Arrowhead (1-0): After two state titles and a runner-up finish in the past three years, Arrowhead is loaded again, having played eight sophomores in last year's state-title game. The Warhawks return their quarterback and entire offensive line, including University of Michigan recruit Ben Bredeson at tackle. The team's opening-week win over Homestead came in a fairly convincing performance, an illustration that this year's team should have lofty expectations. Pictured: University of Michigan recruit Ben Bredeson.
Catholic Memorial (1-0): A great deal of talent returns, including two-year starting quarterback Alex Bray, and coach Bill Young should have a chance to add at least a 10-spot to his 300 career victories. Bray threw for two touchdowns in a season opening win over Riverside, while Josh Karfonta and Dylan Schubbe each ran for two more.
Franklin (2-0): A convincing opening win over Hamilton showed just how good the Sabers can be, but it was the 37-0 win over Greendale on Aug. 27 that really should have our attention. Franklin has gone from a team to watch and become a team to fear. With quality skill position players, linemen and defenders, it's hard to imagine them losing in the regular season at this point. Pictured above: Gavin Boeck.
Muskego (2-0): Holy smokes, Muskego. It comes with the caveat that the nonconference schedule is not loaded, but Muskego notched greater than 12 yards per play in the opening week win over Racine Park, then exceeded that with 17.7 yards per play in a win over Bradley Tech on Aug. 27. The Warriors were up 60-0 at halftime in that game. The Classic 8 is much harder, but Muskego didn't wilt last year against those teams.
Waukesha West (1-0): One of the problems for Muskego in the Classic 8 is this squad, which again brings back a boatload of talent from last year's state finalist, including quarterback Conor Blount. Offensive lineman Sam Heckel is headed to Syracuse, and the Wolverines have playmakers in just about every position group on both sides of the field. West had no problems in the opener against Watertown.
Brookfield Academy (1-0): The Blue Knights have eight starters on offense and nine on defense back, including almost the entirety of both lines. The top contender for the Midwest Classic title is always Lake Country Lutheran, but they graduated a ton from last year, and this could be the Blue Knights’ year. Quarterback Spencer Francis is gone, but there's a familiar last name taking over the reins. Ian Francis threw for three touchdowns and 177 yards in a blowout Week 1 win.
Brookfield Central (1-1): Central got back on the horse following a Week 1 loss to Whitefish Bay, 35-14, with an easy win over Milwaukee Riverside. Dominic LaBellarte threw two touchdowns and ran for two more in the latter contest. Pictured: Mitch Meaves
Brookfield East (1-0): After going 7-3 last year and tying for second, East brings back some key pieces, notably quarterback TC Swittel (son of coach Tom), running back Mitch Mikulsky, and offensive lineman Mike Caliendo (headed to Western Michigan). The team might have one of the best wild cards in the entire state with running back Sam Santiago-Lloyd, a junior who flashed immense potential the past two seasons when he wasn’t sidelined by major injuries. Up to seven players will play both ways, so avoiding injuries will be a key theme for East in general. Mikulsky, Swittel and Santiago-Lloyd (199 yards) all cleared 100 yards in the opener.
Greendale (0-2): This is still a playoff team in the Woodland and possibly a league favorite, but it's starting to look as if the re-tooled Panthers won't be at the same level they've been in the recent past. A 37-0 loss to Franklin is entirely forgivable for most smaller schools, as Franklin has a very good team this year, and opening-week opponent Menomonie is routinely one of the best in the state. But this is Greendale, a team that has beaten Franklin in the past and expects to be at that level every year.
Homestead (0-1): After narrowly missing the Division 2 title game in a Level 4 heartbreaker, the Highlanders finished 11-2 and have since graduated 24 seniors. Lineman Josh Mueller and receiver Jack Popp return, and the Highlanders brought back former Messmer/Shorewood coach Drake Zortman as new offensive coordinator. Defensive guru Fritz Rauch, however, is now at Grafton, and believe it or not: the North Shore might be wholly up for grabs this year. Homestead couldn't replicate the feat of beating Arrowhead, which it has done the past two years, but the Highlanders never were out of the game. Pictured: Matt Winters.
Lake Country Lutheran (1-0): One of the top small-school powers in the state, LCL is looking for that first breakthrough to reach the state-title game. The program's overall talent will always keep the Lightning at the front of the Midwest Classic chase, but with pretty big graduation losses from last year, some new faces will be required to fill gaps. A 21-0 win over Racine St. Catherine's to open the season is certainly a great sign.
