Rookie coach goes up against legend
Brainerd scraped by a rebuilding St. Cloud Tech team in the opener, but then lost to a young Bemidji squad 15-13 in Week 2. Those results give Willmar hope that it can play with the mighty Blue Wave come Friday night.
Since 1999, Willmar has gone 1-7 against the Warriors losing by a 32-point gap, on average, while winning 14-6 in 2000.
In his 48th season, coach Ron Stolski ranks second in wins all-time (312-144-5). Jon Konold, Willmar's new head coach, has two, though he does come into the weekend undefeated.
The Stolski era at Brainerd, which began in 1975, may slip, but never far. Even when re-loading, the Warriors' physical stature and execution are impressive.
The Cardinals' start is likewise impressive. True, both victories came against teams breaking in a sophomore quarterback, but the junior-heavy Cardinals have shown consistent big-play ability on both defense and offense so far this season.
The no-huddle, spread offense offense out of the shotgun seems well suited for this group. At times, it's been explosive.
Mark Dunham had a fine game throwing the ball against Fergus Falls and the inside-outside punch of fullback Nathaniel Swoyer and halfback Grant Schow is showing early signs of being formidable.
This week's obstacle provides Willmar with a test not only of its ability to execute but to stand up for four quarters to an aggressive challenger accustomed to having its way with the Cardinals.
Of bats and beer
The prospect of a Northwoods League baseball team (collegiate) coming to Bill Taunton Stadium next summer presents several concerns. Likely, the first to be pushed off the splendid field and facility will be the VFW program, which in recent years has supported two teams.
Next to be shuffled to the north field (Orange) would be the American Legion Post 167 team and the Rails. Several problems with North Swansson, as it is sometimes called, have been remedied with the installation of underground sprinklers and reworking the infield and basepaths to take out the lip.
But other aspects make it inferior as a primary park for VFW, Legion or the Rails. The scoreboard is outdated and defies quick interpretation, the concession stand is outside the gate and requires crossing the entry road to the softball fields while the "press box", which is used mainly by the scoreboard operator and a scorekeeper, is smaller than the average duck blind.
Overlapping schedules in June and July among five teams, all itching to play on the main city field, will be common when a committee sits down to iron things out. Concessions and signage sales will be controlled by the franchise, it's reported. The owners, including Ryan Voz, the Cold Spring native who twice brought the Alexandria Beetles here, will have to use everything in their bag to entice people to the stadium to pay to see baseball, which, except for a few post-season tournaments, has been free here.
The city has been accommodating, to be sure. Typically, a beer license in this city has been about as hard to get as a passenger train to the Twin Cities, but the council has given the city attorney the green light to amend the ordinance.
Tourney next year
Willmar's role co-hosting the Minnesota Amateur State Baseball Tournament should not be impacted as far as scheduling, but the tournament committee will be going after the same sponsors as this new Northwoods League team. Willmar and Bird Island will host, between them, 48 teams over 11 days on the last two weekends of August and Labor Day weekend 2010.
Mike Nagel, a Willmar optometrist who lives in Olivia, heads the Islander program and was instrumental in bringing the tournament to West Central Minnesota for only the third time (Granite Falls, along with Marshall, hosted in '89 and '99). Jon Rambow, the president of the Willmar Baseball/Softball Boosters, and secre-tary/treasurer Mary Sawatzky both attended and worked at this year's tournament in Gaylord-Arlington.
The first thing they were told was that "It's a lot of work, and you'll need hundreds of volunteers."
Typically, members of Service Clubs will be counted on to play a large role in providing volunteers.
The paid gate this year was 13,766. That money goes to the MABA. Willmar and Bird Island can cover their expenses through concessions, novelties, beer sales and sponsorships. The profits here will be put back into the baseball and softball programs, Rambow emphasized.
Spicer has been designated as the back-up field and there is also the possibility that several games could be slated at Green Lake Diamonds when the tournament schedule comes out.
Adamson at helm
Wade Adamson will take over as head coach of the Legion Post 167 team. Dave Oehrlein, who ran the program for four summers (each ending at the state tournament), will continue to schedule and help out in the background.
Adamson is a 1975 Willmar graduate and former Twins minor league pitcher. He was a varsity head coach in the 1990s for three years following eight springs as an assistant. He was Oehrlein's assistant this summer.
In Week 1, Boys soccer, offense, Abshir Ahmed, a senior striker, scored five goals in win at St. Cloud Apollo; Football, Taylor Filipek, a senior two-way starter, had two interceptions, one TD and seven tackles in win over Bemidji. In Week 2, girls soccer defense, Jordan Martins, senior keeper, amassed 50 saves in three games, a win, loss and a tie.