It was one of those nights for Waterford coach Adam Bakken Friday at Franklin, where the Wolverines lost, 51-0. Read the full recap and see what Bakken had to say in Friday’s Waterford Post. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

 

By Chris Bennett

Sports Correspondent

If you wait until school starts to catch Waterford Union High School football you will miss some of the better games of the early season.

The Wolverines start school on Sept. 5 – the day after Labor Day. By then, Waterford will have played three games.

The Wolverines open their season tonight at Franklin. The Sabers – so named for the saber-toothed cat, and not the sword – advanced to last season’s WIAA Division 1 championship game and lost 29-14 to Kimberly.

Waterford follows Franklin with Kenosha Indian Trail on Aug. 25 in the Wolverines’ home opener. The Division 1 school advanced to the playoffs last season and boasts one of the largest enrollments in the state.

Indian Trail’s enrollment of 2,597 more than doubles Waterford’s 1,088, according to numbers on WisSports.net.

The early going of the Wolverines’ Southern Lakes Conference schedule offers no reprieve.

Waterford opens conference play Sept. 1 at defending SLC champion Badger. Badger advanced to within a game of the Division 1 title last season before losing to – wait for it – Franklin in a Division 4 playoff game.

Once school starts, the Wolverines play Wilmot, a pre-season pick to win the SLC title, at home Sept. 8 before heading 10 minutes down Hwy. W for a Sept. 15 rivalry game at Burlington.

“The schedule is certainly front-loaded,” Waterford coach Adam Bakken said. “I don’t know if there are many teams in the state, on paper, opening with a tougher first four games than we do.”

Don’t expect anyone involved with Wolverines football to cry over their lot in life. Bakken, in his seventh season, said the team welcomes the challenge.

“I’m excited,” Bakken said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for our very young team. (Franklin) is one of the better teams in the state the last handful of years, and coming off a great season last year.”

The Wolverines finished 7-3 overall last year, and went 5-2 in the hyper-competitive SLC. Badger went undefeated and won the conference outright. Wilmot went 6-1 and finished second. It broke Waterford’s streak of claiming a share of five consecutive SLC titles.

Junior Willie Ketterhagen (2) prepares to catch an interception Friday night. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

“It probably weighs more on me than anyone else,” Bakken said. “I like winning. I like being conference champion.”

Waterford’s hopes for a conference title – and more – this season are pinned to a relatively young but talented team. For years Bakken has said he likes the toughness of the kids he gets to coach in Waterford, but admits the gap in experience needs to be overcome – both mentally and physically.

“There are so many more things we have to prepare for in a varsity game than you do in a freshman game or junior varsity game,” Bakken said. “The only way you get that experience is by playing a natural, live game.”

Much of the Wolverines’ starting lineup, on either side of the ball, is a work in progress because of youth. As an example, Bakken said Waterford is starting only three seniors on offense.

On offense, Bakken said Waterford will rely on quarterback Joe Schauer, who throws a good deep ball and already grasps where his fellow players should be in the offensive formation.

Aaron Chapman will also play some quarterback, and line up at wide receiver. Offensive lineman Zach Stiewe is in his third season as a starter.

Running back Ben Michalowski, a first team All-Southern Lakes Conference selection last season, is also back, and will serve as a focal point of the Wolverines’ backfield.

Sam Noll earned first team All-SLC honors last season at linebacker. Chapman will also play on defense – he earned first team All-SLC honors last season as a defensive back. Jack Trautman will contribute at linebacker and on the defensive line.

Waterford is in a three-team race this season with Wilmot and Badger for supremacy in the SLC. Burlington might also challenge for the conference crown. Bakken said a lot will have to go right for the Wolverines to win the SLC.

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