Menomonee Falls (0-1): After going 6-4 last season and coming within a stone’s throw of the Greater Metro title, Falls will start 2015 with a new coach (Dan Lutz) but the same playmaking quarterback (Bryce McMurtry), and other returnees that make this team a strong candidate to win the Greater Metro. It counted as a little bit of a surprise, however, when Falls was shut out by Oak Creek in the opening week.
South Milwaukee (1-0): The Woodland East Division champs graduated a ton but retain Joey Nelson, a tight end and fullback who will pose problems for the rest of the conference, and four offensive linemen. Quarterback Flynt Kocherer and running back Clay Westrum had strong Week 1 showings.
Whitefish Bay (1-0): The Blue Dukes will play with heavy hearts knowing head coach Jim Tietjen is battling serious illness and assistant Jake Wolter has taken over on an interim basis. Quarterback Jake Fisher is back, as are skilled backs Van Bassindale and Macklin Kortebein, who combined for more than 1,200 yards last year. Kortebein had one of the biggest showings of Week 1.
Brown Deer (0-1): Quarterback Zack Baun was one of the state’s best players last year, helping the Falcons finish 8-3 with a tight second-round loss to eventual state champion Wisconsin Lutheran. Baun is now playing linebacker at Wisconsin, so veteran coaches Rob and Andy Green will try to build again around receiver Nyles Williams (927 receiving yards in 2014, 11 touchdowns) and top returning tackler Jerry McDaniel (92 tackles). The first week didn't go so well in a shutout loss to Pewaukee.
Germantown (1-0): Graduation losses took 29 players from the Warhawks after last year’s 9-2 season, including quarterback Dwayne Lawhorn, Jr. and four other All-Suburban choices. Receiver Conner Edmonds and linebacker Austin Mozdzen are the top returnees. Perhaps we're foolish to doubt Germantown's ability to reload quickly after a Week 1 win over Kenosha Indian Trail.
Mukwonago (1-0): Much closer to "conference heavyweight" than "sleeper," but Mukwonago did face some dicey moments in the quest to reach the playoffs last year, needing a win over chief rival Arrowhead to get it done. The team then went to Level 3, so it's clear the program was (and is) very talented. The question isn't about how good they are -- it's whether they can get enough wins against such an elite league. Look for running back Liam Chones to become one of the breakout stars in the area.
New Berlin Eisenhower (1-0): The Lions have been notably absent from the postseason since 2011, and this should be the year the Lions return, with numerous offensive weapons returning to the fold. That includes first-team All Conference receiver Jordan Canady and running backs Joey Scaffidi and Sean Broihier, with quarterback Sam Carey hoping to stay healthy this season. Eight more starters return on defense, including linebacker Jake Rastas and cornerback Dakota Grzesk. This was a "sleeper" team last week and moves up a category after a resounding win over traditionally strong Plymouth, 31-7.
Oak Creek (1-0): The Knights went 9-2 before falling to Franklin in Level 2 of the playoffs last year, but they lost 30 seniors to graduation. Returning backs Joe Blando and Roy Harden will serve as the centerpiece of the offense, with linebacker Nate Windsor returning to the defense after 67 tackles last year. Franklin and Kenosha Indian Trail will be the SEC favorites, but Oak Creek showed it still belongs with an eye-opening win over Menomonee Falls in Week 1. Pictured: Troy Chmielewski
Oconomowoc (2-0): Oconomowoc is officially back on the map. An opening-week win over Kettle Moraine was no fluke, as it showed with an offensive spectacle against Waukesha South to move to 2-0 (after a one-win 2014). Quarterback Ben Nienhuis and receiver Zach Clayton, both juniors, are two of the biggest playmakers to note in the early season. The Wisconsin Little Ten will be a different, potentially harder challenge, but these are Classic 8 teams that OHS has beaten -- that definitely says something. Pictured: Ben Nienhuis
Pewaukee (1-0): With many new faces on both sides of the ball, Pewaukee is a bit of a Wild Card in the Woodland Conference, but the Pirates aren't the only league team that lost a lot. It would be a rare sight if PHS missed the playoffs. PHS showed the defense is ready to rock with a shutout of Brown Deer to open the season.
St. Francis (1-0): The Mariners have a huge returning 1-2 punch in quarterback Jake Wiedower and running back Evander Craft (1,144 yards and 21 touchdowns last year). With LCL coming back to the pack a bit, it should be a competitive three-team race.
