WAUKESHA - There weren’t too many positives Hartland Arrowhead junior offensive lineman Ben Bredeson took away from his offense’s performance on Friday night; a night in which the Warhawks’ offense orchestrated only one sustained touchdown drive in their 24-21 loss to West.
But for Bredeson, one of the top high school junior offensive linemen in the country, getting a chance to be lined up across from Wolverines senior defensive end, and Northern Illinois commit, Marcus Kelly was a good litmus test to what he does and doesn’t do well.
“Marcus and I have been friends since I was a freshman and he was a sophomore,” Bredeson told BadgerNation. “We were excited to play each other last year but he got hurt with a knee injury for a game and couldn’t play then. It was our one shot in our high school career to go against each other.
“It was nice knowing that’s a D-1 guy and know what it takes. Going at him for four quarters, he was never off of me. He was on me the whole game. It was a good matchup. We were pushing after the whistle but we’re trying to get the edge. It’s like two brothers fighting. Nobody is going to quit first. It was great playing against him. The game just didn’t go our way.”
Arrowhead led twice in the game, at 14-10 in the second quarter and 21-17 in the third quarter, but had trouble adding to its lead because of West (5-1, 3-1 Classic 8) having a relentless defensive effort that kept the Warhawks’ offense out of sync.
Arrowhead finished with 215 total yards and went three-and-out on seven of its 11 possessions. Even so, the Warhawks, thanks in large part to Bredeson, maneuvered downfield with a couple key fourth-down conversions through the air on their final drive. But after winning its first two conference games in come-from-behind fashion with last-minute drives, Arrowhead’s 24-yard field goal missed wide left with 13 seconds remaining.
It was the second straight defeat for the two-year reigning WIAA Division 1 state champions, the first time Arrowhead (3-3, 2-2) has lost back-to-back games in conference since 2004, but Bredeson isn’t ready to hit the panic button yet.
“We’re pretty close,” said Bredeson. “We’re doing a good job moving the ball down the field. We’re just not able to finish drives all the time. We get the ball down to the 30 or the 20 and then our drives usually end up stalling out.
“I feel like we’re almost there, that everyone knows what they are doing, but I think we need one more thing to click. It seems we’re always just one thing off on every play. Everyone does their job but one thing always gets screwed up. It’s just because we’re not completely there on offense.
“The game against West brought some things out for us, so we’ll work on that in practice this week and hopefully get that fixed.”
Since being a part of the 13-1 championship team last season, Bredeson has been building his frame to be able to step into a leadership role on the Arrowhead offensive line that was vacated by now-Wisconsin freshman George Panos. To morph into that role, Bredeson added 25 pounds to be more physical in the trenches and relied on George’s dad, Joe Panos, a former Wisconsin and NFL offensive lineman who is on Arrowhead’s coaching staff as the defensive line coach.
“He teaches you the basics, but he’s been through everything and has been at the highest level,” said Bredeson. “He knows the little tricks. He knows if you’re going against a speed rusher where to put your hands and where to grab to be effective. He’s great to have. I’ve picked his brain the last two years. I still do. The man has been through it all. I like to get everything from him, just try to learn what I can do. I only have four years to use him, so I have to make it worth it.”
On the recruiting front, offers continues to trickle in for Bredeson, who is rated an early four-star recruit and the No.1 offensive guard in the 2016 recruiting class. In September, Bredeson has added offers from North Carolina State, Penn State and, most recently, Michigan State, one of the first schools to start recruiting him.
“I’ve always had a thing for Michigan State,” said Bredeson. “They just won the Rose Bowl, so they are doing something right out there. They are a great team and I went out there for a game last year when they played Michigan. That was a big stadium atmosphere and it was fun to be out there. I’ll try to get out there again. I am definitely looking into them.”
With games on Friday and workouts on Saturday, Bredeson’s campus visits are restricted to games in Madison to watch Wisconsin or night games to check out schools farther away. He plans to use the summer to take more visits and hopefully narrow his focus on what school is the best fit for him.
“I am just going to see,” said Bredeson. “I’m not ready yet and if I am not ready I don’t want to rush anything. I am not going to set a commitment date or anything like that. They are always coaching changes and people shuffling around, so I am going to wait until that is done and then maybe do some more visits over the summer to make sure my mind is set. If I am ready before my senior year I’ll pull the trigger.”