Prep football: Wildcats eye rematch with QB whiz Kalthoff
NEW LONDON -- This has been a season of streaks for the New London-Spicer football team -- three wins followed by four losses and now on a four-game winning streak.
The Wildcats will try to make in five in a row when they play Annandale at noon Saturday at Husky Stadium along the Mississippi River in St. Cloud.
Asked where the team has made its greatest strides, head coach Dan Essler replied: "Blocking. Not just the line, but the backs and receivers are getting their blocks in our offensive scheme."
The tackles are 6-foot-5, 235-pound Lee Schroeder and 6-7, 240 Andy McDonnell, guards 6-0, 175 Aaron Clancy and 6-5, 240 Luke Magnuson, center 5-10, 180 Luke Steffl and tight end 6-4, 180 Nick LaPatka.
A major benefactor of cracks created in the opposing wall is senior running back Austin Stone (233-1179, 13 TDs). The 190-pound back has been getting the ball up to 30 times a game. Adam Essler has rung up 377 yards in 71 carries. Both backs are at 5.0 yards per carry with 18 TDs combined rushing.
Coach Essler also pointed out that the defensive line, after some shifts in personnel, has played at a high level since mid-season. Stone, who started out as a two-way player RB/LB), can now rest his legs between offensive possessions.
Quarterback Ryan Vraa averages about 12 throws per game (68-131-1002, 10 TDs, 7 INTs). Top catchers are Aaron Ruter (13-266), Essler (14-155), Trent Boie (11-191), LaPatka (9-116) and Jarrett Hatlestad (8-132).
Annandale and the Wildcats have split four meetings dating to the 2009 playoffs. Annandale, now in 5AAA, bumped NLS in the first round of 6AAA last year and this year in Wright County Conference action, 28-21 on Oct. 5.
Quarterback John Kalthoff, who is 6-3, 200-pound, is getting looks from Division II and small majors. He's thrown for 1,723 yards in 10 games with 11 TDs and 7 INTs. Senior Brett Ahsenmacher (34-614, 18.1 avg) and junior Matt Miller (36-551, 15.3) are his top targets while Andy Russek and Nick Anderson have 16 and 14 hookups, respectively.
But the Cardinals (9-1) are equally adept staying grounded. Nic Anderson, Miller and Russek are each around 500 yards rushing. Last fall, Annandale reached the state semifinals, losing to Fairmont 21-9 at the Dome.
"They are very fast and physical and the defense is a hard-hitting bunch," assesses the Wildcats' coach.
The Cardinals Alec Fournier (95 tackles, 2 INTs) has been selected the Wright County South Linebacker of the Year.
The Wildcats defensive leaders include linebackers Dalton Johnson (99 tackles), Mitch Oman (77 tackles) Reid Johnson (63 tackles), Grant Vagle (54 tackles) and strong safety Logan Bring (87 2 INTs, 2 TDS). Also, defensive end Ben Beuning and free safety Joey Dreier have notched 64 tackles apiece. Dreier has four picks, one for a TD, and Beuning has two each in sacks, fumble recoveries and picks. Defensive tackle Nick Bergeson has 48 stops and a team-high 2½ sacks.
This will be the seventh straight winning season for Essler and his coaching staff. The pinnacle, of course, was the 14-0 2009 campaign which ended with the thrilling win over powerhouse Glencoe-Silver Lake, now a Wildcats' adversary in the Wright County Conference which has put teams in the state tournament.
This is the Wildcats' third state tournament. The first was in 2008 when they reached the semifinals losing to DeLaSalle.