Sussex Hamilton (0-1): Senior fullback Sam Herriges is back, but Hamilton graduated a ton of players on both sides of the ball and may be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But teams under coach John Damato have routinely found a way to overachieve, perhaps including last year when the Chargers won each of their last three games to get into the postseason. An opening loss to Franklin is entirely forgivable.
Greenfield (2-0): Second-year coach Joe Koch said among his team's strengths are an experienced secondary led by senior Tre-Vaughn Craig and junior Donny Reasby and a strong running back in junior Ezekiel Banks, who had five touchdowns in the season-opening win over Career Academy and three more in a big win over Milwaukee Pius, including one in the final two minutes that tipped the scales in a 26-22 victory.
Kettle Moraine (0-1): The graduation loss of first-team All Conference quarterback Mitch Pfeifer is a key blow for a team that came within a heartbeat of the playoffs last year. The Lasers do have some talented pieces on defense, but it's going to take some upsets to make the playoffs out of the Classic 8. KM took a loss to Oconomowoc in Week 1.
Messmer/Shorewood (0-1): With coach Drake Zortman back at Homestead as an offensive coordinator, the reins belong to longtime assistant Chad Hofmann in the program’s second year back in the Woodland Conference. The team only lost seven years off last year’s 2-7 team, but that included top players Andre Brown and Riley Sellinger. Quarterback Louis Williams leads the returnees on both sides of the ball (at defensive back as well), and Peter Sottile and DeAngelo Stewart were both productive in 2014. It’s easy to anticipate another step forward.
University School (0-1): The Midwest Classi program boasts improved size and several returning players on defense (Matthew Bach, Michael Balistreri, Tommy Inda, Justice Kelly) but graduates top running back Michael Tucker.
Waukesha South (1-1): Speedy running back Anthony Johnson is one of the best offensive weapons in the area, and the Blackshirts demonstrated they could rack up some serious points on top-flight competition last year. The defense could be improved, and that means some eyes could be opened, but it's going to take multiple big-time upsets to reach the playoffs. A loss to Oconomowoc (allowing 52 points) showed that the defense still has some concerns.
Wauwatosa West (1-0): An All-State running back is gone in Demaris Purifoy, but Tosa West still returns some runners from last year’s 5-4 team, with quarterback Rayvon Bartlett among the top weapons. Paris Howell and Truman Tyson both averaged more than 6.5 yards per carry, and other backs include Kobe Vines and Jake Cieszynski. With the Woodland West not appearing as loaded as it has been in years past, there is major opportunity here, especially if the defense plays like it did in the opener against Tosa East.
West Allis Hale (0-1): Six starters return on both sides of the ball, and depth is also strong, particularly at the linebacker position. With a league picture that doesn’t possess a lot of clarity, Hale could sneak into one of the playoff spots available to Greater Metro teams, but the Huskies haven’t been able to get over the hump in recent seasons and haven’t been to the postseason since 2008. Defensive back Ben Swanson was first-team All Conference last year after recording 67 tackles and three picks and is one of six returning starters on defense. Hale will need to win the close calls that went the opponents’ way last year. Pictured: Domonick O'Brion
Cudahy (1-0): Rusty Murphy announced his arrival as a dangerous athlete in the Woodland Conference when he ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in a blowout win over St. Thomas More to open the season. He was 10 for 11 with 155 yards passing.
New Berlin West (0-1): The team’s quarterback, Jonathon Kozlowski, returns after leading the team in both rushing and passing last year, but New Berlin West still has to show it can hang with other Woodland West programs. Mitch Hewitt (6-6, 230) will anchor both lines, and junior running back Max Meleski has breakout potential.
Martin Luther (1-0): The Spartans will fight a battle to reach the playoffs in the Metro Classic under first-year coach Rick Hoppert, with Matt Rohleder returning as one of the top offensive weapons. A win over Palmyra-Eagle helped the Spartans start on the right foot.
Nicolet (0-1): After canceling the 2014 season, citing lack of numbers, the rebuilding Knights will take heart in their 10-2 record as a JV/varsity reserve unit last year. A strong junior class (19 players) and senior quarterback Adam Plotkin and senior running back JT Zurawski will provide the leadership as Nicolet looks to rise again.
St. John's Northwestern (0-1): Low on numbers and experience, the Lancers will need to pull some surprises to reach the postseason under second-year coach Tim Vice.
St. Thomas More (0-1): The Cavs went winless in Metro Classic play last year and remains on a rebuilding course.
