Winning a state championship in football last fall has forced Cedar Park to purchase a new piece of furniture.
“We’re in the process of getting a bigger trophy case,” said Joe Willis, the coach who guided Cedar Park to the Class 4A, Division II title in his first season leading the team.
The modest trophy case near the school’s front office was not large enough to house the six 16-inch gold football trophies the Timberwolves earned on the postseason journey to their first state title.
Other than the trophy case’s expansion, Cedar Park is taking a business-as-usual approach to the 2013 season. Despite a strong nucleus of eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense, the Timberwolves are not guaranteed another trophy while playing in what Willis describes as “the strongest district in the state.”
The coach is referring to District 25-4A, whose four playoff teams were a combined 13-3 in the postseason last season. No 25-4A team was more impressive than Cedar Park, which defeated its six playoff opponents by an average score of 38-11.
Ranked No. 1 in Central Texas by the American-Statesman entering this season, Cedar Park has the look of a repeat state champion.
The offense is led by quarterback Nate Grimm, who threw for 1,913 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes. Linebacker Peter Maneikis (87 tackles, eight sacks) headlines a defense that also returns cornerback Lane Waller (four interceptions) and linebacker Thomas Hutchings (four fumble recoveries).
“I wouldn’t say a whole lot has changed,” Grimm said. “We won state, and now we want to defend it.”
Willis noted that 17 of his team’s 22 starters are seniors, a helpful element for the Timberwolves.
“Our players don’t walk around like they’re entitled to anything,” Willis said. “They’re concentrating on trying to defend the trophy, playing fast and physical football. We’re not concerned about where we are in the polls. We just want to be the best team in Texas this year.”
Cedar Park, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A in the Associated Press preseason state poll, presents matchup problems for opponents because of its massive offensive line. The starting group of second-team All-State left tackle Davis Geerts, left guard Eric Vicharelli, center Austin Bryant, right guard Ethan Sullivant and right tackle Cole Baughman averages 276 pounds.
“We’re a bigger team than last year,” Grimm said, “which could lead to a good season.”
Grimm should feel comfortable handing the ball off to returning running back Chris Hutchings (782 yards, five touchdowns in 2012) and passing to Sam Brock (15 catches, 405 yards, nine TDs).
Cedar Park lost its first two games last season before reeling off 14 straight victories, and the T’wolves are a combined 38-6 over the past three seasons.
“All that matters is how we play this year and if we can defend the championship,” Geerts said.
Cedar Park paid tribute to the 2012 football team and the school’s entire athletic department on Thursday. Not only did the Timberwolves win a state championship in football, the school walked off with the 2012-13 Class 4A Lone Star Cup, a statewide honor given annually to the 4A school that posts the best results throughout the school year in UIL-sponsored athletic and academic competitions.