Nov. 14—ROCHESTER — Travis Walch has had a long and productive career as a football player, coach and consultant. And now in his very first season as a head coach, he has found immediate success.
Walch, 47, is a 1994 Elgin-Millville High School graduate who took over as the head coach of the St. Thomas Academy high school football team for the 2023 season. The Cadets are 9-2 and still have their state championship hopes alive.
"Goal No. 1 was to get our team to 'The Bank' and get our team to the championship game," Walch said.
The first goal has been accomplished as STA defeated Owatonna 46-28 in the Class 5A state quarterfinals this past Saturday. The Cadets will play Alexandria Area (11-0) in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
St. Thomas has been a football power in the state for decades. The Cadets lost in the Class 5A state quarterfinals the past two years, were 6-0 and won their only section game in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and lost in the state title game in both 2018 and '19.
"They've had a lot of unbelievable success over, I could probably say, the last 50 years, but certainly the last 25," Walch said.
Walch was a bit nervous about two things coming into the season. The team didn't have a single starter back on defense and the fact that Class 5A changed its scheduling option. That gave St. Thomas a chance to really ramp up its schedule to play top competition.
"We want to play the best competition we can in-season to prepare for the postseason," Walch said.
That had the Cadets playing Andover, Mahtomedi and Robbinsdale Armstrong, all teams that earned state berths this season. After opening with a loss to powerful Andover, St. Thomas has won nine of its past 10 games with the lone loss coming by one point to Chaska in overtime. Included were 42-14 and 44-13 wins over Mahtomedi and Armstrong.
"It's been really fun to play that competition level and I think it's benefited us greatly," Walch said. "We had some great wins this year, but like I said when I talked to our team, we also had some really good losses. I think good programs learn from defeat."
Prior to becoming a consultant and running the company Route Tree, Walch was an assistant coach at the University of St. Thomas for 17 years. But he is enjoying being in charge of a program for the first time.
"It's been fun, but it's been different," he said. "I led my life as an assistant and prided myself on being a really good assistant. I think the first thing I started to realize is the importance of having great assistants."
Walch says he has a great staff, many of whom were holdovers from the previous staff. But he also brought in about seven or eight others who he had coached with at some point at the college level.
Despite putting his own stamp on the program, Walch is proud that St. Thomas' style of play and the production resembles the Cadets teams of the past.
"That was important to me," he said. "I wanted to make sure we carried on the legacy that's been so strong there."
Walch says from the sixth-grade program up to varsity, he has 28 assistant coaches overall. That includes about 14 total coaches that help with the varsity.
"We practice (grades) 10 through 12 on varsity, and that's almost 100 kids," he said.
He does a lot of the administrative work, scheduling and communicating with players and coaches to make sure the program is on track.
"The first thing you realize is you don't do nearly as much X's and O's stuff as you used to," Walch said.
Walch has done television announcing and color commentary during the Prep Bowl for the past four seasons. Despite being a coach, and with a team possibly in the state title game, he plans on doing Prep Bowl telecasts for both the Class 1A and 2A championship games.
That was one of his stipulations when he took over at St. Thomas, that he be allowed to do the broadcasts as long as it didn't interfere with his own coaching.
"I really enjoy doing the commentating and it's something I want to continue to do whether I'm coaching or not," he said.
Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Post Bulletin. His Local Notebook appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at