Waukesha North (1-0): One of the best teams in this category has the misfortune of being in the Classic 8, where the majority of teams are amazing. Keep an eye on wideout Kendall Gould, who caught two touchdowns in a 35-0 win over Elkhorn. Brendan Demark threw for 120 yards and three scores and ran for 141 and another touchdown.
Wauwatosa East (0-1): First-team All Conference wide receiver Ryan Kelnofer returns, but the program hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and appears to be facing an uphill battle in changing that tide. Luke Lindemann will take over at quarterback, and DJ Verser will anchor both lines. East did play well in its opening loss to Tosa West.
West Allis Central (0-1): The Bulldogs went 0-7 last year in league play but come into 2015 with a new coaching staff, including head coach Keith Ringelberg (a former assistant at Greendale) and former Green Bay Packers tight end Mark Chmura. It’s hard not to be optimistic about the long-term prospects for Central and perhaps anticipate a surprise or two in the short term. Central features plenty of athleticism with senior receiver Brent Hunter, senior RB Stacey Andress and junior QB Griffin Johnson. The Bulldogs lost a tough one to Whitnall in Week 1.
Whitnall (1-0): Under second-year coach Jared McGranahan, the Falcons will get an uptick in talent from the strong lower levels, and quarterback Kyle Radavich (1,255 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) is back along with top receiver Austin Brault. Linebacker Kaiser Kastner, a two-time All Conference choice, could wind up being one of the area’s top defensive players. They also have a runner with great potential in sophomore Andrew Mallmann. They started the year with a thrilling win. Pictured: Austin Brault.
Asking area football coaches their anonymous thoughts on the greater issues of coaching at the prep level:
The advent of social media has created ample opportunity for "trash talk." Is that still something that needs to be guarded against? Do you believe "bulletin board material" can be an incentive that genuinely improves a player's on-field performance? Is there a point where you can be too careful trying to prevent your players from using "trash talk?"
Coach 1: I don't know if it improves performance, but we use it as a piece of motivation if necessary. Anytime there is a real or perceived lack of respect from your opponent, you can and should use it to motivate to whatever level needed. Our athletes react in lots of ways to it, and some pay it no attention at all, while some take it to heart. We warn our kids all of the time that teams and players are already motivated to beat us, so let's not give them anything else. However, it's not like we are the Facebook/Twitter police. At some point, the team has to be more important than anything a kid thinks he wants to say.
Coach 2: I think it is something to think about. We mention it once or twice but don't make a huge deal of it. Bulletin board stuff is overrated as far a motivator. It might work once a year.
Coach 3: Yes, it's too easily accessible and nonsese. It's distracting and watered down anyway. Initially in a game, yes (it can make a difference), but after the initial rush, then it's all about momentum. Like anything, this can be a fine line.
Coach 4: As with everything, we as coaches can only control what we can control. If my players are trash talking, it slaps in the face what we preach in our program. I believe that if a coach needs bulletin board material to fire up his team, then his team is already dead.
Coach 5: I think all of us who coach know that we can’t hide from social media nor can we remove it completely from our kids' lives (even if we wanted to). To me, the best approach on handling this is educating kids on the permanency of social media posts and placing rules specifically on communicating negatively with opposing players. I think in-week trash talk is out the window after the first play of the game.
Coach 6: At times the trash talk on social media can get out of hand. We warn our players to stay away from that stuff. I don’t think bulletin board material plays a huge factor. It may pump a kid up a bit more but not that much. We teach our players to respect everybody but fear nobody.
Coach 7: Can't stand trash talk. Typically, at least at the high school level, those who can, do. Those who can't, talk. Not so worried about bulletin board material as about competing in the right way.
Coach 8: We don't pay attention to what others say or do. We can only control what we do and we don't want our kids talking trash of any sorts. Our job as coaches is to develop character in our student-athletes.
Photo by Peter Zuzga
Wauwatosa East's Ryan Kelnhofer reaches out for a pass during his team's loss at Wauwatosa West on Aug. 21. Tosa West was debuting its new artificial field turf. Full gallery of Week 1 photos.
Macklin Kortebein had a special night for Whitefish Bay on a special night with ailing head coach Jim Tietjen in attendance. Kortebein rushed for 230 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries, recovered a high snap for a turnover on defense and also threw for a key 28-yard pass on a trick play to help the Blue Dukes grab a season-opening win over Brookifeld Central.
WIAA state titles
Consecutive playoff berths (through 2014)
Germantown isn't typically a "surprise" winner given the strength of the program, but after massive graduation losses, it seemed as though the Warhawks would at least struggle in a season-opening visit to Kenosha Indian Trail. Though the Hawks are one of the chief players in the Southeast Conference, Germantown scored four times in the first half and ultimately won, 28-14, in a demonstration that you can't count it out just yet.
