Classic 8 Conference
Hartland Arrowhead opened with two dominating nonconference victories and did the same in the usually rugged league race to finish the regular season with a 9-0 record. That wasn't enough for the Warhawks, who decided to play five more games. And they brought home the Division 1 state championship trophy with them.
Kettle Moraine finished second in the Classic 8 with a 6-1 mark, while Waukesha West was third at 5-2. Waukesha Catholic Memorial went 4-3 to give the league four postseason qualifiers.
Athletes who earned 23 spots on the all-conference teams are scheduled to return, a combined 21 of them being members of the top four programs, so it should be another interesting fall.
The Warhawks whipped through the postseason with wins against Milwaukee Bay View, Sun Prairie, Milwaukee Marquette and Verona by an average of 40.8 to 15.3, which included their wild 44-41 triumph over Marquette that went to double overtime. Arrowhead then throttled Homestead, 31-7, in the title contest at Camp Randall.
It was Arrowhead's fourth crown and first since 1996, and the Warhawks must replace numerous standouts, including two vital parts of their offensive machine in quarterback Dan Kieffer and running back Jake Ferris, both first-team selections.
Kieffer completed 24 of 48 attempts for 490 yards in league contests, while Ferris rumbled for 752 yards on 95 carries (7.9 average) and scored 19 touchdowns. Ferris is a preferred walk-on at the University of Minnesota.
Arrowhead also lost first-teamers in center Josh Stuver, lineman and defensive player of the year Nate Gross, linebacker Cory Pinkner and defensive back Mike Eggert; second-teamers in offensive tackle Matt McIntyre, defensive lineman Sean Dembiec, linebacker Eric Herbert and defensive back Ryan Hilgendorf; and honorable mention picks in receiver Jake Hackbart, defensive lineman Darian Skrenes and defensive back Jack Leahy.
Skrenes will attend NCAA Division 2 team Northwest Missouri State, Hackbart is headed for St. Norbert, Stuver, Gross and Kieffer will play at UW-Oshkosh.
Still, the Warhawks also had several performers who gained honors as juniors: first-team guard Nick Doehling, first-team defensive end Joe Balthazor, second-team tackle Jared Volk, second-team punter Jeff Budzien and honorable mention defensive back Chris Pendergast. And running back Brian Crook was a second-team choice as a sophomore.
Crook joined Ferris in the 1,000-yard club, while Budzien established a D-1 state championship mark with a 45.5 average (at least two punts) and has received decent recruiting interest, including several Big Ten programs.
The Lasers split their non-league contests to finish 7-2 in the regular season, reaching the postseason for the first time last year since three consecutive trips from 2002-04. Kettle Moraine's stay was short-lived as it fell 46-21 to Milton in the first round of D-2.
The team's depth will be tested as senior guard Joe Donner is the lone returning first-team selection, although quarterback Mike Butterfield, receiver Vince Tumbleson and tackle Josh Luterbach received honorable mention laurels and are back for their senior campaigns.
Tumbleson hauled in 13 receptions for 283 yards (21.8) in league action, while Butterfield completed 35 of 73 for 645 yards. Butterfield finished with 590 yards rushing total with nine TDs.
A host of all-league performers have graduated, including first-team picks in tackle and defensive tackle Mark McNeely, receiver Jeff Zipfel, running back Jarred Hassin, place-kicker David Schwerman, defensive end Lee Meredith, linebacker Casey Casper, defensive back Tim Huser and punter Kyle Calhoun. Casper made the honorable mention list at running back.
Also gone are honorable mention selections in defensive lineman Dane Kilpatrick, linebacker Will Hart and defensive back Max Anderson.
Hassin churned for 964 yards in Classic 8 competition and 1,438 total (6.1) and 10 scores. Zipfel finished with 19 catches for 299 yards (15.7) and six TDs overall. Huser intercepted five passes for 107 yards during league contests.
Hassin will attend the Air Force, Schwerman is a preferred walk-on at Minnesota, Zipfel is headed to Western Michigan, Anderson is a preferred walk-on at Minnesota State-Mankato, Kilpatrick is walking on at Northern Michigan and Calhoun will compete at UW-Oshkosh.
The Wolverines started 1-3 before ripping off five consecutive wins to end the regular season at 6-3. The 2004 state champions in D-2 lost their postseason opener a year ago, 31-7 to Madison La Follette.
West returns a ton of talent, but one of those athletes isn't league offensive player of the year Steve Spratte, a running back who's walking on at Nebraska after exploding for 1,445 yards (7.7) in league outings and 1,802 overall, including 22 touchdowns.
Coach Steve Rux's squad also must find a replacement for honorable mention quarterback Kevin Hansen, who completed 63 of his 135 pass attempts for 996 yards with eight TDs and only three interceptions.
