Here is a thread for people to post articles, previews, predictions and game summaries for the 2012 OP Large Conference.
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Press Gazette Kewaunee Storm Preview, written by Andrew Pekarek:

QB playing defense concerns Kewaunee football coach

KEWAUNEE ? Kurt Flaten would rather not have Caleb Johnson play defensive back this season.

It?s not that the Kewaunee football coach thinks Johnson doesn?t possess the ability to perform well at the position.

Flaten?s concerns stem mainly from where the 6-foot-1 junior plays on the other side of the ball ? quarterback.

?One thing that I have always hated to do is play our quarterback both ways,? said Flaten, who?s in his 15th season as head coach. ?But CJ is such a fantastic athlete, we?re going to make that risk this year. He?s definitely a guy that can make some plays.?

To say that Flaten doesn?t like to have his starting quarterback play defense is probably an understatement.

This will be the first time he plans on doing so at the start of a season since 1999, which was the last time Kewaunee missed the playoffs.

But unlike that year, Johnson already has a valuable season of starting experience at quarterback under his belt. He led the Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference in passing yards (1,511) and touchdowns (16).

?It is a little different situation for us,? said Flaten, whose career record is 134-37. ?I can?t knock our other (former) quarterbacks because they were all talented, three-sport athletes. CJ just brings something a little extra to the position. Out of the quarterbacks we?ve had, he?s probably the most athletic.?

Two years removed from winning the WIAA Division 4 state championship, the Storm will need to depend heavily on the play-making ability of Johnson on both sides of the ball, especially early in the season.

Kewaunee opens the year on the road against Wrightstown ? last year?s D4 state champion ? and two weeks later plays at Brillion, which made it to the D5 state semifinals after winning the D5 state title in 2010.

Those two squads accounted for all three of the Storm?s losses last season, including a 36-12 defeat at Wrightstown in the D4 quarterfinals.

Needless to say, Flaten feels the OP-Large will be stacked once again, even though the top three finishers last year all sustained hefty graduation losses.

?The top three dogs in the conference, I think we?re all going to be on the weaker side and everybody else is going to be on the stronger side,? Flaten said.

Flaten said his team is strongest on the perimeter, where senior Logan Kassner will be featured at tailback and senior Ben Miller will move into the No. 1 receiver role. Kassner and Miller will also join Johnson in the defensive backfield.

The Storm?s biggest question marks will be on the offensive and defensive lines, which Flaten said lack depth and experience. Overall, Kewaunee returns four starters on offense and four on defense.

?For a young team like we?ve got ... this is a year where I kind of miss those nonconference games where you can get your young guys to get their feet wet,? Flaten said.

?But you?re always going to be in pretty good shape when you?ve got experience at (quarterback) because you can do a lot of things with an experienced one.?

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Press Gazette Sturgeon Bay Clippers Preview, written by Andrew Pekarek

Prep football preview: Dream job has big expectations for Sturgeon Bay coach

STURGEON BAY ? The idea had crossed Greg Freiherr?s mind.

But he never actually thought becoming a head football coach in one of his favorite vacation destinations would become a reality.

?We?d come up here quite a few times,? Freiherr said. ?When we vacationed in Sturgeon Bay, I had said to my wife, ?Wouldn?t it be nice if I could land a job here???

Freiherr got his wish in May when he was hired to replace Gary Rabach, who stepped down as Sturgeon Bay?s coach after nine seasons.

While this will be Freiherr?s first crack at being a head coach of a varsity program, expectations are high for a Clippers squad coming off their first playoff appearance since winning the WIAA Division 4 state title in 2004.

Those hopes are partly because the roster features a plethora of returning starters. There?s also anticipation because Freiherr served as an assistant for four years under Bob Hyland at Fond du Lac Springs, which has qualified for state three straight years and won titles in 2009 (D5) and 2011 (D6).

?The program that I was with down in Fond du Lac, I think can serve as a kind of template for a way to get the best from these kids,? Freiherr said. ?There?s just a wealth of ability we can use in that template.?

The talent pool Freiherr has at his disposal in Sturgeon Bay includes nine players who earned all-Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference accolades last year as sophomores and juniors.

