Name Changes, But Tight Race Doesn't

The Big Eight is no more, in name anyway, but the chase for the league championship in the Southern Wisconsin Conference will be as intense as ever. And newcomer Verona adds that much more spice.

Southern Wisconsin Conference

Sun Prairie and Madison La Follette shared the title of the league formerly known as the Big Eight. They finished with 7-1 records, while Janesville Parker, Middleton and Janesville Craig ended up at 5-3 in the top-heavy standings and clinched postseason berths.

The Cardinals earned a piece of their 11th conference title but first since 2000. That's nothing compared to the Lancers—it was their first taste of the top spot since 1976.

Another intriguing aspect this season is the addition of Verona, which was perfect in winning the Badger South for a second straight time outright and third consecutive overall. It makes its league debut after reaching the Division 1 state semifinals.

Madison La Follette

The Lancers lost their opener at Parker, 17-15, and then didn't lose again until more than two months later. They downed Sun Prairie by four points in week two and then weren't really challenged again during the regular season, finishing 8-1.

La Follette qualified for the D-1 playoffs for the second year in a row, whipping Waukesha West, 31-7, before dropping a wild 45-33 decision to Milwaukee Marquette.

The question will be, can the Lancers reload after losing a host of all-league performers?

Junior running back D.J. Fuller is back after making the first-team offense, while senior inside linebacker Ross Elliott earned a spot on the first-team defense. Junior defensive lineman De'Andrew Foy was named to the honorable mention list.

Fuller dazzled friend and foe alike, churning for 1,065 yards on 167 carries (6.4) and 12 touchdowns in 10 contests. He also caught four passes for 128 yards, all for scores. He even completed his only pass attempt for a TD.

While he will be a vital offensive cog, finding a replacement for graduated quarterback Steve Chapiewsky could determine the Lancers' fate. The first-team signal caller finished 141 of 244 for 2,085 yards and 23 touchdowns—and get this, only two interceptions. For good measure, he was a second-team kicker. Chapiewsky finished his career 218 of 395 for 3,052 yards and a 32-8 TD-to-pick ratio.

Also gone are first-teamers in wide receiver Cashton Craig, defensive linemen Darnell Small and Rob Price, outside linebacker Tony Stein and defensive back Jamison Vacek. Defensive back Austin Willis was a second-team choice who graduated, as did honorable mention selections in wide receiver Tyler Knight, running back Caleb Krueger, offensive lineman Nate Smith and defensive back Joe Pecosky.

Small is one of the recruits at NCAA Division 2 program Minnesota-Duluth. Meanwhile, Chapiewsky, Pecosky and Vacek are headed to UW-Eau Claire.

Sun Prairie

The Cardinals finished 8-1 in the regular season, posting three victories by eight points or less, and reached the postseason for a 17th time and fourth straight year.

However, the 1995 state champions—the last league member to win a coveted trophy--lost in the second round. Sun Prairie knocked off West Allis Hale, 42-40, before falling hard, 38-7, to eventual state champion Hartland Arrowhead.

Sun Prairie's depth will be tested severely as only one player who received all-league status is scheduled to return, junior second-team running back Sean Marshall, although he broke the 1,000-yard plateau.

The league's other first-team quarterback, Lee Brekke, finished his career on a high note, tossing a school single-season record 23 TD passes against seven interceptions, completing 126 of 228 for 2,143 yards. He ended up 235 for 428 for 3,775 yards and 38 scores, the latter two numbers also establishing Sun Prairie standards. He also was the honorable mention punter.

Offensive lineman Matt Steiber, kicker Jake Dahmen, inside linebacker Logan Maly, outside backer Bob Weske and defensive back Mac Concordia ended their prep careers with first-team honors.

Dahmen converted 50 of 52 extra points and eight of 10 three-pointers, including a game-winning long attempt of 44 yards to beat Middleton. Maly recorded 126 tackles, including 14 for loss.

Wide receiver Reed Harmon, tight end Cody Playter, offensive linemen Lucas Houser and Kevin Morrical, and defensive lineman Dylan Peterson were second-team choices who must be replaced, while Dahmen at wide receiver, Nate Miller in the offensive line, Travis Ludy at fullback and defensive lineman Dontay Harper graduated after getting honorable mention recognition.

Steiber will join the UW-Whitewater program.

Janesville Parker

The perennially tough Vikings finished 5-3 in conference action and were a few plays away from going undefeated, falling to Middleton, cross-town rival Craig and Sun Prairie by a combined six points.

Parker, which has shared at least a piece of the title five times since 2001, finished the regular season with a 6-3 mark. Joe Dye's bunch qualified for the D-1 postseason for a 12th consecutive time, but they haven't won a playoff contest since 2004 after they dropped a 34-20 decision to Kenosha Bradford in the first round.

Senior running back LaVell Hewlett is back to lead the potent ground game after being a second-team choice. Also back are senior honorable mention defenders Dustin Moench at linebacker and Alex Koel in the secondary.

Hewlett surpassed 100 yards in five contests, including 206 against Middleton and 254 versus Madison Memorial.

However, the Vikings must replace a number of standout performers, including two-way first-team lineman Harold Lloyd, who's headed for D-2 Wayne State. Lloyd was a WFCA first-teamer on offense and honorable mention defender and was the league's lineman of the year on both sides of the ball after finishing with 84 tackles, including seven for loss and four sacks.

First-team outside linebacker Enio Perez also graduated, as did wide receiver Jared Fox, offensive lineman Chris Gunn, defensive lineman D'Merius Holbrook, inside linebacker Cameron Hanson and defensive back Drew McCann, all second-team selections. Holbrook will play at I-AA Southern Illinois.

Honorable mention picks Travis Wood at kicker, Jon Fulton at offensive line and Matt Beyer at defensive back also must be replaced.

Another key performer who'll return is senior quarterback B.J. Scharenbroch.

Middleton

The Cardinals were 5-3 in league action, including a 2-2 mark in contests decided by seven points or less. They finished the regular season at 6-3 and earned their 12th straight playoff berth. However, