Last year marked a huge step forward for senior Nate Sobieck and the rest of his St. Cloud Cathedral teammates.
After winning one game in veteran head coach Dean Taylor’s first season in 2009, and three in 2010, the Crusaders began last season 6-0 — building a real buzz around the program for the first time in a few years.
But the way the season ended — with losses to eventual conference champion Zimmerman and Class 4A state champion Rocori, then a heartbreaking 26-18 loss to Albany in the first round of the Section 6-3A playoffs in a game Cathedral led 12-0 at halftime — left Sobieck and company hungry for more in 2012.
“(The loss to Albany) was definitely the hardest loss I’ve ever had to go through,” said the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Sobieck, who returns as a starter at both offensive guard and defensive tackle.
“Albany is a huge rival of ours. We had them in the first half and we let it slip away. That’s why our team motto this year is unfinished business. We feel like we have some more things to prove.”
The Crusaders lost some key pieces from last year’s team — including leading rusher Waylon Bemboom, quarterback Mathew Dodge, running back Bjorn Bjorklund and offensive/defensive lineman Michael Kerber.
But six starters return defensively: Sobieck and senior Aaron Parker (6-2, 235) on the defensive line, seniors Bo Schmitz (5-10, 175) and Bryan Bowar (5-10, 195) in the linebacking corps and seniors Mike Manthey (5-10, 175) and Isaac Blitvitch (6-1, 165) in the secondary. Bowar ranked second on the team’s defensive point totals chart a year ago.
“In the secondary, in the linebackers and on the defensive line, we have returning starters at each level,” said Taylor, who begins his fourth season at Cathedral and his 32nd season as a high school head coach overall. “I think that’s really going to stabilize us.”
Offensively, five starters are back: Sobieck and Parker on the line, Bowar and Schmitz at running back and Manthey at a flanker.
The starting quarterback is new. But his name is a familiar one to fans of Cathedral athletics. Junior Jeff Fasching (6-0, 160) — who helped pitch the Cathedral baseball team to the Class 2A state title game last spring — takes over the starting job.
“He’s going to perform really well,” senior tight end Drew Peschel (6-1, 195) said of Fasching, the son of former Cathedral head coach and current St. John’s assistant Gary Fasching.
“He’s played under pressure before in other sports and he’s handled it really well. He’s got a great arm and he’s a smart player. He knows how to lead an offense.”
Sobieck said the pieces are in place for another successful season — hopefully one with a better ending.
“We want to win our conference,” Sobieck said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. We came close last year and we know we can play with all these teams now.
“Then we want to go somewhere in the playoffs. That’s our goal and we have the potential to achieve it.”