Football: Goodhue learning on the fly
GOODHUE – With a new crop of players coming in, a new conference to prepare for and a 4-6 record from 2012 to try and improve, Goodhue football is getting a head start.
While the majority of the state begins practice on Monday, the Wildcats got underway this past week as they prepare for a Zero Week matchup with Hayfield on Aug. 23.
“It’s been a hard week, but the kids are getting used to it,” said senior lineman Josh Dahling. “We’re all learning really quickly, better than last year, I think. And we’re clicking along faster than we were.”
The need to learn is one of the biggest keys for Goodhue, which reached the Section 1A semifinals last year before losing to Blooming Prairie, 41-26. Starting practice a week early has had its issues, with some players missing Thursday’s practice due to the Goodhue County Fair.
But the Wildcats’ coaches are rolling with whatever comes along.
“You got to be flexible in the first week,” said Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet. “It’s new to everyone here and it kind of overlaps with our rules meeting, our fundraising, all that other stuff. “
Where the Zero Week game could pay off is in Week 5, when the Wildcats get a bye. Last season, two of Goodhue’s top offensive players, wide receiver Tyson Dicke and running back Dillon Huemann, missed significant time due to injury.
“We don’t know if that’s a pro or a con,” Poncelet said of the bye week. “We don’t know if it kills momentum or gives us a chance to heal.
“The whole division is doing it, so there’s no advantage or disadvantage. We look at the positives with (Zero Week) and go with it.”
Then there becomes the matter of the new Southern Football Alliance. A conference made up of teams from the Hiawatha Valley League and the Three Rivers Conference, the Wildcats will play against five other Class 1A schools and three 2A programs in the Blue division.
Although the playing field is more equal as far as school enrollment, the schedule doesn’t get easier with defending 2A state champion Caledonia and 2A state power Chatfield in the SFA Blue.
“We really don’t know who they are or how good they are yet,” said wide receiver/cornerback Alex Thomforde, “but we’ll find out.
Poncelet added, “Everything’s going to go through Caledonia as long as they’re in our division. Chatfield, this is supposed to be their year to beat Caledonia. … Rushford-Peterson is Rushford-Peterson; they’ve been to the Dome as many times as we have. These are all the Three Rivers schools, and there’s some good football over there.”
With six starters back on both sides of the ball, Goodhue is hoping a strong sophomore class can get up to speed and become contributors from the get-go.
“Our sophomores are some of the hardest workers, and our seniors push them hard,” said cornerback/wide receiver Cody Nord. “They’re going to be a good part for our defense and will be ready for the first game.”
In keeping up with the learning theme, the Wildcats’ seniors have taken to being tutors for the younger players.
“We’re trying to get them focused in the weight room, trying to get them bigger and stronger,” Dahling said. “And we’re working on footwork to get them ready for full-speed hitting.”
There’s still a lot to learn, but Goodhue’s ready to put everything into action.
“I’m ready to hit, pound and take on Hayfield,” Dahling said.