Menomonie, Chippewa Falls (WQOW) -- Chuck Raykovich is back for his 28th season as head coach at Chippewa Falls, while Joe LaBuda is about to start his 25th season at Menomonie.
Menomonie has been a model of consistency under LaBuda, with twenty-three consecutive WIAA playoff appearances. Last season, the Mustangs finished second in the Big Rivers Conference, and Menomonie figures to be in the title chase once again.
LaBuda says one of the keys to continued success is to be adaptable.
"The one thing about being a coach is, it's like having a new job each year, because every year is different," LaBuda says, "it takes different things to motivate different kids. You have a different group of kids, a different combination of kids every year. It's finding the right strings to pull and putting the kids in the right position. That's kind of what this time of year is all about."
The Mustangs weren't happy with how last year ended. Menomonie lost at home to Hudson, costing the Mustangs a shot at the Big Rivers Conference title. That preceded a playoff loss at Williams Stadium to La Crosse Logan on a last-second hail mary.
"We were really beat up at the end of last year,"says LaBuda, "we were shorthanded at the end of last year when we played Hudson and then in the playoffs, and so you can never control that, you don't know how things are going to go injury-wise, but you know, I think our kids were really disappointed the way the season ended so hopefully that is motivation to them. Right now they've got a great attitude so far, I've been really pleased with their hustle and their attitude. We're really inexperienced, we're going to have to grow up in a hurry, and I'd say one of the strengths of our team could be our defensive backs, that's where some of our experience is, we've got a couple of really good defensive backs."
Menomonie kicks off the season Friday, August 23, when the Mustangs host Tomah.
In Chippewa falls, the Cardinals are looking to rebound after a tough 2012 season, in which Chi-Hi finished 1-7. Chippewa won the BRC title in 2008, and was the conference's third place team in 2009 and 2010, but Raykovich has other ways of measuring success.
"My expectations are that the boys do their best, give it all that they have, and the wins are going to take care of themselves," says Raykovich, "we don't base a program on success being wins and losses. It's based on kids learning how to compete and giving it all."
Raykovich says the BRC is tough top to bottom this season, but adds that his guys aren't dwelling on what happened last year.
"We really believe that the life of a football team," says Raykovich, "or any team, in that respect, is one year, and when that team is done, the new one is born. This is a new year, and we don't look back at last year, we're looking ahead to this year, and doing the best we can. I know that Hudson's going to be good, Menomonie's going to be good, Superior's going to be good, and Rice Lake's going to be outstanding. I think Memorial's going to be good, North with a new coach is going to have, you know, more energy, River Falls is going to be good, .heck, they're all good, you know, we're going to fit in there somewhere."
Chippewa Falls heads to Holmen on Friday, August 23, to kick off the season.
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