By Mike Ramczyk
Waterford football head coach Adam Bakken is a perfect three for three when it comes to Southern Lakes Conference championships.
Now in his fourth year, he must figure out a way to replace the conference’s leading rusher from a year ago, Jacob Bauer, and a strong group of seniors that helped the Wolverines advance to Level 3 last season.
The nice thing about Waterford’s program is it’s a perennial power, and football talent is never hard to find.
“Numbers are down, but we’re getting guys in the right spots,” Bakken said. “There’s a lot of teams that are down on numbers. We have a good core of young kids that will help out.”
While a running-back-by-committee approach will be used along with some changes on offense, Waterford’s defense may be as lethal as ever.
“We don’t have the size we’ve usually had, but in 15 years of coaching, this is most athletic defense I’ve had. A lot of guys are playing, and we’re not concerned with depth. We have some guys that can fly around. We have six starters back on defense, including a strong linebacking corps.”
Spearheading the linebackers are Max Fisher, Frank Phifer and Jack Ritzman. Luke Engel, Ben Chart and Shane Strebley will anchor the defensive line.
The secondary will feature Trace Hunsucker, Chris Saltzman and Johnny McCormick. Bakken said the team will rotate a bunch of guys in the secondary.
“I expect big things from some of our guys,” he said. “We are senior-led, and we are understanding our roles.”
Offensively, senior Dylan Malecki returns at quarterback. He threw for 743 yards with nine touchdowns and four picks a year ago.
“Dylan has another year under his belt,” Bakken said. “He is more confident. He has picked up on our offensive changes. He is very capable of making us a lot better offensively.”
Bakken said junior receiver Johnny McCormick is going to be good, along with tight end Sam Allen.
Center Justin Gresk and guard Carson Steffens will be key players on the offensive line.
Sophomore Anthony Miller, Dyln Ross, Hunsucker and Fisher will see time in the backfield carrying the ball.
Dave Fisher, who was the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator for their 2011 state run, is back this season. Also, former head coach Cary Venne is back as an assistant.
“Dave gets kids to buy in,” Bakken said. “He’ll get after them. It’s a welcome return.”
Bakken said the team’s biggest strength is its athleticism and multiple skill position players.
However, depth is a weakness, especially in the offensive line.
Bakken said his squad will be ready to go for Friday’s season opener against Pewaukee in Waterford.