Others who graduated include second-teamers in guard Jared Stewart, receiver Cory Censky, defensive lineman Chris Krause and linebacker Luke Schnitzler as well as honorable mention choices in tackle Nathan Nader, receiver Nick Cappozzo and defensive back Chris Gardipee. Spratte and Censky also were honorable mention secondary players.
However, the Wolverines get back a bunch of topnotch performers, starting with senior defensive back Mark Spratte, who made the league's second unit, while senior guard Jordan Fults, senior tackle Greg Peterson, senior defensive end Derrick Amrhein, and senior linebackers Steve Vitalke and Gabe Higbee earned honorable mention status.
The Crusaders qualified for the playoffs with their 4-3 league mark after sweeping their two nonconference contests as they recorded four straight shutouts to open the campaign.
They reached the postseason for the fifth time this decade, but they dropped their D-3 opener to Greendale, 35-28.
Among those expected to return and help Memorial get back to the playoffs are senior first-team wide receiver Mike Janowski and senior second-teamers in quarterback Jack Fleming, center Chris Weber and running back Ryan Baez. Senior running back Andy Jaynes was an honorable mention choice.
Janowski grabbed 27 receptions in league action and 33 overall for 483 yards. Fleming connected on 67 of 138 passes (48.6 percent) for 1,049 yards and 11 scores and rushed for 408 yards and 12 TDs. Baez accumulated 1,018 yards on 162 attempts (6.3) and scored seven times.
The Crusaders will miss first-team offensive and defensive lineman Jake Reynolds and first-team defensive back Dayton Young.
The Blackshirts finished 2-5 in league contests and split their nonconference tilts to finish 3-6. They have failed to make the playoffs since 1999.
Waukesha South had seven all-league selections last season, but none of them return: second-teamers in running back L.J. Hyland, defensive lineman Bill Stier and defensive back Eli Peterson and honorable mention picks in guard Pat Long, tackle Tyler Chaney, defensive end Ben Flood and linebacker Joey Baird.
Hyland carried 147 times for 798 yards (5.4) and seven scores. South also lost Joey Baird to graduation after he gained 400 yards on 77 carries (5.2) and scored four times, but senior Jason Pijpaert, who hauled in 14 catches, should be back.
The Indians dropped their two non-league outings and faltered to a 2-5 finish in the Classic 8, forcing them to miss the playoffs after a 14-year run that featured the D-1 state title in 2004.
Mukwonago allowed more than 30 points four times, but the offense struggled even more as it was limited to single digits on five occasions and scored more than 13 points only twice.
The Indians do get a couple of key senior pieces back in second-team guard Dan Weltzin and honorable mention defensive tackle Joe Schiebe.
And senior quarterback Patrick Quaglieri should return after throwing for 467 yards and topping the team with 394 yards rushing and three scores.
But Mukwonago must replace the likes of do-everything Mike Spaight, who was a second-team punter and honorable mention pick at place-kicker and in the defensive secondary.
Leading receiver Tyler Huber and follow honorable mention selection at linebacker Tyler Sadowske also graduated.
The Popes shared the conference cellar with Waukesha North at 1-6 and finished 2-7 overall. They missed the playoffs after reaching the third round in 2006, their only appearance.
Pius XI will be hard-pressed to move up because every one of its all-league honorees have graduated, including second-team defensive lineman and honorable mention receiver Sean Kelly. Kelly topped the team with 22 total receptions for 283 yards in eight games.
That list also includes honorable mention running back Danny Orlowski, who gained 654 yards on 129 carries (5.0) in Classic 8 action and finished with 901 yards and seven TDs overall rushing.
Honorable mention defensive backs Samora Johnson and Matt Chrnelich and punter Brian Krupo must also be replaced.
The Northstars won their league opener at Pius XI after dropping their two nonconference games but they didn't taste victory again, winding up 1-8 overall and failing to reach the postseason after going twice in a row.
North will find it difficult to challenge for a playoff spot because it lost several important weapons, including quarterback Eric Truesdale and receivers Brian Hart and Peter Weber.
Truesdale passed for a league-high 795 yards in conference games, completing 54 of 113. He made finished with 1,126 yards and eight TD tosses overall.
Hart was a second-team selection after grabbing 33 passes for 344 yards and three scores overall, 29 of them in loop competition. Meanwhile, Weber made the honorable mention list after catching 29 for 361 yards and three scores in eight games.
The Northstars also must fill the holes left by first-team linebacker Cody Kave, second-team center Stephan Quick, second-team defensive lineman Anthony Felton and honorable mention tackle Kirk Cooper-Johnson.