Meanwhile, the top three teams in the conference last season (Wrightstown, Brillion and Kewaunee) return a combined eight players who were named to the first or second teams or honorable mention.

While the Clippers have numerous skill position players coming back ?like 6-foot-2 receiver Riley Schartner ? Freiherr feels the squad is strongest on the line, where senior Casey Rosenthal and junior Casey Giesseman return as two-way starters.

?These are some big boys,? Freiherr said. ?They?re very, very good as blockers, so it?s been very easy transitioning to what we did at Springs, where we ran veer and power effectively with much smaller linemen than what we have here.?

The first-year coach plans on using a pro-style set, a different look than the shotgun in a spread formation as the Clippers had been running.

Taking the snaps from under center will be senior Nathan Abrahamson, who threw for 574 yards and five touchdowns in conference play last year while splitting time with Alex Bailey. Together, the duo accounted for the second-most passing yards (1,192) in the league.

?He?s picked up our running offense very, very well,? Freiherr said of Abrahamson. ?Last year they ran a version of spread that included a veer running game to it, so his transition has been very quick.?

Freiherr feels the same way about running back Junior Blucher, who rushed for 600 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in conference play last year.

Given how fast his team has taken to his coaching philosophies, the hardest part about the move to Sturgeon Bay for Freiherr might be being away from his wife, Mary, who will remain near Fond du Lac.

?I?m going to have to try and get Skype going so we don?t forget what we look like,? Freiherr said.

Link with video: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120817/GPG020501/308170231/Prep-football-preview-Dream-job-has-big-expectations-Sturgeon-Bay-coach?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|GPG-High School Sports
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Press Gazette Oconto Blue Devils Preview, written by Andrew Pekarek:

Oconto relies on speed for a comeback season
Team seeks to rebound from winless 2011

OCONTO ? The 2012 season can?t get here fast enough for Dave Ruechel.

The Oconto football coach feels this way not only because he wants to put an 0-9 season behind him, but also because the Blue Devils? backfield this year will be one of the fastest in his nine-year tenure.

?Our backfield as a group is one of the faster backfields I?ve ever had, so we?re pretty excited about that,? Ruechel said. ?We got a lot of speed and that?s what we were lacking last year.?

The scariest part about the four runners Ruechel is referring to might not be their speed. It could be that there isn?t a senior in the bunch.

Junior Tyler Ferris returns as the starter at fullback, while junior Brandon Tousey, sophomore Will Hebert and freshman Gabe Hintz will share the load at tailback.

?I?ve had kids who were individually faster,? Ruechel said. ?But as a group, those four kids are pretty quick.?

The optimism about the backfield is a refreshing change for an Oconto squad which seemingly couldn?t catch a break last year.

A dislocated elbow ended starting quarterback Corey Herbert?s season in the second game. Then, two weeks later, a concussion did in backup Jacob Gresler, forcing starting tailback Jacob Reed to go under center.

?It was a nightmare,? Ruechel said. ?If you had a veteran team, you could get through it. But we played an unbelievable amount of sophomores last year.?

One of those is Herbert, who returns at quarterback after getting stronger in the offseason, which the Blue Devils went into with a positive attitude. They played and defeated Sevastopol in an exhibition game after completing the Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference portion of their schedule last year.

With six starters returning on both offense and defense, Ruechel is confident his team can contend for its first playoff berth since making back-to-back appearances in 2008 and 2009.

?A majority of our kids are juniors, so they?re to the point right now where they?ve got to start playing,? Ruechel said. ?We can?t use that excuse anymore that we?re young because it?s no longer there.?

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120818/GPG020501/308180256/Oconto-relies-speed-comeback-season?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|GPG-High School Sports
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Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter Valders Vikings Preview, written by Tom Dombeck:

Vikings set sail with new offense

A new year brings a new offense to the Valders football team ? the flexbone.

The team ran a version of the spread last season when the team had an abundance of receivers and three pure running backs at its disposal. This season the Vikings have eight players listed at either running or full back, giving head coach Jesse Schneider a multitude of options.

?We had several receivers so the spread made sense,? said Schneider. ?The one thing we really lacked last season was a runner with the ability to make the type of cuts needed in a pure spread offense. This year we can really give the flex a try with so many backs.?

