Hey y'all. I'm back with another MKE-area conference preview.
2017 Record: 0-9 (0-7)
Notable Losses: QB/LB Chad Zirbel, RB/LB Frank Koehnke, RB/DB Charles Robinson
Notable Returnees: WR/DB Brandon Pum (Jr.), QB/DB David Doerflinger (Jr.), RB/DB Paul Nevin (Jr.), WR/LB Payton Meinholz (Sr.), RB/DL Tristan Welka (Sr.), RB/LB Cade Dirksmeyer (Sr.), OL/DL Doug Januszewski (Sr.), OL/DL Tyler Shaw (Sr.)
Outlook: Low numbers and injuries galore took their toll on the proud Hilltopper program in 2017 causing them to forfeit their last three contests of the year (including a potential win vs. STM). Things should be slightly more positive this year for Catholic Central. The team graduates just three seniors (all of whom’s contributions from a year ago were muted by injuries) and brings back healthy numbers in the upper classes (though just two kids in the 2021 class is cause for concern). All three players who garnered HM All-Conference nominations return. Size is a bit of a concern, but returning nearly all contributors at the skill positions should help. The Metro Classic will likely be split into the haves and have-nots this year with very little middle ground, so while the sledding will be tough against the big boys, there should be three winnable games (plus the second non-con) out there for the Hilltoppers. Be interesting to see where BCC falls in the rumored upcoming realignment. Not many D7s in this area, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lumped in with some MWC teams instead.
2017 Record: 4-5 (3-4)
Notable Losses: RB/LB Jalen Black, FB/OL/LB John Hudak, WR/DB George Wong
Notable Returnees: QB/DB Bo Bennett (Sr.), TE/DL Drew Dlugopolski (Sr.), WR/DB Sean Dlugopolski (Jr.), OL/DL Ben Jelacic (Jr.), RB/DB Phillip Jones (Jr.), OL/DL Christian Vega (Sr.), RB/DB Ethan Lee (Sr.)
Outlook: Dominican returns a healthy dose of contributors from last year, and has a large and vastly experienced senior class, but likely faces an uphill climb for a playoff berth despite only missing out by one game a year ago. The key for Dominican is the health of QB Bo Bennett, who has been starting since his freshman year (stepping in after elder brother Jake broke his collarbone early in the season). Dominican’s pass-heavy offense needs a trigger man, and they don’t really have anyone behind him. His main targets both return in the Dlugopolskis, Drew and Sean, as well as leading rusher Ethan Lee. Up front, the Knights will be buoyed by returning almost all of their starters, led by multi-year starter Ben Jelacic and returning all-conference OL Christian Vega. Phillip Jones returns to patrol the secondary after being HM all-conference a year ago. What the future holds for Dominican is worth watching as numbers are always an issue and they will graduate a large senior class.
Kenosha St. Joseph
2017 Record: 5-5 (4-3)
Notable Losses: OL/DL Connor Rhey, TE/DL Matt Ausse, RB/DB Wyatt Draper, RB/LB Cole Aschenbrenner, OL/DL/P Kade Cable, OL/DL Kyle Janis
Notable Returnees: QB/DB Jake Gessert (Jr.), WR/LB Adam Antonneau (Sr.), OL/LB John Laken (Sr.), TE/LB Kyle Matrise (Jr.), K Patrick Connolly (Jr.)
Outlook: The Lancers enter 2018 with a new coach as Dave Witthun replaces Jim Kenesie looking to build on last year’s Level 1 exit. They bring back a healthy dose of experience, but do have some holes to fill, namely first-team OL Connor Rhey and second team RB Wyatt Draper. The returning talent is fairly well spread out amongst the senior and junior classes. QB/DB Jake Gessert and WR/LB Adam Antonneau return to lead the charge on both sides of the ball, if they (particularly Gessert at QB) have taken that step up, the Lancers should remain in the hunt for a playoff berth. Don’t think they have the horses to break into the top-tier of the league this season, but should be competitive nonetheless.
2017 Record: 8-5 (5-2)
Notable Losses: WR/DB Jake Blazei, RB/LB Luke Howard, OL/DL Sylvester “Petey” Campbell
Notable Returnees: RB/DB Darios Crawley-Reid (Sr.), WR/DL Ariel Cortes (Jr.), RB/LB Bryce Kulinski (Sr.), WR/LB Brad Kulinski (Sr.), TE/LB Brody Lee (Sr.), QB/DB Nik Mueller (Sr.)
Outlook: Following a third-place finish in conference, the Spartans went on a historic run to Level 4 of the D4 playoffs, losing to eventual champ Lodi, 17-0. The Spartans got there on the back of two-way standout Darios Crawley-Reid, and he is back and poised for an even better senior season. Joining him is QB Nik Mueller, the Kulinski twins, DL Ariel Cortes and TE Brody Lee as the Spartans look to top last year’s effort. A Week 8 showdown at Horlick Field against Racine St. Catherine’s could very well decide the conference title. A gauge as to how good this Martin Luther team is will come right out of the chute as they welcome Woodland Conference member Whitnall to kick things off.
