Uncertainty follows 9-2 season
WABASSO – Uncertainty is the name of the game for the Wabasso football team’s upcoming season.
Wabasso lost most of its starters from a team that went 9-2 having only lost to Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s during the regular season and to Dawson-Boyd in the Section 5A title game, both of which met in the state semifinals in the now-defunct Metrodome.
“We think that that’s where our program should be all the time and we shoot for that,” said Wabasso coach Joe Kemp. “The kids last year, we got a good start and the momentum started building.”
Capturing that momentum this year will be tough for a team of 42 players that has 31 freshmen and sophomores, especially when the skill positions have not yet been crystallized.
The first question comes at quarterback in finding a successor to Neil Eichten. Kemp said Josh Altermatt and Beau Taylor are among the leading candidates for the position, but Devan Liebl and Nick Altermatt are also in the hunt as well.
“We’re probably going to make a depth chart by the end of the week and that’ll be ripped by next week and that’ll be ripped up again after the scrimmage,” Kemp said. “This might be the first year I’ve had four or five kids who might be pretty good quarterbacks. Instead of trying to scratch up one or two, we’ve got some really good athletes who have played quarterback. It’s a nice problem to have.”
Senior Josh Altermatt started on the offensive line last year, but could now be behind center this year.
“I played quarterback when I was in seventh, eighth, ninth grade, so it’s really not going to be too much of a transition,” Altermatt said. “Going from a skill position to line was a little more [of a transition], but this year it should be fine.”
Senior Dirk Pistulka will be continuing his role as one of the go-to wideouts, but the uncertainty at quarterback has created some challenges.
“It’s a little bit different,” Pistulka said. “I’ve had Neil Eichten since junior high who has been throwing to me, so it will be something different.”
Caleb Kemp and Jared Welch are two veterans who made a difference as underclassmen last year, so they know how nerve-wracking it can be as a young starter.
Getting the underclassmen mentally prepared for the upcoming season is a high priority for the experienced players.
“It’s very important because with the small numbers in the junior and senior classes, we may rely on them a lot to step up and get some big playing time,” said Caleb Kemp, who started as a sophomore at fullback. “Right away, those first couple plays under the lights, you’ve got to adjust to it a little bit. But after a while, you’re just playing football and having fun.”
Without Tanner Bock at running back, Caleb Kemp and Mitch Fulton will be getting more carries and Welch may be used at an H-back position. But Welch’s position is not set in stone.
Welch started last season as a freshman on both the offensive and defensive lines and will likely make a big impact this year as a sophomore, regardless of where he plays.
“Our coach does a very good job to get us in shape, so it’s not too bad,” Welch said. “When I see we go play other teams where they play one way, their guys are still tired and we’re not too bad.”
Joe Kemp said his team has a lot of speed and good leadership that should bode well by the time the Friday night lights switch on.
“We’ve always kept up the numbers and we’ve always loved playing this sport,” Pistulka said. “There’s always something different with us. We might not like practice that much, but when we get to games, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”