by Tom Yelle

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.”


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.


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.”


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.”


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