The flexbone features a quarterback who lines up under center and the fullback directly behind him with two split backs on either side of the quarterback. This forces the defense to play a veritable shell game of guessing which player will eventually end up with the ball.

The most notable teams to run this offense are the Navy, Army and Georgia Tech college football programs.

Unlike in more conventional offenses, the flexbone allows the fullback to become the primary carrier with an emphasis on downhill running. Senior Brandon Ertel will move to fullback after spending last season as the starting running back, one reason why Schneider is confident in his new offense.

?Brandon?s playing style really can shine in the new offense,? said Schneider. ?We ran a variation of the flex at times last year, but (quarterback Nathan Elliot) was more of a pure passer so we didn?t see the need to fully commit.?

With the graduation of Elliott, the offense will be run by either senior Dayton Goehring or junior Forrest Fenlon. Both have their own unique strengths, with Goehring more of a passer and Fenlon having a better grasp of the option according to Schneider.

Whichever quarterback emerges, they?ll be comforted by the fact four senior starters from last season?s offensive line return.

?The offensive line will be the backbone of this team,? added Schneider. ?With four starters returning they all know what?s expected of them and what it takes to be effective.?

Schneider split head coaching duties with the defensive-minded Mike Arendt the last two seasons. Arendt stepped down earlier in the off-season, leaving the offensive Schneider with a rather young defense to oversee.

Also gone from a season ago are seven All-Olympian/Packerland large selections including second team linebackers Austin Shillcox and Kyle Brown, Taylor Korslin (defensive end) and Jacob Ditter (defensive back), The lone returning player to garner All-OPC-L honors is honorable mention defensive lineman Tanner Duchow.

Schneider will keep his colleague?s preferred 3-5 defensive scheme to give a young unit as much stability as he can.

Overall, the Vikings will see the bulk of their team come from underclassmen with 18 sophomores compared to nine seniors and six juniors. This comes after 12 more players joined the team than last season.

?We may lack senior leadership especially on defense,? said Schneider. ?But we took a step in the right direction last year and if these kids stick around we?ll have one heck of a group of upperclassmen in a few years.?

Schneider thinks if his offense can take the pressure off the defense by limiting its number of negative plays, a return to the playoffs is more than within reach.

Last season might have ended with a 43-0 loss against OPC-L rival Kewaunee in Level 2 of the playoffs, but the 2012 season begins with a familiar opponent in Sturgeon Bay.

Valders defeated Sturgeon Bay early last season 21-6, but the Clippers have an almost entirely new coaching staff.

?In the past Sturgeon Bay has been somewhat predictable,? said Schneider. ?With that much turnover though, nobody knows how things will turn out until we see them on the field.?

The same can be said about the Vikings? new-look offense and youthful defense.

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Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter Mishicot Indians Preview, written by Scott Hansen:

Mishicot benefiting from senior leadership, depth

After installing a new offense last season under first-year head coach Matt Dirkmann, the Mishicot football team is hoping a year of experience with the wing-T offense under its belt is just what it needs to break through after finishing 2-7 the past two seasons.

?There were a lot of areas I was not good at last year, but I definitely learned a lot and (I am) trying not to make the same mistakes as last year,? Dirkmann said. ?I am better prepared and our team will be better prepared because of it.?

This year?s squad is senior heavy and overall the team has depth, something it didn?t benefit from having last year. Through the first week of practice, Dirkmann has been having the team focusing on its base offensive and defensive plays, and he said younger players have been stepping up immensely to make up for the senior class that graduated in May. Four starters return on each side of the ball and Dirkmann said he expects six or seven players will be going both ways.

?They have been picking up the offense and defense a lot better than last year since it?s the second year going through it. We are just going over some basic stuff, basic plays and trying to build a foundation and expand on that,? Dirkmann said. ?So far it?s going a lot better (than last year).?

Dirkmann is also stressing the importance of taking one week at a time. Mishicot currently is strictly looking at what it needs to do against its first opponent ?Chilton ? which it hosts on Friday after falling to the Tigers last season 21-7. It is something Dirkmann has been preaching since the start of camp, with his players appearing to be taking the hint.

