Waterford, Burlington lead Racine County contingent
By Mike Ramczyk
For the first time, the Southern Lakes Newspapers All-Area Football squad will take into consideration all 15 of its high schools.
Though Williams Bay doesn’t have a varsity football team for the first time, Sports Editor Mike Ramczyk along with Staff Writer Jason Arndt and sports correspondents Chris Bennett and Tim Wester reached out to football coaches from Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties, including Burlington, Catholic Central, Waterford, Union Grove, Lake Geneva Badger, Elkhorn, Westosha Central, Wilmot, Delavan-Darien, East Troy, Walworth Big Foot, Mukwonago, Palmyra-Eagle and Whitewater.
The majority of coaches responded, while our staff filled in the blanks for the rest of the teams.
We’re keeping this year’s team as simple and unconventional as possible, with the best players making the cut, regardless of position.
Criteria include overall talent, statistics, team record and performance in clutch situations, among other things.
This is strictly my opinion, so if you have any gripes, please email me, Sports Editor Mike Ramczyk, at email@example.com.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Matt Nelson, quarterback, Union Grove
Though Union Grove didn’t make the playoffs and Lake Geneva Badger quarterback Mason Dumez led his team to a 12-1 record and a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal, nobody in the area did more with less than Nelson.
A prototypical quarterback, Nelson stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds, but what took his game to another level this season was his ability to run.
Defensive coordinators knew to key on Nelson each game, and he was still able to pass for 1,861 yards, completing 56 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Furthermore, he ran for 574 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Nelson accounted for 82 percent of the Grove’s yardage and 88 percent of its total scoring.
The soft-spoken senior is a leader on the field and shows humility when asked about his accomplishments.
Nelson was named the Racine County and Southern Lakes Conference player of the year, and he was a team captain.
He was already a superior pocket passer in 2015, but he became a dual threat in 2016, and he was able to carry the young Broncos on his back.
“Matt is a true leader in every aspect of the word and is a total film junkie,” said Union Grove coach Craig McClelland. “He did everything for us offensively. He truly did everything on his own because he didn’t have anybody else. He really has taken his game to the next level.”
Nelson holds a 3.6 GPA and scored a 26 on his ACT. His future is bright, with offers from Division 2 teams St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato.
He is currently undecided on where he will play, but one lucky school will receive a rare talent.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Matt Hensler, Lake Geneva Badger
A man who could’ve won this honor the last few seasons, Hensler is the architect of the most productive running attack in the area, a triple-option veer that gives linebackers nightmares and keeps opposing coaches up late at night.
Adopted from his dad, Keith, who won a state championship running a similar offense with Mukwonago, Matt enjoyed perhaps his finest season with Badger.
It was the team’s second consecutive trip to the state semifinals, but this time they did it as one of the smallest schools in Division 1.
Hensler has enjoyed three state semifinal appearances in five years, with the first coming against Arrowhead in 2012.
It was the second straight Southern Lakes Conference title for the Badgers, who capped off a perfect regular season with a pivotal road victory over rival Waterford.
Hensler and his staff recognized a Waterford adjustment in the second half and countered, which help shut down the powerful Wolverine running attack.
Also, Hensler’s defense made big plays all season, as it stymied upset-minded Delavan-Darien in the late stages and forced a turnover to beat Wilmot in overtime.
Hensler is an energetic, vocal leader who inspires a large staff of more than 15 volunteer coaches to follow him.
Badger beat three Big Eight schools in the playoffs, Madison West, Verona and Middleton, all of which have larger enrollments.
Hensler has a unique ability to take whatever talent he’s given and get the most out of it.
Mason DuMez, quarterback, Lake Geneva Badger
One of the most underrated players in the area, Dumez was the engine that fueled a Badger rushing attack that put up nearly 300 yards per game.
The quarterback is responsible for making the correct reads on each running play, and he must decide whether to keep it, hand it to the fullback or wait for the tailback.
When Dumez kept it, he was stellar, running for a team-high 1,338 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He added 700 passing yards with nine touchdowns and only three interceptions.
His decision-making and talented play helped get the Badgers one game away from the state championship with a 12-1 record.
Dumez was nominated for All-Region.
Ethan Cesarz, tight end/linebacker, Delavan-Darien
A Wisconsin Football Coaches Association first team all-state inside linebacker, Cesarz is a big, strong, quick football natural.
Already drawing interest from the Wisconsin Badgers, Cesarz is a next-level type of talent, with more than 900 receiving yards as a senior.
Also a talented run blocker, Cesarz totaled 132 tackles for the Comets.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Cesarz is a physical specimen who can smother opposing running back and run past defensive backs.
