Monona Grove 7-0 (11-1 overall); Oregon 6-1 (7-3); Watertown 5-2 (7-4); Stoughton 4-3 (6-4); Madison Edgewood 2-5 (3-6); Milton 2-5 (3-6); Monroe 2-5 (2-7); Fort Atkinson 0-7 (0-9).
First team — Brady Killerlain, RB, Monona Grove; Daniel Denault, TE, Watertown; Cade Oiler, WR, Watertown; Jack Nelson, OT, Stoughton; Nate Hall, OG, Oregon; Garrett Hanson, C, Monona Grove; Jake Crogan, LB, Watertown; Kory Stas, DB, Watertown.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nate Hall, 6-0, 210, sr., OG, Oregon: A first-team All-Badger South pick last year, Hall held down a key spot on the Panthers’ line as the offense produced 2,261 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns, and generated 955 yards passing and 10 more scores.
Garrett Hanson, 5-10, 225, C, Monona Grove: A unanimous first-team All-Badger South choice last year, Hanson anchors a Silver Eagles offensive line that generated 2,399 yards rushing and 33 rushing touchdowns last year, along with 2,360 yards passing and 27 more scores.
Brady Killerlain, RB, Monona Grove: A first-team All-Badger South pick last year, Killerlain ran for 836 yards on 137 carries (a 6.1-yard average) with nine touchdowns, and caught nine passes for 162 yards and another score.
Jack Nelson, 6-7, 270, sr., OT, Stoughton: The four-star University of Wisconsin recruit, a four-year varsity starter is ranked No. 2 among all players in Wisconsin by wissports.net. Already a two-time winner of Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Badger South.
Ethan Pauly, 6-4, 200, sr., QB, Watertown: Earned second-team All-Badger South honors last year, completing 177 of 349 passes (50.7 percent) for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also ran for 448 yards and eight scores.
Cade Oiler, 5-10, 145, sr., and Kory Stas,6-0, 145, sr., WRs, Watertown: Oiler was a first-team All-Badger South pick last year, and Stas made the second team. Stas caught 41 passes for 786 yards and 12 TDs last year, and Oiler caught 34 for 400 yards and four scores. Both are ranked among the top 15 receivers in the state by wissports.net.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Week One showdown: Badger South champion Monona Grove’s last game was a 33-7 loss to Badger North champ Waunakee in a WIAA Division 2 playoff quarterfinal. It marked the only time last year that the Silver Eagles scored fewer than 21 points in a game. After taking the entire offseason to lick their wounds, the Silver Eagles get another shot against the Warriors in their season opener on Friday. The Badger Conference crossover (non-conference) game will be played at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23 at Waunakee.
Goslings flying high: Optimism is running high in Watertown, as the Goslings appear ready to ride a loaded lineup and a pass-oriented offense to big things. Quarterback Ethan Pauly returns after throwing for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns, and he has four of his top five receivers back, including Kory Stas (41 catches, 786 yards), tight end Daniel Denault (59 for 711) and Cade Oiler (34 for 400) and Evan Pauly (16 for 190). The four scored a combined 20 touchdowns last year. Two defensive players, linebacker Jake Crogan and defensive back Stas, earned first-team all-conference honors last year, and lineman Klayton Kopet earned second-team honors.
New man at Milton: Rodney Wedig’s 26th year of coaching takes him to his fourth school, as he takes over the Milton Red Hawks program. Wedig started at Almond-Bancroft in 1995, moved to Walworth Big Foot in 2003 and went 103-26, losing in the WIAA Division 4 state final in 2008 (a team led by future Wisconsin and Dallas Cowboys lineman Travis Frederick) and winning the state title in 2009. He went 6-41 in five years at Beloit Memorial before coming to Milton.
1, Watertown; 2, Monona Grove; 3, Stoughton.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Fort Atkinson Blackhawks
Coach: Brady Grayvold, second year (0-9).
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 28/5.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/7.
The lowdown: Grayvold, a former All-American defensive back at UW-Whitewater, had only a couple of months to prepare for his first head coaching gig last season. “Now (that) we’ve had a full offseason together,” Grayvold said, “we will be much improved over last year’s team as we are a year older and the weight room has helped us tremendously.” Also, a large freshman class has helped to increase total program numbers by about 25, Grayvold said. Leading the wing-T offense will be James Vander Mause, Will Neuser and linemen Mika Gutoski and Trent Hachtel. In the 3-4 defense, Gutoski and Hachtel will handle linebacker spots (Gutoski was honorable mention all-conference last year), and Vander Mause (also an honorable mention pick) will anchor the backfield. “We return a ton of playing time on both sides of the football, and hopefully that translates as the kids have had a year to mature,” Grayvold said.