2017 Record: 10-2 (6-1)
Notable Losses: OL/DL Bradley Bozak, OL/DL Dakota Dexter, WR/DE Austin Honore, RB/LB Thomas Moore, TE/DE Trenton Tenner
Notable Returnees: RB/DB Tyler Tenner (Jr.), WR/DB Josh Hess (Sr.), RB/DT/K David Voss (Jr.), RB/LB Bruce Cosey (Jr.), QB/DB Colton Kraus (Sr.), WR/DB James Wilson (Sr.), RB/LB Jaylen Houston (Jr.), OL/DL Alex Schulz (Sr.), TE/DE Elijah Solis (Sr.)
Outlook: Racine Lutheran themselves had a very fine 2017, finishing second behind Racine St. Cat’s and making a run to Level 3 in D6 before falling to eventual champ St. Mary’s Springs. The Crusaders should be in for much of the same as they bring back nearly all of their skill position players including Tyler Tenner, who went for nearly 1,900 yards on the ground a year ago. That’s not all though as the leading passer, top three leading rushers and top four receivers are all back. The one spot where the Crusaders did take a graduation hit was in the trenches, and that may be what keeps them from a repeat of (or even bettering) a year ago. If they can fill those spots capably then the sky’s the limit.
Racine St. Catherine’s
2017 Record: 10-1 (7-0)
Notable Losses: FB/LB Matt Clope, FB/LB Adonis Herrington, OL/DL Austin Tuttle
Notable Returnees: QB/DB Da’Shaun Brown (Sr.), WR/DB Rashid Poole (Sr.), OL/DL Timmy Carthron (Sr.), RB/DB Isaiah Dodd (Jr.), OL/DL Guy Van Dis (Sr.), OL/DL Gavin Moriarity (Sr.), FB/LB D.J. Carter (Sr.), OL/DL Adrian Garcia (Sr.), TE/DB Luke Letsch (Sr.), FB/LB Anthony Cable (Jr.), WR/DB Azarien Stephens (Sr.), TE/LB Aleks Haeuser (Sr.)
Outlook: The Angels dominated Metro Classic proceedings a year ago, and 2018 could be much of the same as they lost just three players to graduation. Post-season-wise, enrollment growth looks like it will continue to keep St. Cat’s in D4, which is unfortunate as they’d be a bonafide state champion contender in D5. As it stands, they still should be favored for a big run regardless behind the return of a plethora of returning all-conference players, spearheaded by D1 recruit Da’Shaun Brown, a dual-threat QB who is a threat on every snap. The Angels also return speed and power at all positions and an impressive amount of size and experience in the trenches. Week 2 matchup vs. Union Grove will give us a good gauge of where they’re at, while the Week 6 and 8 games against Racine Lutheran and Martin Luther, respectively, will decide the conference and likely be the Angels only close conference matchups. It’s probably to their benefit that those matchups are coming in the back half of the schedule.
Saint Thomas More
2017 Record: 1-8 (1-6)
Notable Losses: OL/DL Devin Cunningham, QB/DB Kenton Wilk, RB/LB Devin Barfoth
Notable Returnees: RB/LB Eric Williams (Sr.) RB/DB Matt Wejrowski (Sr.), OL/LB E.J. Holley (Sr.)
Outlook: Well, I’d like to say there’s nowhere to go but up for the Cavaliers this year, but Catholic Central won’t be forfeiting their game against STM this year. Tom Handziak takes over as head coach for Chris Roggeman and has his work cut out for him. Low numbers and a tiny junior class will make sledding difficult. Sole 1st-team all-conference player Devin Cunningham has graduated leaving a gaping hole in thin lines. One positive is the return of playmaker Eric Williams, and he will be counted on to provide some sort of spark.
2017 Record: 4-5 (2-5)
Notable Losses: OL/DL Carter Hagedorn, RB/LB/K/P Jared Landreman, WR/LB Leland Weingart, OL/DL Zack Slechta, OL/DL Michael Potisk
Notable Returnees: QB/DB Noah Ahles (Sr.), WR/DB John Marshall (Sr.), WR/DB Ivan Schimanski (Jr.), WR/DB Nathan Lahti (Sr.), WR/ LB Jordan Teska (Sr.), RB/LB Andy Barnier (Sr.), RB/LB Donville James (Jr.)
Outlook: After starting 2017 off with a 4-0 record, the Pacers lost their last five games of the season as the strength of schedule ratcheted up. The good news is that a lot of players who saw time last year are back. The bad news, the Pacers do not return a single player who garnered all-conference consideration. I would expect the Pacers to once again have a similar record to a year ago, likely beating the STMs and BCCs, but struggling to generate much of anything against the upper echelon of the Metro Classic.
Prognostication: I really don’t see a ton of fluctuation from last year to this year. The top teams are returning quite a bit, and the bottom teams aren’t…not exactly a breeding ground for a standings shakeup. Only squad with a real chance of breaking into the top three is KSJ, and even that is quite a long shot. As it stands, I only see two changes to the standings from a year ago.
1. Racine St. Catherine’s
2. Martin Luther
3. Racine Lutheran
4. Kenosha St. Joseph
6. Shoreland Lutheran
7. Catholic Central
8. Saint Thomas More