?We have to take it one step at a time. The week before (a game), just focus on that one game, don?t look ahead too much, just focus on one game at a time,? senior running back and cornerback Lucas Finnel said. ?We need to do the things our coaches teach us. Don?t try and be heroes out there, just do your role, don?t worry about anyone else because you can?t be a super hero out there, just have to know your role.?

Mishicot?s offense will be without a trio of Olympian Packerland-Large All-Conference honorable mentions who graduated in the offseason ? tight end Daniel Butler, offensive lineman Jake LaFleur and running back Collin Krejcarek. However, now-senior running back Chris Kornelly, also an OPL honorable mention, returns, and players also stressed the closeness of the team as an improvement upon last season.

?We are a little bit closer. We are not as hard on each other. I think we are a little bit more of a family. Last year we pushed each other but we weren?t as close,? Finnel said. ?We are closer. We are really close to the grade below us. So the junior and senior class is like really close so that helps so you can communicate with each other.?

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Door County Advocate Sturgeon Bay Clippers Preview, written by Korey Mallien:

Football preview: Clippers have talent
New coach Freiherr excited about team's potential

Greg Freiherr stepped into a pretty good situation to begin his first season as a head varsity football coach.

Freiherr takes over an experienced and talented Sturgeon Bay team that from the outside looking in appears capable of challenging for the championship of the brutally tough Olympian/Packerland Conference large division.

Freiherr, who spent the past four years as freshman coach and varsity assistant at St. Mary?s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, shies away from preseason title talk, but he admits the Clippers have a lot of potential.

?My expectations are probably as high as anyone can have,? said Freiherr. ?These kids are very talented. We aspire to be among the best in this league, but to do that we have to play the best we can. I?ve told the kids what I want from them is 100 percent, and that translates into their best.?

Sturgeon Bay finished 5-4 and placed fifth in the 10-team conference last season. The Clippers also qualified for the Division 4 playoffs, where they beat Kiel in the first round before losing to Wrightstown and finishing the season 6-5 overall.

Moving up in the conference standings, however, won?t be easy for the Clippers. The Olympian/Packerland large division could be the toughest medium school conference in the state, headed by traditional powers Wrightstown, Kewaunee and Brillion, which have combined to win six state championships in the last 10 years. Wrightstown won the Division 4 state title last season.

?We have so many good teams that we?re going to be playing,? said Freiherr. ?This is just a really good conference, and I have great respect for every team in it. There?s not a team in this league that I think is going to be a pushover.?

The Clippers return most of their offensive starters from last season, including four linemen. Senior Casey Rosenthal (6-foot-1, 257 pounds) earned second-team all-conference honors last season and is back at right guard, junior Casey Giesseman (6-3, 290) at right tackle, senior Spencer Kraemer (5-11, 230) at left guard and junior Joe Sheehy (6-1, 222) at left tackle. Senior Robert Wittenberg (6-3, 250) is the top prospect at center.

?Our linemen are the backbone of our team,? said Freiherr. ?We have good size and experience on the line. These boys know what to expect. They come off the ball real well, and their size gives us an advantage if we can get a push.?

Speedy senior running back Junior Blucher (5-11, 172) also returns following a solid 2011 season in which he rushed for 600 yards, scored nine touchdowns and earned second-team all-conference honors.

The Clippers also have experience at quarterback with senior Nathan Abrahamson (6-2, 160), who split time at that position last season and threw for 574 yards and five touchdowns.

Seniors Riley Schartner (6-2, 195) and Matt Seiler (6-0, 190) are back in the receiving corps after combining for 40 conference receptions last season. Schartner ranked third in the league with 27 catches, while Seiler had 13 catches and five touchdowns before an injury ended his season. Freiherr plans to use both players in the backfield in certain offensive sets.

Senior Zach VanderVelden (6-0, 170), and juniors Trey Bumgardner (5-10, 156) and Riley Cordier (6-1, 180) are also in the mix at receiver, while junior Ross Wierzba (6-1, 180) is the top prospect at tight end.

Freiherr said the Clippers, who averaged 311 yards and 28 points a game in conference last season, have a lot of versatility on offense.