Madison Edgewood Crusaders
Coach: Jesse Norris, second year (3-7).
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 7/17.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 5/5.
The lowdown: Although only seven letterwinners return, five started on offense and five started on defense last year as Norris installed his system. This year, the Crusaders also will get help in the form of two transfer students in addition to the returnees. “We are veteran up front on both sides of the ball, with some young guys needing to step up in the skill positions,” Norris said. “If we stay healthy, I project us to finish in the top half of the conference this year. The goal of Edgewood’s spread power offense is to “control the clock by controlling the line of scrimmage,” Norris said — a smart goal seeing that all five of Edgewood’s offensive linemen return, including seniors Patrick Wolter (6-7, 350), Connor Grabins (6-0, 210) and Nick Fox (6-2, 215), each of whom earned All-Badger South honorable mention last season. Efficiency will be key to the passing game, and new additions to the backfield will spice up the rushing attack. The base 3-4 defense keeps things simple, depending on the Crusaders to “react and play fast,” Norris said. The secondary is young but talented, but the front line and linebacking corps has some experience and proven skill, as Grabins was an honorable mention all-conference lineman and Fox earned honorable mention at linebacker. The Crusaders will play their home games this season at Breese Stevens Field on the east side of Madison, while still trying to negotiate with the City of Madison for approval to hold night games on campus.
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Milton Red Hawks
Coach: Rodney Wedig, first year at Milton; 25th year overall (147-107).
Letterwinners returning/lost: 21/18.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 6/3.
The lowdown: Wedig takes over the helm of a Milton program that has perennially held its own in a deep and talent-packed Badger South Conference. The Red Hawks return more than half their offensive starters and 21 letterwinners overall, including some skill-position players with considerable experience and a strong offensive line running a multiple-set attack. Senior quarterback Hunter Pernot (6-2, 190) played in five games last year, completing 37 of 72 passes for 533 yards and six TDs. He’ll get a challenge under center from junior Evan Jordahl (5-8, 155), but Wedig said Pernot is sure to start somewhere on the offense. Senior running back Nick Huber (6-1, 200) ran for 327 yards at a 5.5 yards-per-carry clip last year, and senior Jerry Jones (5-9, 185) returns from an injury and will carry a large part of the backfield load. Senior wide receiver Dane Nelson (6-3, 180) caught 25 throws for 325 yards and three TDs last year. Nelson also is an all-state hurdler for the track team. Seniors Booker Burden (6-3, 270) and Josh Hurley (6-2, 260) will anchor the line, and junior John Storlid (6-0, 155) has stepped up as a receiver. Leading Milton’s 3-4 defense will be second-team all-conference strong safety Jordan Stivarius (5-10, 184, senior, 67 tackles, 1 interception last year) and junior linebacker Logan Knudsen (6-0, 185, 48 tackles). Wedig said senior Ben Soergel (6-3, 185) has been solid at safety, senior Kai Kerl (6-1, 180) will provide linebacker help and senior Blake Riggs (6-1, 225) will be key on the defensive line.
Monona Grove Silver Eagles
Coach: Brandon Beckwith, fourth year (42-7).
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 25/26.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 5/0.
The lowdown: The Silver Eagles have won 28 Badger Conference titles, including nine in the last 10 years. Adding to that string will be a challenge to this year’s team, which has smaller numbers in total and only 13 seniors suiting up (compared to 32 in their WIAA Division 2 state runner-up season of 2016). The spread offense will install new skill players around a solid base of linemen, led by senior center Garrett Hanson (5-11, 230, first-team All-Badger South last year), senior guard Nate Wilcox (6-2, 330, honorable mention all-conference), senior Devin Bilder (6-4, 285) and junior Kristian Schlicht (5-11, 280), both returning starters. The quarterback job will be handled by either junior Cam Behnke (6-0, 175) or sophomore Casey Marron, and an anchor player will be senior running back Brady Killerlain (first-team all-conference last year with 998 yards of total offense). Senior Kam Reuter (honorable mention) and junior Henry Walsh will be back at receiver spots. With all starters gone, Beckwith has lots of question marks on defense, though early standouts have been senior defensive end Presley Mackesey, junior defensive back/wide receiver Dylan Matuszak and senior defensive back Trey Loken.
Coach: Toby Golembiewski, fourth year (17-14).
The lowdown: Monroe started last season with six straight losses and recovered to win two of its final three outings. Graduation hit the offense hard, after last year’s team averaged 19.1 points, 225.7 yards rushing and 25.3 yards passing per game. Senior quarterback Alex Witt (5-10, 170) returns after playing under center in six games last year. Taking over at running back spots will be senior Nick Bansley (5-9, 160, 456 yards, 5 TDs) and junior Tyler Matley (5-10, 185). Expected back after earning dual All-Badger South honorable mention on the offensive and defensive lines will be seniors Bodie Minder (5-11, 235) and Julian Gruber (5-9, 185). Minder had 32 tackles and Gruber had 18 last year. Witt earned honorable mention at linebacker last year, ranking second on the team with 78 tackles, 10 for loss. Matley earned honorable mention as a defensive back (27 tackles).
