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Prep football preview: Perennial power Waunakee hearing some footsteps in Badger North this fall

Prep football preview: Perennial power Waunakee hearing some footsteps in Badger North this fall

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Conference, overall: Waunakee 7-0, 12-1; DeForest 6-1, 8-3; Mount Horeb/Barneveld 5-2, 9-3; Baraboo 4-3, 4-6; Reedsburg 3-4, 5-4; Sauk Prairie 2-5, 2-7; Beaver Dam 1-6, 2-7; Portage 0-7, 0-9.

2018 WIAA playoffs: Waunakee advanced to the WIAA Division 2 semifinals; Mount Horeb/Barneveld advanced to the Division 3 quarterfinals; DeForest advanced to the Division 2 second round; Baraboo lost in the Division 2 first round.

Top-seeded Waunakee def. eighth-seeded Baraboo 27-0 in Division 2 first round, def. fourth-seeded DeForest 23-20 in second round, def. second-seeded Monona Grove 33-7 in quarterfinals, lost to top-seeded Brookfield Central 20-13 in semifinals; third-seeded Mount Horeb/Barneveld def. sixth-seeded Berlin 17-14 in Division 3 first round, def. seventh-seeded Pewaukee 48-7 in second round, lost to top-seeded Waukesha Catholic Memorial 38-0 in quarterfinals; fourth-seeded DeForest def. fifth-seeded Holmen 35-6 in Division 2 first round, lost to top-seeded Waunakee 23-20 in second round; eighth-seeded Baraboo lost to top-seeded Waunakee 27-0 in Division 2 first round.


First teamOffense: Jack Thennes, sr., OT, DeForest; Evan Armstrong, sr., RB, DeForest. Defense: Gaje Hughes, sr., DL, Waunakee; EdWyn Erickson, sr., DL, DeForest; Jeb Frey, sr., LB, Waunakee; Devin Moran-Rivers, sr., LB, DeForest; Lawson Ludwig, sr., DB, Waunakee.


Lawson Ludwig, 5-11, 165, sr., DB, Waunakee: Ludwig, a first-team all-conference safety last year, was rated as the No. 7 senior defensive back in the state in a preseason ranking.

Ethan Post, 6-0, 180, sr., QB, Mount Horeb/Barneveld: Post threw for 2,510 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 300 yards in 2018 (No. 9 senior quarterback by

Gaje Hughes, 6-2, 240, sr., DL/DE, Waunakee: Hughes will be a key cog up front on defense for the defending conference champion Warriors (No. 9 senior defensive lineman by

Charlie Fish, 6-1, 185, sr., WR/DB, Mount Horeb/Barneveld: Fish becomes the top receiving target for Post after totaling 25 catches and four touchdowns last year (listed as No. 9 senior wide receiver by

Jeb Frey, 6-1, 195, sr., LB, Waunakee: Frey figures to take over a central defensive role after he was third on the team in tackles last year (behind graduated Blake McCurdy and Reed Ryan), and also had five sacks (No. 10 senior edge defensive player by

Trey Schroeder, 6-0, 170, sr., quarterback, DeForest: Schroeder was an accurate passer and a dual threat with his running ability last year for the Norskies.

Evan Armstrong, 5-11, 185, sr., RB, DeForest: First-team all-conference pick Armstrong was the Norskies’ leading rusher last season ( watch list for top senior running backs).

Casey Campbell, 5-10, 160, sr., RB, Reedsburg: Campbell will be a focal point in the Beavers’ flexbone offense ( watch list for top senior running backs).

Tyson Fry, 5-10, 215, sr., FB, Baraboo: Fry is expected to be a key figure in the Baraboo backfield, as well as playing defensive line. He was a second-team all-conference punter last year.


Battle at the top: Defending Badger North champion Waunakee opens the season Aug. 23 in a much-anticipated game against Badger South Conference power Monona Grove and ends the regular season Oct. 18 at chief challenger DeForest, which is seeking to break through against perennial power Waunakee. Last season, Waunakee twice defeated DeForest last season, including rallying to win a second-round playoff game. The Warriors barely edged the Norskies in the league coaches’ preseason vote for first place, with Mount Horeb/Barneveld solidly in third.

