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Park senior captains, from left, quarterback Sam Domeier, linebacker Kahlen Boich and safety Kyle McDounough are geared up for the 2013 season. The Wolfpack faces Stillwater Thursday in Cottage Grove to open the season. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)

2013 Fall Sports Preview: Park football team focused on the little things

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The luster of snapping a 21-game losing streak faded quickly last season for the Park football team as it endured dropping its final eight games of the season, but it hasn’t deterred the resolve of those on the team to build the program up again.

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Doing the little things right and getting players to buy into the philosophy head coach Darin Glazier and his staff have put in place are top priority this season. Accomplishing those tasks first will lead to success in the future, Glazier said.

“We’ve got to keep the program going in the right direction,” said Glazier, who enters his third season as head coach. “Week in and week out a big part of that is these kids need to believe in themselves. They need to trust each other, they need to trust us as coaches. We all need to work together to build on the little successes in each game. Good things like that Forest Lake game will happen for us again.”

The Wolfpack defeated Forest Lake 47-12 in the season-opening game last season, but struggled to remain competitive the rest of the season. Park finished the season 1-8 overall and was outscored 357-137 on the year.

The Wolfpack already faces a difficult challenge as the smallest 6A football team in the state, but it also faces decreased numbers on the field this season. The team has 37 varsity players, Glazier said, so Park will have to remain healthy this season.

“Our numbers are low, our success has been limited,” Glazier said. “We need to get this program back on track, but we’re not going to be able to do that saying we need to win X number of games every year. We’ve got to keep doing the little things right and building up to where we’re going to have those things pay off.”

Pass-friendly approach

This season Glazier and his staff have worked to tailor the team to its strong suits and for the offense that means a more pass-friendly format with senior quarterback Sam Domeier under center for the second consecutive year.

Domeier has improved his arm strength and gained confidence since last season after the Wolfpack finished with 34.1 completion rate with three passing touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a team during the regular season.

“We kind of put in a new offense and it’s kind of geared toward me,” Domeier said. “It’s up-tempo so I’m really comfortable with it once everything gets going. Last year I just struggled with basic mechanics and being mentally tough.”

Domeier will have a bevy of wide receivers to choose from including 6-foot-5 junior Jeb Melson, senior Elias Arlington, senior Kenny Gay and junior Anthony Juba.

The offense struggled throughout last season and managed seven points or fewer in five games. Part of Park’s problems came because the team lost starting running back Dylan Smallidge in the fourth game of the season against White Bear Lake. The Wolfpack adjusted to life without Smallidge — who led the conference in rushing yards at the time of his injury — last year, which has helped for this season after Smallidge’s graduation.

Junior running back Brandyn Tulloch and others will handle the workload in the backfield this season.

“What we need to get out of (Tulloch) is some good, hard running,” Glazier said. “He needs to break those initial arm tackles and get those necessary yards when he gets the ball and we call on him.”

On the defensive side of the ball Park returns all but four starters. Senior linebacker and three-year starter Kahlen Boich headlines the defense, which will aim to improve on limiting yards after contact after struggling with it last year.

The defense has adopted the acronym AAG — Alignment, Assignment, Get to the ball — to address the inadequacies of last season, Boich said.

“Every day in practice we’ve been working our tails off to get to the ball,” Boich said. “We’ve just got to play physical and play smart.”

The Wolfpack yielded an average of 326.5 yards per game during the regular season. Park also allowed opponents to complete 52.9 percent of their passes for 17 touchdowns and there’s been added emphasis on the play of the secondary this season.

“We’ve got to finish off tackles, wrap up and drive our legs,” senior safety Kyle McDounough said. “We’ve got to get back to the textbook and do it how it’s supposed to be done.”

The Wolfpack had only 11 takeaways last season and getting players flocking to the ball will help create more opportunities for takeaways.

“We’re trying to reinforce with these kids over and over is get to the football, trying to get turnovers,” Glazier said. “We want the second man in ripping at the football. Any given time we’ve got to make those turnovers and give the ball back to our offense. It’s such a huge thing in a game where a team that’s going to be the underdog in most games, we’ve got to create those opportunities for ourselves.”

Park opens the season Thursday against Stillwater in Cottage Grove.

-Nick Gerhardt

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