?We?ve got a balance here,? he said. ?If a team we?re playing is strong against the run, we?ve got the weapons to go to the air. If they?re strong against the pass, we can go to the run. We?re going to find the weaknesses of our opponents and try to take advantage of them.?

Freiherr is implementing a 4-4 defense, with seniors Tyler Brinkman (6-3, 245) and Bryce Hartl (6-2, 224) at tackles, and junior Trevor Haack (5-10, 204) and Rosenthal at ends.

Linebackers include Sheehy, Kraemer, Wierzba, senior Chase Mickey (6-0, 180) and junior Lucas Stephenson (6-0-185). Sheehy was first-team all-conference last season.

VanderVelden, Bumgardner, Blucher, Schartner and Seiler will play in the backfield.

?We?re going to be a very aggressive defense,? said Freiherr. ?We?re not going to have the same defensive set every game. We?re going to try to come up with schemes to stop the run or the pass depending on what our opponents do best.?

Freiherr said the veteran Sturgeon Bay team is motivated by the success it had last season, when it reached the playoffs for only the fourth time in school history and first time since 2004.

?We aspire to make the playoffs. That?s what?s driving this team,? said Freiherr. ?They got a taste of it last year, and I know they want more.?

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Door County Advocate Southern Door Eagles Preview, written by Christopher Clough:

Football preview: Coach says Eagles improved and 'hungry'

Southern Door High School football coach Brent Claflin isn?t saying he thinks his team will make the postseason for the first time since 2006, but he?s cautiously optimistic it can at least put itself in position to do so.

Such a thought might immediately conjure up the image and sound bite of ex-NFL coach Jim Mora?s infamous ?Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?? press conference. After all, the Eagles are coming off a 1-8 record last season in what still is a very difficult Olympian/Packerland Large Division, were outscored 376 to 199 and graduated 12 players from their roster.

But Claflin said his team showed signs of growth as 2011 wore on, with a close game against a 6-3 Valders squad and a dominating win over Oconto among the late-season highlights.

And he thinks the lessons learned last year, along with continued improvement from returning players, gives this year?s team reason for hope.

?Last year, we knew we were very inexperienced, had a lot of youngsters,? Claflin said. ?As the season went on, we got better, with kids who were about as green as can be. We won one, competed in a couple others. It was a positive. This year, the expectations are to take it to another level. The kids are hungry, they?re improving, they want to win.?

On offense, the Eagles threw more passes than any other team in the division, although that was out of necessity because of the points the defense gave up. Claflin said he hopes to get back to about an even split between running and passing plays.

?We would like to be 50-50 running and passing, ideally,? Claflin said. ?A lot depends on how we do defensively. We?ve gotta do a better job, keep the score down.?

That said, Claflin thinks he has the weapons for an aerial attack with sophomore quarterback Mitchel Neubauer, wide receivers Drew Klaubauf and Matt Rollin (both seniors) and junior tight end Cal McCarty.

Neubauer was third in the division last year with 986 yards passing as a freshman and attended the training academy run by former NFL quarterback and Door County native Chris Greisen in the offseason.

?As a sophomore, he?s had a chance to run through our system,? Claflin said. ?He?s a good quarterback.?

Klaubauf was Southern Door?s sole first-team all-conference player in 2011, with 33 catches for 511 yards, both second-best in conference.

Junior Nolan Wagner takes over at tailback, with senior Cameron Schroeder expected to see more time there. A big change comes at fullback, where senior Luke Spude moves after being an honorable mention all-conference tackle the past two seasons and dropping 20 pounds to make the move.

?Wagner got a lot of valuable time in last year, even though he was limited to a half-season,? Claflin said. ?Schroeder put on 12 pounds in the offseason ? has good speed, so he can run outside, but he?s really good in between the tackles. Spude is a critical part of our backfield. He?ll be a lead blocker, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield and runs well enough that defenses will have to respect that.?

The offensive line will be young, but Claflin said it will have a little more size than in past years, which has been an issue in matching up with schools like Wrightstown and Sturgeon Bay in the division. Mitchell Overbeck, a 260-pound sophomore, and junior Tyler Dantoin are returning starters, and Brian Betts, Jayson LuMaye, Michael Baker and freshman Sam Mueller are in the mix for playing time.

