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Willmar Notebook: Frosh win at Brainerd gives hope

The Willmar freshman football team (2-0) beat Brainerd 34-24 a week ago today. That's noteworthy. Brainerd doesn't lose often, at any level.

Last year the Brainerd frosh shellacked the 9th-grade Cardinals, now sophomores, 61-6.

Aamot certainly was wondering how this team would stand up against the Blue Wave.

Brainerd's 9th-grade team had 51 players and four coaches.

"I think our kids were just a little scared at first," said Aamot.

But Willmar had big turnout of 38 boys to draw on and the confidence coming off a 44-12 win over Alexandria the week before and a strong showing at the six-team Hutchinson scrimmage.

Right off the bus, the young Cardinals took control of the line of scrimmage and never let up. They were intercepted on their first possession but went on to score on five possessions before Brainerd go a couple of lake scores.

"I think they're coaches were a little surprised," said freshman head coach Brett Aamot. "We were never behind."

He added: "They're fun to coach; they have such great chemistry. They were singing the Rouser on the way back; we finally told them to pipe down."

Asked to highlight a couple of players, Aamot mentioned quarterback Augustin Hahn ("Very astute, understands the offense"), running back Michael Heitzman and wide receiver Austin Grove. The latter two are coach's sons. Programs thrive when second- or third-generation athletes show up in the starting line-up, such as in 1993 and 2000, the most recent Cardinal wins against Brainerd.

Aamot gained over a thousand yards rushing in six games his senior year (1977) playing for Bill Hansen then went on to play at Willmar CC and Gustavus.

A managing partner in the Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing accounting firm, Aamot is his third year as a volunteer coach. He relies on assistant coaches Ed Oehlers, co-head wrestling coach, and Tony Neumann (WHS '05), an ex-Concordia College wrestler who is part-time teaching.

"Coach Oehlers has such excellent teaching technique and Tony is a real asset. He understands what were trying to do and handles our special teams," said the head coach.

Like the varsity, the frosh run the no-huddle, spread offense taught by head coach Jon Konold.

It's a challenge for the youngsters but most of the boys have been doing it for several years. It's even used by the Willmar teams down in the 5th-6th grade Youth Tackle Football League.

"We don't always run no-huddle but we have the wristbands and we'll run empty backfield," Aamot told me.

The freshmen, who play a nine-game schedule paralleling the varsity, play Rocori at Hodapp at 5 p.m. this evening. The 9th-grader will host the NLS Wildcats on Oct. 3; last fall the NLS 9th-graders won.

Cobbers host SJU

It's a big day in Moorhead when Concordia hosts the St. John's University Johnnies.

Coach Terry Horan (WHS '85) is in his 11th-season as the Cobbers' head coach. He leads his 2-0 team up against John Gagliardi's boys at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Horan added another ex-Cardinal to his coaching staff this fall. Terry Luschen (WHS '91) joined the staff as a technical specialist and JV coach. Terry, who is in private business, was on Jon Johnson's staff at Litchfield the past 10 years.

Michael Dunham is in his third year starting at quarterback. The 2008 Willmar grad is 26-for-44 passing with 1 int. and 1 TD. Dunham, who excels on the roll-out, also had 56 yards rushing. St. John's is 1-1 after losing to a tough UW-LaCrosse team on Saturday.

Hannah Smith a hit at Ridgewater

Hannah Smith was a terrific two-sport athlete in high school who elected to remain close to home for her first two years of college. It's paid off athletically. She was a key player on the national championship volleyball team and starting in basketball.

This school year, the Lady Warriors' outside hitter ranks among the state leaders in several categories.

Smith has 24 serving aces and 113 kills, both tops in the South Division. She's third in digs with 112. Teammates Kelsey Stommes (Cold Spring) leads in blocks per game and is third in kills. Molly Hurrle (Kimball) is the top setter by a wide margin (9.7) and Aimee Johnson (Granite Falls) leads the South with 146 digs.

On the fly

Katie Switzer, a 2010 graduate of Willmar High School, is a member of the 2011-12 Luther College tennis team at Decorah, Iowa.

n Sophomore tennis players Maddy Oehrlein and Hannah Hansen both made their varsity debut on Tuesday winning at 3- and at 4-singles, respectively, in the Cardinals 5-2 victory over Sartell.

Coach Erika Kath played three sophomores at singles in that match. Perennial Central Lakes champion St. Cloud Tech is even younger with four sophomores and three freshmen starting. Coach Paul Bates (WHS '82) is even starting a 7th-grader at 2-singles. At last report, the middle-schooler was undefeated.