Changing of guard at Sauk Prairie and Portage: Clay Iverson is the new coach at Sauk Prairie, replacing interim coach Scott Schutt. Iverson said he was 91-46 in 13 previous seasons of coaching — at Pewaukee and Mukwonago. “We expect to play hard and improve every day,” Iverson said. Shane Haak takes over at Portage, replacing Bob Hepp. “We look forward to this upcoming year,” Haak said. “Our senior class has had great leadership throughout the summer and the beginning of the year.” His top assistant will be Tim Haak, who is the school’s athletic director.

History lesson: This season marks the 125th season of Beaver Dam football. The first team was fielded in 1895, making the Beavers one of the state’s oldest teams. Beaver Dam has played in 940 games and is one of about 10 schools in state football history to have won at least 500 games, Golden Beavers coach Steve Kuenzi said.


1, Waunakee; 2, DeForest; 3, Mount Horeb/Barneveld.



Coach: Steve Turkington, sixth year (11-35).

Last year: 4-3 Badger North, 4-6 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 29/15.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 2/4.

The lowdown: The Thunderbirds hope to build on last year’s playoff appearance, their first since 2006. But they lost a lot of experience from that team. “We need to establish our new starters and get varsity ready in a hurry,” Turkington said. “We feel that our program is in position where it can be competitive in the Badger Conference every year and compete for a playoff spot.” Senior Tyson Fry, a 5-10, 220-pound fullback, and 5-11, 260-pound senior left tackle George Fitzwilliams are returning starters in the I-formation offense. Other key offensive players are expected to include junior center Mason Schultz, senior quarterback Graham Langkamp, sophomore quarterback Luna Larson and junior running back Owen Nachtigal. The 3-4 defense is led by outside linebacker Larson, senior defensive lineman Josh Beale, senior linebacker Ben Florencio and senior defensive back Nate McCauley. Turkington said others who might crack the starting lineup include junior linebacker Campbell Koseor, junior outside linebacker Jake Schaefer and junior defensive backs Quinn Mueller and Clayton Teasdale.


Coach: Steve Kuenzi, sixth year (14-32).

Last year: 1-6 Badger North, 2-7 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 21/22.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/6.

The lowdown: The Golden Beavers have quality depth along their offensive and defensive lines — including returning the entire offensive line, led by Brett Mahnke. Beaver Dam’s offense, a spread option, must replace quarterback Kendric Jimenez. Senior Ian Wendt-Utrie and junior Carter Riesen will vie for the starting spot. The offense returns leading rusher James Brown, back after an injury-shortened 2018 season, and leading receiver Broden Boschert. Kailey Walters, perfect on 21 extra points last year, returns as kicker. The defense, which must replace first-team all-conference defensive back Adam Bird, struggled last year due to numerous injuries that hampered cohesiveness, Kuenzi said. The Beavers play a 3-3-5 odd stack. They will explore new defensive packages because the defense has a solid defensive front but an inexperienced linebacker corps. Defensive line candidates include Mahnke, Zach Schoenberger, Nick Ludowese and Alex Frinak. Wendt-Utrie and Boschert lead the secondary. “We feel we can be a playoff team, but moving up into the top half of the Badger North will be a tough challenge,” said Kuenzi, optimistic about what the season will bring.


Coach: Mike Minick, 20th year (149-67).

Last year: 6-1 Badger North, 8-3 overall.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 6/8.

The lowdown: Minick anticipates strong leadership from the seniors and expects his team to challenge for the Badger North crown. DeForest, which averaged 27 points and permitted 14 last year, will use a pro-set offense and a 4-2-5 defense. Minick wants to run the football and the Norskies’ offensive line play will be critical to that plan. The offensive line led by first-team all-conference lineman Jack Thennes and second-team selection Colby Hartig will be asked to open holes for running back Evan Armstrong, another returning all-conference player. Quarterback Trey Schroeder directs the attack. Senior defensive lineman EdWyn Erickson and senior linebacker Devin Moran-Rivers were first-team all-league players last year.


Coach: Bret St. Arnauld, second year (9-3); 37-35 overall.

Last year: 5-2 Badger North, 9-3 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 35/18.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/3.