On the occasions where Southern Door can?t push it across the goal line, Claflin said he believes junior Keegan Kroening can convert with his foot.

?He was a very good kicker for us last year,? Claflin said. ?He went to some camps, and he can drill field goals from 45 yards. He can be a weapon for us.?

On defense, Southern Door will usually run a 4-4 and 4-3 scheme and rely on attacking the other team?s offense and making plays.

?We?re gonna be moving people around.? Claflin said. ?We don?t feel we can just line up and slug it out with some of those other teams out there. But we feel we?re quick and we?re athletic.?

Up front, Claflin plans a defensive line rotation of at least six or seven players. McCarty, Dantoin, Overbeck and Betts are the leading candidates, with Bryce Thomas, Mueller, LuMaye, Andrew Gauthier and Casey Delarwelle also looking for playing time.

?We have a lot of depth, and we?re going to try and rotate them in, keep them fresh,? Claflin said. ?In this league, it?s hard for a lineman to play both ways the whole game. You get 100, 120 snaps, and you start wearing down in the fourth quarter.?

Spude and Wagner will be at inside linebacker, with Schroeder and Nate Slaby outside and Chris Krueger and Kroening expected to contribute as well.

Klaubauf and Rollin return to the secondary, along with safety Dylan Pizzala and Derek Niedzwiecki. Joining them is Micah King, a transfer from Richland Center.

?I like that group as a whole,? Claflin said about the secondary. ?There?s six, seven kids, where we?re just trying to figure out the mix.?

If those mixes come together, Claflin said the Eagles can, if not return to the playoffs, at least keep other teams in the conference honest.

?This year, there are three, four teams (in the conference) I think we can compete with,? Claflin said. ?And 4-4 can get us to the playoffs. We do know we?re better this year, so hopefully we?ll make the Packerland a little more interesting.?

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Press Gazette Southern Door Eagles Preview, written by Andrew Pekarek:

Prep football preview: Southern Door hopes to rise to competition

BRUSSELS ? Brent Claflin knows times have changed.

The problem is not everyone around the Southern Door football coach has picked up on it yet.

?We haven?t had a lot of success the last few years and people say, ?Well, your program has gone downhill,?? said Claflin, who enters his 23rd year as coach. ?I said our program hasn?t gone downhill. Our competition is just that good.

?I tell people it?s harder to win the (Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference) than it is to win a state title.?

The 1-8 season the Eagles endured last year is a testament to that.

With six starters returning on offense and defense, Southern Door is hoping to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, which was the year before the Olympian and Packerland joined and split into large- and small-school conferences.

The Eagles? last conference title came in 2000. Claflin said he has needed to adapt his coaching philosophy greatly since in order to compete with the likes of Wrightstown, Brillion and Kewaunee, who have all won state titles over the past two years.

?In our league, we feel we need to throw the ball in order for us to have a chance offensively,? Claflin said. ?We just saw a long time ago we were not going to have big kids in our program like they do, but we do have some receiver-type kids, who can catch the ball and run with it.

Southern Door is optimistic coming into the 2012 campaign, largely because of the experience and talent it brings back on the perimeter.

It returns the league?s second-leading receiver in senior Drew Klaubauf (33 catches, 511 yards) and third-leading passer in sophomore Mitchell Neubauer (986 yards).

Senior Matt Rollin should be another option on the outside. Rollin started at quarterback last season before breaking a collarbone in the first game, which pushed Neubauer into the lineup as a freshman.

Claflin said he?d rather not have to throw the ball as much as last season, when the Eagles were playing from behind a majority of the time. But he also knows he won?t be able to revert to the ground-and-pound days he utilized during the earlier years of his tenure.

?Many years ago, you would have your system and box your kids into that system,? Claflin said. ?Now, you have to look at the kind of kids you have in your program.?


Although probably isn't "true," my favorite quote of all these previews - ?I tell people it?s harder to win the (Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference) than it is to win a state title.?
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In a sense Clafin is right Shane. The Olympian-Packerland Large is one of the toughest conferences in the state. especially with the big three in Wrightstown (2011 D4 Champ), Brillion (2010 D5 Champ) and Kewaunee (2010 D4 Champ) and a solid program at Valders.

