Skippers welcome former Cardinals aboard

By volume of opportunity only, it's a sure thing that many of Willmar's best and brightest will end up with careers in the Twin Cities Metro. The Class of 2001 posted the Cardinals' most recent football championship (fall of '01). Some of those y...

By volume of opportunity only, it's a sure thing that many of Willmar's best and brightest will end up with careers in the Twin Cities Metro.

The Class of 2001 posted the Cardinals' most recent football championship (fall of '01). Some of those young men are now coaching at programs in the western suburbs.

Matt Breen is in his second year with the Minnetonka school district. He teaches high school geometry and coaches in both the football and baseball programs.

"I have the freshmen defensive backs," he said Monday after the first practice. "We have six coaches, two less than last year, and about 60 kids."

Dave Nelson is admiral of the Skippers' ship. He came from Blaine, which he turned into a perennial state contender. It took Nelson only two years before he produced a Class 5A championship for Minnetonka in 2004. Last year Wayzata, a Lake Classic rival and neighboring school district, took possession of the state title. Those two teams meet in the season opener Aug. 31 at Minnetonka.


When Breen was a senior, Willmar was still assigned to the largest class. They probably had the horses that year to do damage in Class 4A, but ended up losing to Burnsville 34-14 at Hodapp Field in the section semifinals.

Measured by the Skippers program, the Cardinals don't fit the 5A mold any longer.

"There will be about 180 kids out in the top three classes," said Breen. "The varsity has 10 coaches, I think, and the sophomores perhaps eight."

Willmar has four full-time coaches at the varsity level and two for the sophomores.

This fall, Breen is joined on the freshman coaching staff by former Cardinal teammate Charlie Schneider, a graduate of Northwestern College in Roseville where he played four years on the offensive line. He also will be teaching in the math department and coaching the defensive line.

Curt Eischens, a 1979 Willmar graduate, is a long-time coach in the Minnetonka program, this year working with the varsity wide receivers. He teaches in the Orono district.

Doug Runke, the middle linebacker on the 2000 team, is teaching fifth grade at Mound Westonka and coaching in both the football and hockey programs. This is his second year after starting three years for Terry Horan at Concordia, Moorhead.

Breen also hooked up with the Minnetonka Legion program, which is sponsored by the Excelsior American Legion Post. He is an assistant coach on a team that played nearly 50 games and hosted this summer's state tournament.


Breen saw spot duty as a wide receiver at St. John's University where he played for the legendary John Gagliardi.

Some recent Willmar graduates have ended up back in the country after getting a taste of the big city. Jeremy Sather competed against Breen and the Johnnies as a starting defensive back for Bethel College. He is back in Minnesota after a year coaching at a 6A high school in Jacksonville, Fla. Sather has settled in Redwood Falls with his wife, Christine, and will commute to Morgan where he'll be an assistant coach at Cedar Mountain (Morgan and Franklin, plus Comfrey for football).

Sather teaches elementary physical education, eighth- grade health and adaptive P.E. Matt Lundeen, head coach at Redwood Falls, is Jeremy's brother-in-law.

Willmar opens Sept. 1 at St. Cloud Apollo. The Cardinals are at home the following Friday against Little Falls.

On the fly

n After spending 25 summers playing amateur ball, Willmar resident Jon Rambow has found a new interest. The former Granite Falls player/manager competed in the Green Lake triathlon on Sunday. He had a good race, finishing in 1:26.58, one spot in front of Willmar teacher/-coach Jon Gubrud.

n The Willmar boys cross-country team returns four of its top five from last fall's Class AA championship team. Though it would be hard to top, a preview on the Apple Raceberry Jam web site states that the team should do even better this year, led by returning all-staters Abdi Awale and Kaafi Adeys. Also expected to make up the top four are Mohammed Bedel, all-state honorable mention, and Mustafa Yusuf.

n Terry Luschen, quarterback on three Willmar Cardinal football teams (1988-90) is starting his sixth season as an assistant coach at Litchfield. Head football coach Jon Johnson credits Luschen, a computer programmer at Paisley consulting in Cokato, with implementing a Web page for Dragons football ( ). After high school, Luschen, who played quarterback at Central Iowa College, coached the defensive and offensive backs.

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