The lowdown: St. Arnauld is excited about his team, which he said has speed and returns quite a few players with big-game experience, notably on offense. “We have kids that can make plays and are able to create on their own if they need to,” he said. Quarterback Ethan Post and wide receiver Charlie Fish are considered to be among the top-10 senior players at their positions in the state, according to rankings. Post has a chance to break school passing records and Fish is receiving NCAA Division 1 interest, St. Arnauld said. Defensively, St. Arnauld believes his team will be young and inexperienced. “We will see early on in the season how our new group of young kids fill into these roles,” he said. If the defense comes around, Mount Horeb/Barneveld hopes to challenge Waunakee and DeForest. “I am looking for a good season,” St. Arnauld said. “We should be a tough team.”


Coach: Shane Haak, first year.

Last year: 0-7 Badger North, 0-9 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 9/7.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 5/6.

The lowdown: Haak expects the offense to be led by senior quarterback Brett Walker and senior running backs Colton Brandsma and Dale Sheppard. Seniors Ryan Schultz, Mason Pate, Matthew Miles and Gavin McTier help form the receiving corps. Seniors Jonah Stout, Konnor Smith and Shane Steines will anchor the offensive line. Haak forecasted that junior Tyler Christ and sophomores Hayden Steinle and Jack Callen will be top offensive newcomers. Returners on defense include Miles, Steines, Smith, Pate, Brandsma, Schultz and senior Ayden Klafke, with sophomores Ethan Bleich and Isaac Paul anticipated to contribute this season. “We are focused on the process and competing to the best of our ability one week at a time,” Haak said.


Coach: Brian Pottinger, 14th year (75-65).

Last year: 3-4 Badger North, 5-4 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 20/20.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 5/5.

The lowdown: Pottinger expects that his team will compete for a playoff berth. The Beavers have several seniors ready to lead the flexbone attack, including quarterback Ethan Lee, running back Casey Campbell, fullback Joe Statz, tight end/split end Austin Peters, guard Ryan Phelps and tackle Joel Douglas. Reedsburg will show multiple alignments on defense, led by its seniors, defensive linemen Jonathan Schmitt and Carter Daniels, linebackers Statz and Robert Losic and defensive backs Danny Kast, Carson Beyer and Dominic DeJesus.


Coach: Clay Iverson, first year (14th year overall, 91-46).

Last year: 2-5 Badger North, 2-7 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 7/13.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 5/6.

The lowdown: Iverson said the challenge will be “learning brand-new systems on all phases and creating (a) great culture.” The Eagles plan to use a multiple-formation offense, seeking to average more than last year’s 10 points per game, and expect to show multiple alignments on defense. Top returning players include wide receiver/defensive back Benjamin German, running back/linebacker Brooks Leister, tight end/linebacker Dayton Goette, running back/linebacker Garrett Hertzfeldt, wide receiver/defensive back Jay Lietdke, running back/linebacker Parker Breunig and linemen Colby Elsing, Colton Oas, Kenneth Vasquez, Lance Bauernhuber and Marcus Hankins. Hertzfeldt led the team in rushing last season when he was a second-team all-conference performer.


Coach: Pat Rice, 28 years (286-40).

Last year: 7-0 Badger North, 12-1 overall.

Letterwinners (returning/lost): 20/32.

Starters returning (offense/defense): 3/5.

The lowdown: Rice’s team reached the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals last season, averaging 42.2 points per game while permitting only 6.2. But they lost 14 starters, and each was an All-Badger North performer, including four All-State picks topped by defensive end Reed Ryan and receiver/defensive back Sawyer Maly. That led Rice to say, “We will need some unproven players to step up big. If this happens, we will be in the chase.” Eight starters graduated on offense. Offensive linemen Forrest Anderson (6-4, 238-pound senior) and Thomas Meffert (6-1, 255-pound junior) and wide receiver Caden Lewis return. Senior Will Ross led the team in rushing last year, but is currently sidelined by injury. Rice said Ross was injured during summer baseball and is out indefinitely. Junior quarterback Caden Nelson lettered last year. The defense has important pieces back in defensive lineman Gaje Hughes, senior linebacker Jeb Frey, senior safety Lawson Ludwig, senior safety Joe Hauser, senior cornerback Jacob May and senior defensive back Alec Morgan. The Warriors’ defense has key players back and competition at all positions, but Rice said unproven players will need to step up.


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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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