By Jeff Meder
Journal Sports Writer
WINTHROP - People driving through Winthrop may hear a lot of noise coming from the high school football field. That's because the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop football team is "under construction."
The Thunderbirds were 0-9 last year, and it is currently on an 11-game losing streak dating back to October 2012.
Carl Bratsch is the new head coach this season, taking over for long-time head coach Pat Hentges. He brings five years of experience to the job. He travelled only seven miles for his first head coaching job after spending four years as a coach at Sibley East. He was also a coach for one year in Jordan prior to that.
"[This] season is going to be a fresh start," Bratsch said. "We are almost starting over with a new offense, defense, special teams-just a new start for everyone."
Everyone is forgetting about the past, and focusing on the present to build a brighter and better future for the GFW football program.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm, and in our July camp, everyone starting picking up things well and buying into the new system. We want to lay a foundation for the future. We hope that it leads to success in the future," he said.
He cited things like new techniques, a new offense, new defense and special teams as to how to achieve that goal.
Bratsch said the Gopher Valley Conference is balanced this season. Maple River, which finished first in the conference last season, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown are three of the teams that are strong.
Gustavo Munoz, a junior, will be the team's starting quarterback. Bratsch said Munoz has played the position before and he has "picked up the offense and he is doing well."
Tristan Schmidt will be playing two positions, one on each side of the ball. He will be the main running back and a middle linebacker. Bratsch said Schmidt is "good at both spots."
"I expect a lot of tackles there," Bratsch said of Schmidt's defensive role.
Leighton Messner will be a wide receiver and an outside linebacker.
"He should make an impact that those positions," Bratsch said.
Dan Timm will be an offensive tackle and a defensive end. His job will be to aid the GFW run and stop the opponents' running game.
Thomas Weikle is a wide receiver who can run the ball. He'll also play one of the tougher positions of defensive safety, which Bratsch said he is picking up.
GFW had 14 players graduate from last year's team. This year, there are a total of 21 letterwinners from last year, with 10 returning starters (five each on offense and defense). Thirty-two players from grades 10-12 are out for the sport; 44 from grades 9-12.
"We're deep in some positions, but in some, we're not. Every team at this size has to deal with that," Bratsch said.
Rich Busse, Scott Robinson and Jake Langemo are returning as coaches under Bratsch. GFW welcomes Jordan Rudenick, Travis Vorwerk and Jay Rogotzke to the team as well. Rogotzke is a 2010 graduate of GFW.
"I expect them to give their best in every game and to compete in every game against every team we play," Bratsch said.
GFW is in Section 2AA and it plays in the Gopher Valley AA Conference. The Thunderbirds will host Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 in its season opener.