2012 record: 3-6
By PATRICK SLACK
In addition to unpacking boxes, scripting plays and installing a new system, head coach Jay DeCann had his hands full finding time to simply learn the names of everyone on the Little Falls football team last fall.
Coming back from an offseason in which many of the team’s players embraced and bulked up under a strenuous weight-lifting program, with four players competing, and one winning, the Spartan Challenge in Cold Spring, DeCann may have to take a minute to relearn a few.
“We just look different physically, and I think with that our kids are a lot more confident,” DeCann said. “They just have a different attitude about football right now. They put the time in and they’ve done a tremendous job preparing for this fall. They’re all on board and they’re all buying in.”
One of the players who was already strong for the Flyers a year ago is now-senior running back Jalen Wuchko, who amassed 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 156 carries.
Clearing a path in front of him will be senior backfield mate Trysten Ross at fullback, who also doubled as a tackling machine at middle linebacker last fall.
Other returning starters include seniors Tyler Gastecki (offensive line/defensive end), Jake Novotny (safety) and Tom Tabatt (offensive line) and juniors Thomas Bell (kicker), Brighton Goodrich (safety), Bryce Zawatzke (tight end/linebacker) and Michael Trettel (offensive line).
A place without an incumbent starter will be under center, as senior Lucas Cofell and junior Austin Fenske vie for the vacant quarterback position. Both are expected to share time early on until live game action takes place.
“They both have done everything we’ve asked,” DeCann said.
Also looking to compete for varsity spots are seniors Michael Fregin (wide receiver), Seth Kaiser (offensive line), Derek McMahan (linebacker) and Austin Olson (linebacker) and juniors Jake Anderson (defensive line), Mark Brezinka (wide receiver), Josh DeCann (wide receiver), Nick Himley (defensive end), Jackson Hott (defensive line), Jeremy Klein (cornerback), Kyle Kabanuk (wide receiver), John Lukasavitz (tight end/linebacker), Ian McQuillan (offensive line), Michael Orr (cornerback) and Alex Vagle (offensive line).
Seniors on this year’s team include Matt Allen, Tony Andres, Cofell, Fregin, Gastecki, William Groshong, Wuchko, Kaiser, McMahan, Novotny, Olson, Ross, Tabbatt, Easton Johnson and Dane Peterson.
DeCann believes the Flyers are capable of competing in the deep Granite Ridge Conference after going 3-4 last season, but the team will have its hands full.
“There’s no reason we can’t,” he said. “Becker is at a little bit different level than everyone right now statewide (in Class AAAA). From top to bottom, our conference is a very tough football conference. Football is important, it’s big, very well-coached.”
But despite what the coaching staff may see in terms of improved ability, it’s up to the players having the belief and desire for the results to follow.
“I think our kids have increased expectations,” DeCann said. “I think there was kind of a mentality that football’s football and we’ll just take it as it goes, but I think the expectations now with the work ethic, putting time in have increased, the expectations are that we’re going to be a big, strong, physical football team, and we need to have the attitude that we’re going to expect to win.”
And in addition to having settled in his new home, DeCann and the Flyers will have a slightly more forgiving schedule than last fall, when they opened against eventual state champion Hutchinson, followed by a match-up two weeks later with state semifinalist Becker.
This year’s season gets under way for Little Falls at home against Waseca, Friday.