Area teams open 2014 season tonight
Change is the one constant in the high school football landscape.
This fall is no different. With new coaches taking over at Burlington, Wilmot, Delavan-Darien and Walworth Big Foot, there promises to be big changes in the Southern Lakes Conference.
The biggest departure came when coaching guru Rodney Wedig decided to leave Big Foot for Beloit Memorial, a flailing program in the Big Eight, one of the state’s toughest Division 1 conferences.
First-year coach Greg Enz, who followed a legend and turned Little Chute into a state power, will attempt the same thing at Big Foot, which currently has a 50-game Rock Valley Conference win streak (seven straight titles).
Wilmot, which won a three-way tie of the SLC title last season, welcomed Erick Kaiser as its new coach. Former coach Mike Greinke, who at the time said he stepped down to spend more time with his family, is now the defensive coordinator of D1 powerhouse Kenosha Bradford.
Delavan-Darien saw former coach Steve Tenhagen, who led the Comets for the past seven seasons, leave for his hometown of Burlington.
Bret St. Arnauld will take over Delavan, which returns SLC offensive player of the year Jesse Collins at quarterback and its entire starting offensive line.
Tenhagen brings his brand of high-scoring offense, which features dual-threat quarterbacks and athletes who can run and catch.
Tenhagen was a standout wide receiver for Burlington High School back in the mid-90s and caught passes from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on the 1996 Demons squad, which advanced to the state semifinals.
Tenhagen went on to become a star receiver at UW-Whitewater.
Now, he’s back where it all started, and tonight Burlington will honor coaching legend Don Dalton in an official ceremony to name its field Don Dalton Stadium.
Another big change this offseason was the WIAA’s implementation of a rule involving less contact during practice.
Teams were only allowed 90 minutes a week of hitting, and that included wrapping up and even rigorous blocking. The number decreases to 60 minutes during the regular season.
I talked to Tenhagen, Waterford coach Adam Bakken, Union Grove Jordan Hein and Catholic Central coach Tom Alrich, and the consensus was that it wasn’t much of a factor.
Lack of depth at Burlington, CC and Waterford have coaches less enthusiastic about excessive full contact.
Tenhagen said conditioning was a bit behind during his team’s scrimmage last Friday because players weren’t yet used to contact.
Finally, the waiting and practicing and two-a-days are gone. The season is here, and I’m excited to bring you my first installment of football weekend, fresh with predictions of tonight’s area games.
– Remember, if you’re at a game tonight, tweet scoring updates to me @mikeramczyk17 and @PrepsReport, and you will be retweeted.
Also, like our Facebook page, Standard Press Sports, for photos and more from tonight’s area action.
(all games start at 7 p.m.)
West Allis Hale at Lake Geneva Badger
It’s brewing into a strong nonconference rivalry, and it’s a good test right off the bat for the Badgers.
Lake Geneva graduated some studs from a season ago like Josh Doyle, Andrew Allen, Matt Reynolds and starting quarterback Collin Broderick, but nobody re-tools like coach Matt Hensler, who has taken the Badgers to six straight postseasons.
With athletic quarterback Isaac Ziervogel under center, the Badgers could be a threat to throw the ball downfield.
Traditionally, Badger’s triple option wears down defenses.
Tristan Steiner at running back and Trevor Steiner are Badgers to watch.
PREDICTION: Lake Geneva 21, West Allis Hale 18
Racine Case at Burlington
The Demons welcome back legendary coach Don Dalton and will officially name the stadium after him tonight.
The place should be rocking with a tailgate, halftime ceremony and the return of more than 100 former Dalton players.
Case features Western Michigan recruit Darion King at tight end, but the Demons should be too amped up at home to fall.
Tenhagen said players have picked up his new system nicely, and Burlington’s scrimmage featured plenty of offensive fireworks.
With Brad Burling throwing to talented wideouts like Ty Wiemer, Brian Dankle, Frankie Hozeska and James Tully, the Demons should score early and often.
PREDICTION: Burlington 28, Racine Case 17
Catholic Central at Whitewater
The Division 7 powerhouse must step up in competition to face the Division 3 Whippets, but the Toppers are used to that in the Metro Classic Conference.
Whitewater is coming off a 4-5 season, while Catholic Central was 7-5 and advanced to Level 3 of the playoffs.
Expect junior quarterback Ben Heiligenthal and stud running back Cole Kresken to lead the Toppers to victory.
PREDICTION: Catholic Central 27, Whitewater 19
Pewaukee at Waterford
What separates two traditional powers?
Pewaukee and Waterford are both strong year in and year out, and last year Pewaukee ripped Waterford in Pewaukee.
But the Wolverines are three-time defending SLC champions, and they feature a senior starting quarterback with plenty of experience, dynamic receivers and an always-strong defense.
Coach Adam Bakken is a defensive guru, and he brought back offensive coordinator Dave Fisher, who helped lead the team to the 2011 Division 2 state championship game.
Waterford must replace 1,000-yard rusher Jacob Bauer. Bakken said it will be a running back-by-committee approach.
Both teams are solid, which gives the advantage to the home team.
PREDICTION: Waterford 21, Pewaukee 14
Westosha Central at Big Foot
Rodney Wedig may be gone, but plenty of talent returns for the Chiefs.
Seniors Brandon Hausner and Brett Morris are featured at running back and quarterback, respectively.
Hausner ran for more than 1,000 yards with 17 touchdowns last season, and Morris threw for 1,200 yards with 14 touchdowns.
The Chiefs have made a habit of crushing the Falcons in Week 1, and this year shouldn’t be any different.
Westosha starts a new quarterback, Josiah McDermit, after returning starter Greg Kuhfuss went down for the season with a serious injury.
Central should improve on its 0-9 record, but that first win won’t come tonight.
PREDICTION: Big Foot 45, Westosha Central 7
Delavan-Darien at East Troy
If you’re a fan of offense, go to this game. But make sure to be seated by kickoff, because you won’t want to miss a series.
Two high-powered offenses collide in this Walworth County rivalry.
Delavan-Darien won this game last year in Week 1, 70-52. That’s not a typo.
Two high school football teams combined for 122 points!
With reigning SLC player of the year Jesse Collins now a senior for the Comets and quarterback Charlie Kutschenreuter back for East Troy, the defenses are in trouble.
PREDICTION: Delavan-Darien 45, East Troy 35
Elkhorn at Cudahy
With new quarterback Keaton Verhoeven in tow, the Elks could be a surprise pick in the Southern Lakes.
Elkhorn advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 last year, and now there’s an expectation to reach the postseason.
A new coach, Max Wasikowski, will try to revitalize a traditionally strong program at Cudahy.
The Elks punished the Packers, 38-0, last year.
PREDICTION: Elkhorn 24, Cudahy 10
Evansville 24, Union Grove 14
Williams Bay 28, Kenosha Christian Life 14
Wilmot 17, New Berlin Eisenhower 10