Keep tabs on the former stars of the NOW/Lake Country coverage area as they suit up on Saturdays and Sundays:
Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas (Brookfield Central) has been a rock in Cleveland, as depicted in this lengthy profile from Grantland. He also had some biting things to say about Deflategate.
Houston Texans: Being considered the No. 1 player in the NFL, as J.J. Watt (Pewaukee) has been anointed, comes with tons of attention, including a breakdown of your diet and a starring role on HBO special "Hard Knocks."
Cincinnati Bengals: There is some buzz that Waukesha native Kevin Zeitler, a Wisconsin Lutheran graduate, might be ready to take a star turn this year on the Bengals' offensive line.
Dallas Cowboys: Injury cost Ben Gardner (Homestead) his rookie year in the NFL, but he could be part of a special defensive unit in 2015. He's turning heads.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys know what the metrics say, but they realize Nick Hayden (Arrowhead) brings a lot to the table.
Wisconsin: Joel Stave (Whitnall -- pictured) is the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Badgers in the first year under new coach Paul Chryst.
Wisconsin: TJ Watt (Pewaukee) has switched to outside linebacker after a pair of injury-riddled seasons in the Badgers program.
Wisconsin: Drew Meyer (Arrowhead) looks to bounce back after a rough 2014 as Badgers punter.
Wisconsin: Chikwe Obasih (Brookfield Central) and Alec James (Brookfield East) will need to take a step forward for the Badgers on the defensive line in 2015.
Wisconsin: Joe Schobert (Waukesha West) has become a defensive playmaker for the Badgers, and he can also dunk.
South Dakota: Ryan Saeger (Arrowhead) has been named the starting quarterback at South Dakota.
Sports director JR Radcliffe and Time Warner Sports Channel's JP Cadorin discuss local sports. Latest episode: Where you'll find JP's panic meter on Jordy Nelson, plus a full week of high-school football to kick off the 2015 season.
Mark Stewart and JR Radcliffe discuss high school sports in this weekly video.
Waukesha West (1-0)
Whitefish Bay (1-0)
Others receiving consideration: Catholic Memorial (1-0), Germantown (1-0), Greendale (0-1), Homestead (0-1), South Milwaukee (1-0)
(updated Aug. 22)
Bite-sized tidbits on area high-school football within the Lake Country and Now Newspapers coverage zone.
Test your knowledge of the high school football rule book with help from Patrick Miles, a member of the Executive Board of the Milwaukee Officials Association and an official who has worked WIAA state championships, the NCAA Division III national championship and other NCAA contests, including the Big Ten.
Scenario: The holder for Team A takes a snap on a point-after attempt, then rises for a fake and tries to advance toward the end zone. In the process, the holder is tackled and fumbles the ball, though his teammate pounces on it and advances it into the end zone. Is it a successful conversion?
(records portrayed are league, overall)
|West Allis Hale||0||0||0||1|
|West Allis Central||0||0||0||1|
|Kenosha Indian Trail||0||0||0||1|
|New Berlin Eisenhower||0||0||1||0|
|New Berlin West||0||0||0||1|
|West Bend West||0||0||1||0|
|West Bend East||00||0||0||1|
|Lake Country Lutheran||0||0||1||0|
|Living Word Lutheran||0||0||1||0|
|Kenosha Christian Life||0||0||1||0|
|Racine St. Catherine's||0||0||0||1|
|Kenosha St. Joseph||0||0||0||1|
|St. Thomas More||0||0||0||1|
Area statistical leaders (through Week 1)
A look at area teams in the state polls:
Wisconsin State Coaches Poll (Week 1)
2. Arrowhead (1-0)
3. Franklin (1-0)
7. Oak Creek (1-0)
8. Muskego (1-0)
10. Mukwonago (1-0)
1. Waukesha West (1-0)
4. Germantown (1-0)
8. Whitefish Bay (1-0)
1. Catholic Memorial (1-0)
4. Pewaukee (1-0)
10. New Berlin Eisenhower (1-0)
Associated Press Poll (Aug. 24)
2. Arrowhead (1-0)
5. Waukesha West (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Muskego (1-0), Homestead (0-1), South Milwaukee (1-0), Greendale (1-0), Germantown (1-0)
1. Catholic Memorial (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Pewaukee (1-0)
6. Lake Country Lutheran (1-0)