“Ethan is one of the best all-around football players I have had the privilege of being around,” Delavan-Darien coach Bret St. Arnauld said.
“He is arguably one of the best run blockers as a tight end. At linebacker, his nose for the football is second to none, and his range is limitless.”
Cesarz was a first team tight end and linebacker.
Matt Szeszol, lineman, Lake Geneva Badger
A first team all-state and first team all-region defensive end, Szeszol also earned first team all-region and honorable mention all-state as an offensive lineman.
At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Szeszol packed a punch from around the end, finishing with 10.5 sacks, 69 total tackles and four passes defended.
He spearheaded a Badger defense that held five opponents to less than 10 points.
EJ Mastrocola, offensive lineman, Waterford
A two-time first team all-conference lineman, Mastrocola paved the way for running backs Ben Michalowski and Jared Krattiger to have big rushing seasons.
Mastrocola stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 240 pounds, and he is one of the best linemen in the state.
He’s a two-time first team all-Racine County pick, and he earned All-Region honors in 2016.
Zach Genrich, running back, Mukwonago
Playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state, the Classic 8, which features traditional powers like Arrowhead, Waukesha West and Muskego, Genrich earned first team all-conference honors.
He amassed nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Genrich sports a 3.6 GPA in the classroom, and the 5-foot-11, 195-pound force has field a couple Division 2 college football offers.
“He’s a great runner, receiver and blocker,” said Mukwonago coach Clay Iverson.
Robert Brent, running back, Wilmot
The leading rusher in the Southern Lakes Conference, the junior earned first team all-SLC honors.
Brent totaled 1,154 rushing yards with eight touchdowns, good for 115 yards per game.
He also caught 10 passes for 163 yards.
Look for Brent to contend for All-Area player of the year in 2017.
Jimmy DuVal, wide receiver, Whitewater
The team captain of the Whippets, DuVal was the co-offensive MVP and earned all-region and first team all-Rock Valley honors.
DuVal, a junior, caught 50 passes for 1,006 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
He averaged 20.1 yards per reception.
Ryan Sproul, linebacker, Lake Geneva Badger
A first team all-region and honorable mention all-state selection at outside linebacker, Sproul was all over the field for the 12-1 Badgers.
He recorded 109 tackles, added three tackles for loss, defended four passes and added two interceptions.
The first team all-SLC pick was one of the best defensive players on the league’s best team.
Luis Benitez, defensive lineman, Burlington
A menacing punisher of opposing offensive lineman, Benitez plays angry and disrupts the action.
An all-region pick, Benitez earned first team all-SLC.
He accounted for 50 total tackles.
“Luis is a physical defensive lineman who punished offensive linemen on a regular basis,” said Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen.
Jackson Enz, quarterback, Walworth Big Foot
A big-time playmaker, the junior earned honorable mention all-state honors for utility athlete.
If that doesn’t convince you the quarterback can do it all, consider his school record of 2,167 passing yards to go along with averages of 34 yards per punt return and 32 yards per kickoff return.
Enz runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, and he also ran for 770 yards and 15 touchdowns.
As a punter, Enz led the league with a 39.6-yard average.
Enz finished second in state in Division 2 in the 300 high hurdles last spring.
“When his senior year is done, he may be the best I’ve been around in my career,” said Big Foot coach Greg Enz.
“Jackson is incredibly explosive and athletic. He provides lots of highlights each game.”
Owen Goedland, running back, East Troy
Goedland ran for 1,434 yards and scored 16 touchdowns for the 5-5 Trojans.
He earned first team all-Rock Valley honors at running back.
Dylan Derks, offensive lineman, Burlington
A first team all-county and all-SLC pick, Derks is the anchor of the Burlington offensive line at center.
“Dylan was the leader of our offense, making all of our line calls,” said coach Steve Tenhagen. “He excelled against both odd and even fronts.”
Benny Michalowski, running back, Waterford
The two-time first team all-SLC running back tallied 1,089 rushing yards in 2016 and continued his emergence as an elite back.
Only a junior, Michalowski should compete for player of the year in 2017.
He scored 14 touchdowns and added 218 receiving yards.
Zack Christopherson, linebacker, Wilmot
With 61 tackles and six sacks, Christopherson earned first team all-SLC honors for a Wilmot team that beat rival Waterford and finished with another stellar campaign.
Christopherson flies around the field and mows down opposing ball carriers.
Aaron Sturdevant, linebacker, Burlington
A first team all-county selection and a second team all-SLC pick, Sturdevant led the Demons in tackles with 81 tackles and added five tackles for loss.