Coach: Dan Kissling, 10th year (33-54).
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 12/23.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/7.
The lowdown: On offense, Kissling’s wing-T attack returns a strong and experienced offensive line but has to develop some depth among inexperienced players at skill positions. Seniors leading the wing-T offense are first-team All-Badger South guard Nate Hall (6-0, 210) and second-team tackle Brady Gagner (6-2, 185). Backfield returnees are senior running back Matt Kissling (6-2, 175, 121 yards last year) and senior running back Mason Grender (5-8, 145, 216 yards), and junior fullback Ryan McCorkle (6-1, 200, 79 yards). Kissling calls junior tight end Gabe Pearson (6-1, 220, 7 catches, 117 yards) “the best in the conference,” and is watching a quarterback competition between junior Erik Victorson, senior Corey Moore and junior Brevin Brisack. With all-state linebacker John Klus lost to graduation, the 3-3 defense “will be playing some younger guys to help early on, and they need to play like veterans in a quick hurry,” Kissling said. Matt Kissling, at linebacker, appears ready to become a defensive leader, with help from senior Logan Woodson and junior Clay Haggerty. The defensive line will be anchored by Pearson, Hall, Gagner and senior Anthony Wilson (5-10, 220), each of whom have some varsity experience there. Kissling said there will be three new starters in the defensive backfield.
Coach: Dan Prahl, fourth year (23-17).
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 26/13.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 8/6.
The lowdown: The Vikings run a spread offense, and Prahl can rest easy that he has some outstanding people in key positions. The linch pin of the attack will be University of Wisconsin recruit Jack Nelson (6-7, 270), a two-time Badger South Lineman of the Year who excels in pass protection and gets off the ball well. “Jack has set some technique goals for this year,” Prahl said. Quarterback Adam Hobson (6-3, 191) threw for 1,239 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, while running for 674 yards and five scores. “(He) is one of the hardest-working kids I’ve coached,” Prahl said. “Adam has a good arm and continues to get better with his timing.” Senior receiver Nathan Hutcherson (5-10, 153) caught 40 passes for 426 yards and six TDs last year, and senior tailback Quinn Arnott (5-7, 165) ran for 245 yards. Seniors Ethan Skavlen (6-3, 250) and Tony Hohol (6-2, 260) and junior Zach Wahlin (6-3, 210) will join Nelson on the massive offensive line. The Vikings’ young 4-3 defense will be anchored by junior linebacker Brooks Empey (6-2, 205, 61 tackles last year), who “is a vocal leader for us, puts the team first (and) can run sideline to sideline,” Prahl said. Junior Curtis Jaskulke (6-2, 205, 32 tackles last year) and sophomore Barrett Nelson (6-5, 220, 28 tackles) will lead the defensive line, and keys in the backfield will be junior Teddy Baldukas (5-9, 150) and senior Owen Chase (6-0, 170, 29 tackles).
Coach: Benji Kamrath, 11th year (51-50).
Letterwinners returning: 36.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/7.
The lowdown: The Goslings’ goal this year is to turn the scoreboard into a pinball machine, returning many of the players who produced averages of 313 yards and 26.5 points per game last season. It took two of the state’s top programs to slow Watertown, as Waunakee took a 37-7 victory in Week Two and Mequon Homestead earned a 59-13 win in the second round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs. “We are going to need to do a better job this season of not giving up the big scoring plays if we are going to beat the other top teams,” Kamrath said. Back to lead the attack is quarterback Ethan Pauly (6-4, 200, 2,526 yards passing last year, 23 touchdowns, 19 interceptions), along with his top senior targets, wide receiver Kory Stas (6-0, 145, 786 receiving yards, 12 TDs) and tight end Daniel Denault (6-1, 175, 711 yards, 3 TDs). “Offensively, we should once again be very explosive, with weapons all over the field,” Kamrath said. The coach hopes to build his defense around experience gained last year, when the Goslings allowed 21.6 ppg. Seven starters return, led by senior middle linebacker Jacob Crogan (5-9, 195, team-high 77 tackles last year, 14 for loss). Kamrath calls Crogan “arguably the best returning defensive player in the conference.” The coach expects a breakout year from junior outside linebacker Evan Pauly (6-3, 180, 52 tackles, 4 for loss). Anchoring both lines will be senior Klayton Kopet (6-1, 240), an All-Badger South first-team pick on defense last year (46 tackles, nine for loss).