Nine months past the school’s best postseason run in 45 years, the Willmar football team was back on the practice field.

Monday was the opening day of practice for football, volleyball, cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving.

The sounds of whistles, barking coaches, cleats stomping the fresh-cut grass, and coded formations and plays filled the late-morning air outside Willmar High School as the Cardinals get ready for the 2019 season. Around a hundred players were donning white helmets and red jerseys, the highest total the team has had in five years, head coach Jon Konold told the players as practice wound down.

In 2018, Willmar went 11-2, reached state for the first time since 1988 and got to the Class AAAA finals, a first for the school since 1973. In the Prep Bowl, SMB got the better of the Cardinals by a score of 44-18.

The 2019 season will begin with a rematch of the Section 8AAAA championship as Willmar will travel to Detroit Lakes on Friday, Aug. 30.

Getting underway

Schools around west central Minnesota took to the practice field for the first time on Monday. For Willmar, that includes: football, volleyball, cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving.

Here’s when all these teams will see their first competition of the 2019 season.

Football: Aug. 30 at Detroit Lakes

Volleyball: Aug. 22 vs. Marshall

Cross-Country: Aug. 26 at Moorhead

Boys Soccer: Aug. 22 at Monticello

Girls Soccer: Aug. 22 at Delano

Girls Tennis: Aug. 19 at Pine City

Girls Swim: Aug. 23 at Willmar Invite