The top three teams in the conference made at least the quarterfinals last season with Wrightstown making it back to back state titles for the O-P Large.
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amped0808 wrote:
In a sense Clafin is right Shane. The Olympian-Packerland Large is one of the toughest conferences in the state. especially with the big three in Wrightstown (2011 D4 Champ), Brillion (2010 D5 Champ) and Kewaunee (2010 D4 Champ) and a solid program at Valders.

The top three teams in the conference made at least the quarterfinals last season with Wrightstown making it back to back state titles for the O-P Large.

And I love it. The top three might not be as dominant as the past two+ seasons, but they will reload to a certain degree and still be quality teams. Along with that, Valders and Sturgeon Bay should be just as good, if not better than last year.
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Press Gazette Wrightstown Tiger Preview, written by Scott Venci:

Scott Venci column: Wrightstown begins defense of state football title

Wrightstown will begin defense of its WIAA Division 4 state football championship against Kewaunee on Friday night.

The Tigers won?t have Jordan Johnson at quarterback against the Storm, and they won?t have Jackson Fox leading the way in the backfield or on defense.

Of course, this always happens at the prep level. Players graduate and new faces replace them. Rinse and repeat.

It?s just Wrightstown seems to do it better than almost everyone else.

?With the program that they got, even though they lost some pretty talented seniors, they just seem to keep them coming year after year after year,? Kewaunee coach Kurt Flaten said.

The Tigers have been to the playoffs 17 straight seasons and have won three state championships during that span. This season likely won?t be different. They might not win a state title, but they will get far enough to have a chance to defend it.

?That?s kind of what we hang our hat on,? Tigers co-coach Steve Klister said. ?It is kind of the tradition. The kids, their older brothers played on the state championship teams. Growing up, they saw teams that played at state.

?I think the kids are just excited to be part of the tradition at Wrightstown.?

Training camp always is a bit early for most teams to know if they have legitimate title hopes. Even last season, despite a strong scrimmage that left Ashwaubenon coach Mark Jonas impressed with his opponent, Klister wouldn?t have been prepared to say his team was about to have one of the best seasons in program history.

This year is no different. Klister liked the way his team looked during its scrimmage last week against Ashwaubenon, Hortonville and Waupaca and always feels it?s a good indicator of how the season will go, but he?s not predicting another state title or a conference championship in the Olympian-Packerland-Large.

The team has four starters back on defense and three on offense.

?It?s probably a little bit too early,? Klister said. ?We are kind of inexperienced at a lot of positions, but I?m excited about the talent we do have returning.

?I guess every year we kind of have the same goal. The first goal is to win enough games to make it into the playoffs. The second goal is to contend for the conference championship. The third goal is to go as far as you can in the playoffs if you make it.?

The team realizes it can?t expect the same production from the new guys. But they do still have some talent and some potential emerging stars, too.

All eyes likely will be on quarterback Mitchell Green. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior was the backup to Johnson last season and has looked strong throughout training camp and in the scrimmage.

There is at least one concern on defense, though. Starting linebacker Caleb Emmer recently injured a knee, and the team expects the 5-10, 170-pound junior to be out a while. It?s a further concern since they don?t have much depth at the position. Klister said it?s too early to know if the injury is season-ending.

Either way, the plan remains the same.

?It?s a whole new year,? Klister said. ?The guys know going in that the target is going to be on our back, that everybody is going to want to play well against a defending state champion. But this is a whole new season. We have to do what we can with this team.?

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Predicted Standings:
1. Wrightstown
2. Kewaunee
3. Brillion
4. Sturgeon Bay
5. Roncalli
6. Valders
7. Chilton
8. Mishicot
9. Southern Door
10. Oconto

