more work, so I just try to get myself out and push myself to do more.”

Ford does it in his quest to be better. Much better.

He wants to rush for more than 1000 yards this season — missing three games with a broken hand last season limited him to 835 yards — and help his team to the top of the Northwest Suburban Conference standings. But he wants more than that, too. He eventually wants to earn a football scholarship to a Division I school.

So he continually pushes his body to its limits. Two, three or more workouts in a day aren’t unusual for Ford. In fact, one of Young’s biggest concerns is about how to rein in Ford so he doesn’t hurt himself.

“The thing that worries me is not that he’ll get burned out; it’s that his body might suffer an injury from chronic fatigue or something like that,” Young said.

“He might have a hamstring injury that he won’t let rest because he wants to come back too early. Or he might ding his shoulder or get a stinger and he might try to be too aggressive with his recovery or his rehab. That’s the kind of thing that worries me. He doesn’t know how to stop.”

Even in the week before fall camp opened, only days before the beginning of grueling two-a-day practices, Ford couldn’t stop. Even a succinct prescription from Coon Rapids coaches that all players rest up in preparation for two-a-days couldn’t keep Ford away.

“I still went to the weight room up at school to work out to try to get that edge above any player in the conference,” he said, somehow sounding equal parts embarrassed, proud and contrite.

Ford knows teams will be gunning for him. He knows about the invisible target he’ll be wearing this season. He knows the eyes of opponents, teammates and fans will be focused squarely on him. Still, he’s not worried about how it will affect him.

“I think I’ll be all right,” he said. “There won’t too much pressure on me.

My team will help me get to where I need to be. I don’t think I’ll have that much pressure on my shoulders.”

From SportsPrepZone.com

by Tom Yelle
Sportsweek

ANDOVER HUSKIES
Conference: Northwest Suburban
Head coach: Rich Wilkie
2009 record: 7-3
The Huskies lost the 7AAAAA semifinal game at Centennial 20-14.

Notable facts:
Andover came within an eyelash of reaching the section championship game last fall. This followed a stellar season directed by its junior quarterback Tyler Finnes, who in 2009 passed for more than 2,200 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for another 10 touchdowns.

Key players back in 2010:
Foremost on the list is Finnes, who is now the Huskies’ senior quarterback with a world of experience and confidence.
But he is only one of three back with the offense; junior linemen Brad Ostendorf and Kevin Olson, who started as sophomores, are the other two returners from the potent attack in 2009. It is not much different on the defensive side. Andover has just three starters back from last season’s run led by senior linebackers Ryan Emmerich and Gabe Wolfe (both team captains along with Finnes), and junior defensive end Thomas Anderson.

The 2010 outlook and story line:
If Andover is able to successfully replace its perimeter talent lost to graduation – running backs and pass receivers – then it will take the heat off Finnes. Wilkie realizes this is a tall task, but says he is cautiously optimistic about the prospect. “A year ago people wondered how we were going to replace one of the best quarterbacks ever to come through our program in Wes Satzinger, and along came Finnes,” he noted. “This season we hope the same is true concerning those positions where [some people view] we have holes to fill.”

—————

ANOKA TORNADOES
Conference: Northwest Suburban
Head coach: Jeff Buerkle
2009 record: 6-4
Anoka lost in the Section 7AAAAA semifinals to Blaine, 34-14.

Notable facts:
Anoka had a potent rushing attack in 2009 with quarterback Parker Trewin and running back Pat Cotter combining for approximately 1,600 yards. Add to that fact Trewin (now a baseball pitcher at North Dakota State) had a strong arm and was capable of a big strike over the top to one of several receivers, Anoka had an offense that could put up big points in a moment’s notice.

Key players back in 2010:
The quarterback is gone, so is the high-profile running back, but for this program under Buerkle such things are nothing new. Anoka annually reloads its backfield with what may be gleaned as no-name players this time of year, athletes who ultimately step up to be standouts. Of this group are senior running back Matt Pint, senior wide receiver Spencer Specht and senior fullback Caleb Werness, all of whom at various moments in 2009 turned in big plays as juniors. Add to this fraternity senior running backs Nick Morrison and Jared Kuntz along with junior ball-carriers Ralph Johnson, Josh Werness, JT Tarwai, DJ Johnson and Ryan Rand, and it is conceivable to see Anoka has an army of solid rushers. This group will be helped up front by returning senior blockers Josh Olson (tackle) and Tony Busch (guard). Defensively, Anoka has a good group of returning seniors in tackle Dalton Evertz, linebackers James Beard and Mike Coleman, defensive back Adam Bachler – all captains (joining captains Specht and Pint from the offense) – as well as outside linebacker Cody Cole and strong safety Alex Meier.

