It’s the nature of coaches that their focus tends to drift toward what can go wrong instead of what is going right.
These are good times for the Dassel-Cokato football team. After a 56-7 homecoming rout of Glencoe-Silver Lake on Friday, the Chargers are 6-0. The last time they won as many games in a season was 2010, when they went 9-2. And there are still two regular season games left to play.
Heady times indeed.
But for coach Ryan Weinandt, now in his 15th season as the program’s grand poobah, this is no time to sit back and rake in praises and plaudits. There’s still work to be done. Huge obstacles await in the postseason.
“I try to enjoy it, but head coaches are notorious for worrying all the time,” Weinandt said. “You worry about letting people down and the team not performing its best.”
Weinandt may be playing the long game, but the community has taken notice. Comments and congratulations are tossed his way frequently. Former players check in regularly. The student body has embraced the team, turning out in droves and refusing to leave at game’s end.
“You can tell there’s a lot of excitement,” he said. “Someone told me that was the biggest homecoming crowd they’d ever seen, and it was raining. And they stick around after the games to interact with the players. People are fired up.”
For the first time in nearly a decade, the news surrounding the Dassel-Cokato football team is all good. Quarterback Paul Raisanen is a three-year starter but no longer a one-man show. He’s got help in the backfield from running back Blake Johnson, another three-year starter, and on the edges from receiver Caleb Keith.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is our balance,” Weinandt said. The stats bear that out. As a team, the Chargers have rushed for 1,293 yards and passed for 1,113.
While Raisanen, Johnson and Keith get much of the pub, Dassel-Cokato has a slew of others eager to chip in.
“Our quarterback has had 400-yard [passing] games in his career, but he doesn’t care if he gets 100 yards. That’s the way is it with all these guys. They don’t care who’s getting [the ball] or how much, they just want to win,” Weinandt said.
Part of what defines the Chargers' unselfishness is a past dotted with tragedy. In 2013, a player, Luke Nelson, suffered a nearly-fatal brain injury in a game. Last year, another player, Jacob McDonald, died during the season after a severe peanut-allergy reaction. Adversity is no stranger.
“This group has a good perspective,” Weinandt said. “They don’t worry about little things, like losing a game. They’re been through a lot together already.”
Weinandt absorbs much of the worry for them. His latest concern is the section playoffs. Dassel-Cokato resides in Class 4A, Section 2, also home to longtime powers Hutchinson, Marshall and Waseca.
“Those are some really good teams,” he says with uneasiness.
Fretting aside, Weinandt acknowledges that there is a lot of satisfaction to be found in the Chargers’ results this season.
“I enjoy seeing the kids having success after working hard and seeing how excited the community is,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that some people are taking notice.”