Wow, just wow... a total crap shoot. The big three hold their spots atop the conference until someone can unseat them, and if there is ever going to be a year it will be 2012. Wrightstown loses 7-8 starters on both sides of the ball, Brillion loses just about all of their All-Conference selections from a year ago, and while Kewaunee should be good at the skill positions, its line may be the weakest it has been in years. On the other hand, the other seven teams all return major parts of their 2011 teams. I am very interested to see what Greg Freiherr can do as the new head coach at Sturgeon Bay - I think he will bring a lot of good things to the table. Roncalli is a periennial playoff team and will be led by possibly the best offensive player in the conference in RB Alex Kratz, and a more senior dominated roster overall. Valders should be pretty good on offense (especially returning four O-linemen), but has major holes to fill on offense. Depending on if and how far the big three fall back to the pack, I could see any of these six teams going 6-2. Esecially Sturgeon Bay, who do to the unbalanced schedule does not have to play Wrightstown.
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Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter Roncalli Jets Preview, written by Tom Dombeck:

Jets look to utilize lack of size

For many Wisconsin Badgers fans, January?s Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks was one to forget. Just don?t count Roncalli football head coach Ray Baranczyk as someone who won?t remember.

?That game really showed what can happen when you have smaller, faster players,? said Baranczyk. ?Just because a player is lacking in size, it doesn?t mean they can?t be effective.?

Baranczyk is hoping to turn a potential weakness into a strength this season by utilizing his team?s speed, including that of returning first-team All-Olympian/Packerland Large Conference running back Alex Katz.

Katz?s backup is junior Joey Macdonald, who Baranczyk credits as being in the same mold as Katz in terms of size, speed and ability to make the first defender miss.

Macdonald is one of 22 juniors for the Jets, which means Roncalli has nearly as many players in one class as some area teams have all together. Those 22 players represent not just quantity but quality as well, with several starters returning after seeing considerable playing time last year as sophomores.

Among those returning are a pair of offensive lineman, Spencer Fricke and Stephen Heili, who started a season ago. Heili was honorable mention OPLC on the offensive and defensive lines, while teammate and fellow junior Nate Miller was an honorable mentioned defensive end.

Another factor with so many returning juniors is it gives needed depth at the skill positions a year after the rather raw team limped to a 4-5 overall and conference record. It was the first time the Jets missed the playoffs since 2006, when Roncalli won just two games.

History might be on the Jets? side in terms of rebounding. Following the 2-7 2006 season, the Jets featured 21 juniors according to MaxPreps.com, and regained altitude in the standings to finish 7-4 overall and 5-3 in conference.

Baranczyk credited his team?s lack of experience to contributing in at least a few losses last season, when the Jets gave up large chunks of yardage on broken plays at the end of games.

Roncalli lost three games last season by 10 points or fewer to teams which made the playoffs, including a 36-26 defeat at the hands of Kewaunee, who was the defending WIAA Division 4 state champions.

?Some coaches might consider a season a failure if they lose a certain amount of games or to a certain school,? said Baranczyk. ?It might sound cliche, but you have to win your first game before you can win your second, and if you look too far ahead you?ll lose sight of the entire season before it?s even begun.?

Baranczyk brings up Oregon again when discussing Roncalli?s multiple offensive sets.

?We?re trying to be a little like the Ducks,? said Baranczyk. ?I wouldn?t want to try to game plan against us. It gets to be which offense are you doing to defend.?

He went on to say that at times last season some teams might stop the double-wing option offense, but had no clue how to defend the power-I.

Taking over the offense from now-graduated OPLC honorable mention quarterback Jack Piaskowksi will be either senior Zach Slattery or junior Jared Patek.

Slattery is the Jets? tallest player at 6-5, while Patek has shown great athleticism so far Baranczyk said.

On defense, Roncalli is led by first-team OPLC linebacker Mason Scheer whom his coach compared to Ray Nitschke.

?Mason just plays with an aggressive streak, a real lunch pail defender,? said Baranczyk.

Only time will tell if a return to the postseason is in the cards for the Jets.

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Listened to Sturgeon Bat beat Valders 29-13 on my way home from school tonight. Matt Seiler led the way offensively for the Clippers, scoring on a 58 yard punt return, one yard rushing TD, and 52 yard recieving TD. Defensively, the Clippers were very strong up front, dominating what was supposed to be Valder's strength, its O-line. Trevor Haack, Casey Rosenthal, and Casey Giesseman all had big games on defense for the Clippers, as Valders scored its two TDs on a kick off return and a drive that started around midfield.
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The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) are to the NHL what the St. Louis Cardinals (and their fans) are to MLB.

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