Coach Kundert, for the last decade Aquin has consistently been on the upper end of the NUIC. This year you guys have started the season with 2 convincing wins over Orangeville and Stockton. Right now you guys sit at the top of the South alongside Forreston and West Carroll. Where is the mentality at currently with your guys, and how excited are they to move forward into the season?
We feel really good about how our team has responded to a pretty solid schedule early on. Last year we started with Kirkland (Hiawatha) who was a playoff team but then had two teams who did not make the playoffs. Starting this season with 3 teams who all made the playoffs last year and being so successful thus far is a big confidence boost for our guys, but the end goal is to compete with the best so to do that we know there are still things that need to be improved. But that's the great part about playing in the NUIC, you will get challenged and if you are good enough to get into the playoffs you are prepared.
2. Now, with any team’s success you have to pick apart a team and obviously this is a special team with playmaker's all over. I’m going to throw out a couple numbers. 358 yards passing, 22-31, 5 TD passes, 81 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD. In two games, Will Gustafson has put up unthinkable numbers and has become one of the most multi-talented quarterbacks that the NUIC has seen in a long time. The kid can either do it in the air or tuck it and run it 50 yards like nothing, and it's something truly special to see. Were you guys expecting this out of Will coming into this season, and how much of a leader has he become for the Bulldogs?
We knew coming in that Will had all the tools to play as well as he has been this season. The biggest difference we as a staff are seeing in Will this season is he is truly taking what the defense is giving him. Which is good for us because as you stated he can beat you with his arm or his legs. Another big part of Will’s game that has improved is his leadership, he works really hard and it rubs off on everyone. The supporting cast around him is so much improved as well so when he can throw a ball to Brennan Carlson, Ty Stykel, Andrew Bowman, or Heath Brunner with the confidence that they can take it the distance as well, it makes his job as the quarterback much easier.
3. Not so much in week 1, but in week 2 you guys got the ball moving on the ground with players like Ty Stykel. With players like him, and other players like Andrew Bowman, with over 200 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns, how are you guys able to balance out your offense so well?
It all starts up front for us. Our starting 5 O-Line deserve the credit for that. Tanner Kuhl, Tyler Geiken, Brady Carlisle, Hayden Neuendorf, and Cade Geiken were on a mission this off season, and it is showing thus far. They are the ones who allow us to be so versatile on offense because we can trust them to be good in run and pass blocking, which is harder to do than you think. We know we are pretty talented at multiple positions, so for us week to week if a defense puts 7 in the box you will see more throws, and if they give us a light box with 5 or 6 we will take that and run it every play. We have some very unselfish skill players which makes the play calling easy for coach Blackbourn, just put us in a successful spot and it will work itself out.
4. I’m sure, even as a newer coach in the NUIC, you have heard plenty about the dominance of teams such as Le-Win and Forreston over the last decade. I've had the chance to ask a couple other head coaches in the NUIC this question, but what do you see as the importance now being able to play teams like Forreston, West Carroll, and EPC in the regular season? What was your personal opinion about the division into the North and South Conferences?
I am all for it. The conference is great for a test to see what and where you need to improve throughout the regular season. You will be battle tested when the playoffs arrive. Playing teams like Forreston, who are a dominant 1A football team year in and year out, and getting to play really good 2A teams like EPC and West Carroll will show you where you really are as a team.
5. You guys have managed to start out strong and looking at the schedule moving forward, a lot of things can happen, and at the rate you guys are playing a playoff run for the Aquin Bulldogs has got to be a mindset. What do you like to keep in the guy's heads week in and week out to make sure they stay mentally prepared? What’s a couple things you look forward to for the coming weeks?
We talk a lot about no matter who we're playing that practice needs to make us get better. You know when you are playing a rival like Stockton, or a state champion like Forreston, it's very easy to have a good week of practice and have energy. However, that same energy you have in practice for those teams needs to be brought all of the time because this league is too good to not improve each week. Moving forward the next couple weeks I want to see our team bring the same energy we had the first two weeks that will be a good gauge for us as a staff to see what kind of team we are. I will also look forward to see some guys step up that may be given more playing time due to injuries or whatever may happen throughout the season.
6. Now, I know no coach likes to think or talk about any game except for what’s to worry about that week. Looking quite a few weeks from now you guys have quite a luxury getting to finish off your last 2 games of the regular season at home, week 8 against the defending state champions Forreston, and in week 9 the 2-0 West Carroll Thunder. How important is it to you guys to be able to host, what might come down to, the two biggest games on your schedule this season right now on your home field in front of your home crowd?
Playing potentially the top two teams in our league at home is a huge advantage to us. Going to either Forreston or Savanna to play West Carroll would make for a very challenging end of the season. Even with both of those teams being at home it will be an awesome test to see where we are at, especially at the end of the season. Hopefully we will have a playoff berth locked up by that time, but if we do not, playing our last two games at home could potentially help us seal a berth. Playing at Conley Field is always special, and foreshadowing what could be
huge games at Conley Field is pretty awesome.