The Concordia University Cougars will enter the 2005 football season with the desire to put a winless 2004 behind them and make forward strides in the Illini-Badger Conference under second-year head coach Bob Conwell.
Senior Craig Platt returns for his third season as the Cougar quarterback. Platt started every game in 2004 and threw for 1,527 yards on 169 of 336 (.503). Platt will have three veteran receivers returning in Dan Meier (29-275, 3 TDs), Jeff Koenig (24-236) and Travis Reeb (13-109).
The Cougar running game will have the unenviable task of replacing four-year halfback Aaron Kuester, but the team believes they have a suitable candidate in Tony Fontana. The 5-10 speedster from Dundee-Crown H.S. was forced to red-shirt his 2004 rookie season after going down with an injury early in preseason, but all indications point to him being ready to shoulder the load for this season.
Concordia's offense will operate behind an offensive line that can boast of more experience than any other group on the team. Three starters, including Honorable Mention Illini-Badger guard and fourth-year starter Mike Heidkamp, third-year starting guard Tom Cerceo and third-year starting tackle Nick Hruska, will lead the way in opening the lanes for the Cougar backs and giving Platt time to throw. Rick Palm and Mark Lapezo, both of whom saw part-time duty last year, will give the line additional depth while newcomer Phil Klopke will be the leading candidate to start at center. Sean Yerkes will return after missing the entire 2004 season to provide the team with solid play at the tight end position.
On defense, Justin Allen will continue to be a force up front as evidenced by his 67 tackles, including 14 for minus-yardage. Josh Schumacher (34 tackles, seven for minus-yardage) will have the inside track for one of the outside line positions. Meanwhile, Jason Bangert is expected to anchor the middle linebacker position while the outside spots will be filled from a list of new talents that include Jon Kress, Domingo Pierce (from OPRF) and Curtis Wilson.
The Cougar secondary will return a key starter in senior free safety Justin Wilhelms (57 tackles, 1 INT).
The Cougars will play their season opener on Saturday against Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. The home opener is set for Sept. 17 against Rose-Hulman.
A press release contributed to this report.