Demons feature new coaching staff, system
By Mike Ramczyk
In 1996, he was catching touchdown passes from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as a star wide receiver.
The 6-foot-4 standout went on to excel at UW-Whitewater as an all-conference receiver.
After college, he got his coaching feet wet under former Burlington coach Hans Block.
Now, after the last seven years coaching Delavan-Darien, Burlington’s own Steve Tenhagen is back as the program’s sixth head coach in the last 90-some years.
“It’s special,” he said Tuesday night on the Burlington practice field. “You don’t know what your career path will take you on when you’re in high school. It’s been fun, and the community’s excited. It’s an honor to be a part of this tradition.”
The theme of this fall seems to be change.
Burlington will have a 14-man coaching staff with plenty of new faces, along with a new offense, defense, terminology and philosophy.
Basically, the Demons will look to score fast and often on offense and force the opposition into turnovers with an attacking, aggressive style.
With a spread offense that features big plays and a defense equipped with stunts, blitzes and run-stopping schemes, expect plenty of fireworks.
“We are trying to get players in space and make defenses defend us from sideline to sideline,” Tenhagen said. “The great thing is we can get 1-on-1 matchups and find a player to attack. We’re looking to score fast and often and definitely are trying to press it down the field.”
“Right now, we’re still working on assignments, and it’s all new with the terminology and the playbook. The kids have been great. We’re only 15 practices in, but we’ve come a long way since those first couple days.”
Some familiar faces have joined Tenhagen. Mike Deans takes over at defensive coordinator. Tenhagen is looking forward to the defensive expertise of Deans, who was a star linebacker for Burlington and UW-La Crosse.
Brian Horn, who was an assistant with Burlington’s 2005 state semifinal squad, is back as running backs coach. Horn and Tenhagen were on staff together under Block.
Other new coaches include Griffin McLaughlin (defensive line), Matt Behringer (defensive backs), and Andy Sireno and Jeff Taff, two former college football players who will coach the junior varsity.
Numbers are a bit low, according to Tenhagen, with 28 juniors and seniors. However, a large class of 35 sophomores will help round out the varsity. Tenhagen said 15 sophomores will play in their Thursday game then suit up with varsity.
Three sophomores will start on an offensive line that’s expected to be athletic. Tenhagen said the team has the athletes to make the spread offense work.
“We can be a drop-back passing team or a power running team,” he said. “Athletically, we have team speed and linemen that can move. It has to happen in this offense. It’s an aggressive, attacking style, and we need people that can play in space.”
Another need of Tenhagen’s particular brand of offense involves a quarterback that can both pass and run. At Delavan-Darien, Tenhagen would recruit athletic running backs as early as the youth ranks to become quarterbacks. Running backs will be converted into quarterbacks. Building depth at the game’s most important position is key.
Senior Brad Burling and junior Cal Tully fill in that need quite nicely. Both are athletic and can run and pass with success.
According to Tenhagen, Burling will start Friday at home against Racine Case, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of Tully getting reps.
Burling threw for 753 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions last season.
“Our offense is essential we have two guys ready to play at all times,” Tenhagen said. “There have been very few seasons where the QB plays the entire season. They have missed snaps and series. We have a power-run game and option, so the quarterback with the carry the ball quite a bit and must throw.”
Key returning linemen will include Ryan Simenson, Tristan Lind, Chris Marks, Hegeman Tiedt and Kramer Brown. Zach Cook and Dylan Derks are sophomores who will start on the offensive line.
Burling, James Tully (TE/DE), Hunter Melby (RB/LB) and Frankie Hozeska, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver who’s playing football for the first time, are other key players, Tenhagen said.
Along with Hozeska, other weapons in the passing game are Ty Wiemer and slot receivers Brian Dankle and Kyle Jones.
Dankle scored a touchdown in Friday’s scrimmage, and Wiemer was catching passes all over the field.
“Ty is very polished and is ready to play varsity football,” Tenhagen said.
At running back, Melby will split time with C.J. Schiller, who is playing football again after missing last year.
Also, sophomore Josh Insor will bring explosiveness to the backfield, according to Tenhagen.
Defensively, Tenhagen said the goal is stop the run with an attacking style. The Demons will look to force difficult 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations for offenses. The stack 4-4 will look to create turnovers with stunts and blitzes.
Tiedt, Marks, James Tully and Kramer Brown will be run-stuffers, Tenhagen said.
Tyler Bopp and Erik Viel will be key players in the secondary.
Burlington finished 4-5 last season and missed the playoffs after starting 3-0. The Demons have made the playoffs once (2012) since 2006.
Tenhagen expects Wilmot, Lake Geneva Badger and Waterford, last year’s co-champions, to once again be near the top of the Southern Lakes.
Is there pressure to win now? Tenhagen doesn’t get caught up in that stuff.
“We’re excited to be back and have people that bring football knowledge,” he said. “You design your program to do things right. We practice hard and compete. We’re always talking about competition. The rest takes care of itself.”
The Demons open the season Friday at home against Racine Case. The community will welcome back legendary football coach Don Dalton with the official opening of “Don Dalton Stadium.”
There will be a tailgate before the game, a halftime ceremony, and Dalton will speak after the game.
“We expect a good crowd,” Tenhagen said. “There’s been a pretty good response that people will come back and support Coach Dalton.”
(HOME GAMES IN BOLD CAPS)
August – 22: RACINE CASE. 29: RACINE HORLICK. September – 5: at Union Grove. 12: BADGER. 19: at Waterford. 26: at Westosha Central. October – 3: DELAVAN-DARIEN. 10: at Wilmot. 17: ELKHORN.