The 2010 outlook and story line:
Staying healthy is the team’s No.1 priority in 2010. Not enough depth on the offensive and defensive lines creates a situation where an injury to a key big man could play havoc with the team’s overall progress this season.

—————

BLAINE BENGALS
Conference: Northwest Suburban
Head coach: Shannon Gerrety
Record in 2009: 8-2
Blaine lost to Centennial 19-14 in the Section 7AAAAA Championship game. It was the second loss of the season to the Cougars.

Notable facts:
Blaine had one of its lowest rates of turning over the ball in its history — notably just three interceptions in 2009. The program also produced a championship trifecta last fall with the varsity, sophomore and ninth-grade teams all claiming conference titles.

Key players back in 2010:
Senior captains include quarterback Eric Kline and offensive lineman Kyle Foster, who is poised to become a three-year starter. Kline was an offensive force in 2009 throwing for 1,685 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for another 833 yards. Kline is rejoined by wide receivers Nathaniel Mortenson and Evan Spurbeck, who collectively had more than 500 yards in catches and seven touchdowns, running back Ben Pigorsch and linemen Andy Blommer, Jake Conradi and Foster — all seniors. On the defense, senior linebackers Chris Thomas and Dan Robel, defensive end Nolan Wahlberg and steady, big-play strong safety Mike Zrust have returned to the lineup.

Outlook and 2010 story line:
The expectation is to compete for a section championship and a trip to the state tournament. To do so, as outlined by coach Gerrety, Blaine must protect the quarterback. “We have to let Eric [Kline] do his thing.”

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COON RAPIDS CARDINALS
Conference: Northwest Suburban
Head coach: Jon Young
Record in 2009: 2-7
The Cardinals lost a 7AAAAA first-round game to Centennial 34-15.

Notable facts:
Coon Rapids played better football the second half of its conference schedule than it had during the first half even though the net result was a split of its final four games.
The team, however, played the last half of its season without sophomore running back Antonio Ford, who, during a momentous single-game record effort of 368 yards rushing (40 carries) and five touchdowns during Week 4 against Elk River, suffered a broken hand and did not return to the lineup until the season finale.

Key players back in 2010:
Ford is the foremost offensive player who has returned, but not the only one. He is joined by proven and steady senior wide receiver Malcolm Farley (36 receptions in 2009). Meantime, on defense, Coon Rapids could have up to eight regulars back from last year, though coach Young indicated no one had definite ownership of a particular position. He said each spot [prior to the game season] was up for grabs.

2010 outlook and story line:
It’s two-fold. First, look for Coon Rapids to have more leadership provided by several different players and an overall team improvement in communication, competition, accountability and commitment. “These are areas where we fell short in 2009,” said Young. And second, the coaches’ mandate to the players is to be extremely physical on both sides of the ball. “Hit, hit and hit,” said Young. “Win or lose this season, opponents we play will have to know they have been in a physical game with Coon Rapids.”

Here is the 2010 Coon Rapids High School Football Schedule…

9/2/2010 vs Park Center

9/10/2010 @ Robbinsdale Armstrong

9/17/2010 vs Anoka (5:00 pm)

9/24/2010 @ Champlin Park

10/1/2010 @ Blaine

10/8/2010 vs Andover (Homecoming)

10/15/2010 @ Osseo

10/20/2010 vs Maple Grove

Here is the 2010 Blaine High School Football Schedule…

9/2/2010 vs Anoka

9/10/2010 @ Maple Grove

9/17/210 vs Champlin Park

9/24/2010 @ Centennial

10/1/2010 vs Coon Rapids (Homecoming)

10/8/2010 @ Park Center

10/15/2010 vs Andover

10/20/2010 @ Robbinsdale Armstrong

Here is the 2010 Andover High School Football schedule…

9/2/2010 vs Centennial

9/10/2010 @ Park Center

9/16/2010 vs Robbinsdale Armstrong

9/24/2010 @ Anoka (Goodrich Field)

10/1/2010 vs Champlin Park (Homecoming)

10/8/2010 @ Coon Rapids

10/15/2010 @ Blaine

10/20/2010 vs Osseo