A multi-sport athlete, Sturdevant has a knack for the football and combines powerful hitting with quick feet.
“Aaron is a complete football player who excelled in both run and pass defense,” Tenhagen said.
Andrew Glass, offensive lineman, Lake Geneva Badger
Nominated for all-region, one of Badger’s leaders up front was a first team all-SLC pick.
He helped lead one of the strongest rush attacks in the state.
Patrick Watrous, running back, Lake Geneva Badger
A home-run hitter every time he touched the ball, Watrous was the speedy tailback in the Badger ground machine.
He was known for long, explosive runs and totaled 1,055 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Danny Noll, linebacker, Waterford
A first team all-conference linebacker, Noll is a key cog in the feared Waterford defense.
“Gang Green” is consistently one of the best units in the area, and Noll helped lead the way with 65 total tackles and an interception for a touchdown.
Jake Benzing, quarterback, Delavan-Darien
A senior leader, Benzing is a dual-threat dynamo.
Jake finished with more than 2,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing.
He was a big play waiting to happen, and Benzing proved to be one of the most unstoppable forces in the SLC.
“He was our offensive leader, and how our team went really was based on how well Jake played,” said St. Arnauld. “He was a our ignitor. He is so physically gifted that he sometimes makes things look easy. He is a very special player.”
Jeff Shoopman, kicker, Wilmot
One of the most clutch players in the area, Shoopman nailed two game-winning field goals, one to sink Waterford in a high-stakes game and another to down Burlington.
Shoopman hit 6-of-8 field goals and added 29 extra points.
He was the first team all-SLC kicker.
Aaron Chapman, defensive back, Waterford
A first team all-SLC pick, Chapman was the highest vote-getter of all d-backs in the conference.
He solidified the back end for a stout defensive unit.
A junior, expect big things from Chapman in 2017.
Mike Alder, wide receiver, Delavan-Darien
The senior was a first team all-SLC pick, with more than 800 receiving yards on the season.
Alder is a nightmare for opposing defenses after the catch, as he possesses elite speed.
The game-breaker was also the team’s punt and kick returner.
“His ability to make plays after the catch is what made him so dangerous,” St. Arnauld said. “In the open field, he is so quick. He can score any time he touches the ball.”
Austin Kurylo, defensive back, Westosha Central
– Caught game-winning TD at Elkhorn, which snapped two-year SLC losing streak, first team all-SLC
Richie Heidemann, offensive lineman, Elkhorn
– Second team all-SLC
A.J. Frisby, quarterback, Wilmot
– 983 passing yards, 9 TDs, 883 rushing yards, 13 TDs, 5 INT as d-back, HM all-SLC
Grant Tully, receiver, Burlington
– First team all-SLC, Second team all-county, 29-479 yards, 4 TDs, “dynamic player with the football in his hands,” Tenhagen said
Troy Stewart, defensive lineman, Wilmot
– 51 tackles, team-leading 7 sacks, second team all-SLC
Junior Turcios, defensive lineman, Delavan-Darien
– Second team all-SLC, one of the most menacing, disruptive d-linemen in the league
Kyle Goethal, defensive end, Burlington Catholic Central
– “Outstanding football player, teams would try to run away from him,” said coach Tom Aldrich, 48 tackles, 2.5 sacks, INT return for TD
Holden Whybark, tight end, Union Grove
– Second team all-SLC, 490 yards, 5 TDs
Ty Mulcahy, lineman, Wilmot
– First team defensive lineman all-SLC, Second team all-SLC o-lineman
Jake Raiman, punter, Wilmot
– First team all-SLC
Chad Zirbel, linebacker, Catholic Central
– “Very good football player with outstanding nose for the ball,” Aldrich said, 100 total tackles, 2 INTs
Austin Flower, defensive back, Lake Geneva Badger
– First team all-SLC, 52 tackles, 6 passes defended, INT, nominated for all-region
Olihn Craig, defensive end, Big Foot
– First team all-RVC, team captain, 79 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, “could control a side of the line of scrimmage,” coach Enz said
Ernesto Magana, linebacker, Whitewater
– Team captain, defensive team MVP, 111 total tackles, 5 forced fumbles, all-RVC past two seasons
Nick Klug, quarterback, Burlington
– HM all-SLC, HM all-county, dynamic, elite speed, “dual-threat QB who has a quick release and sees the field well,” Tenhagen said, 1,650 passing yards, 12 TD, 7 INT, 476 rushing yards, 7 TD, first-year quarterback after starring at receiver as sophomore