SHINER -- The "back to the future" comparison is inevitable as Jake Wachsmuth and his St. Paul Cardinals head into the 2012 football season.
Wachsmuth is back at the school following a year’s sojurn. The Cardinals revert to the ground-oriented offensive attack from the wide-open aerial game they relied on a year ago. Many of the key skill players who took the Cards to that championship -- in particular the running back tandem of Adam Hollenbach and Martin Kennedy -- are back for their senior seasons.
But Wachsmuth shrugs off those comparisons in favor of an observation more tried and true in football circles: those that spend all their time dwelling on history are doomed to never repeat it.
"It’s still a new team," said Wachsmuth. "They’re excited. They know they have the opportunity to be real good. I don’t think about (the 2010 championship). I approach every season the same.
"People look at what we did two years ago and think that was an easy season," he said. "It was not. And they think this one is going to be even easier, and it is not. It’s always new."
New or not, a lot of familiar names dot the Cardinals’ lineup, and they’re all more experienced and bigger than before.
Those names begin, of course, with Hollenbach and Kennedy. As sophomores in 2010, they put up prolific numbers. Both went over 1,000 yards on the ground and might have accomplished even more had the schedule not included a number of lopsided blowouts.
Hollenbach, in fact, enters this season with the potential to crack the state record books in the career-touchdowns category, threatening the marks set by luminaries like Cedric Benson, Robert Strait and Kenneth Hall.
The numbers for Hollenbach and Kennedy suffered a bit last year as both ran the ball fewer times in an air-oriented attack, but Wachsmuth said he’s not about to overlook opportunities this season.
"We’ve got about five or six skill kids that, they’ve got to get the ball," he said. "We’ve got to utilize all that talent, that’s the challenge. We’ve got to make sure to tweak things to make sure they get the ball."
Wachsmuth said the Cardinals could at times utilize three-back formations behind QB Dakota Kresta, with veterans like Dylan Barton and Mitchell McElroy joining the two standout seniors.
Kresta is another senior that Wachsmuth will be only too happy to utilize.
"He’s an excellent quarterback," Wachsmuth said. "He got a lot of experience throwing the ball last year, but he’s also very good with the option."
McElroy will take some snaps at QB as well.
Wachsmuth is also anxious to test out a couple of new faces in the Cardinal lineup. Tyler Morgan comes in as a senior transfer, at tight end and linebacker, while John Barker will see time at RB and LB. Both top the 200-pound mark.
"One great thing about our kids is that they’re versatile," Wachsmuth said. "Dylan is probably our fastest kid, but you could see him at tight end, wide receiver or running back. We’ve got good depth."
The offensive line, new and relatively undersized last season, has had a year of experience and work in the weight room and has the potenial to be very, very good.
Seniors Justin Siegel, Austin Horne and Laddie Patek all have added size and speed, and junior Travis Raabe and sophomore Connor Pruett lead the underclassmen. Colton Spahn and Sean Wenske will also see a lot of field time.
"We’ve got some seniors obviously who have played, and there are some good young kids coming up," Wachsmuth said. "They definitely have a good attitude."
The Cardinal defense is also reverting to its 2010 formation, the 4-3. Wachsmuth said the Cardinals have not worked as much on defense yet, but it will be easier to pick up.
"The kids are all pretty familiar with what we do, so what we can do now is start expanding on that base we started," he said.
While his team is loaded with experience and starts the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the state title game, Wachsmuth said the biggest factor in St. Paul’s favor has nothing to do with football.
"The kids come here for a lot of reasons, not for the sports but for the academics and the faith," he said. "People talk a lot about chemistry. You lose some of that with every group of seniors you graduate. People say we only lost three seniors, but you’re losing people."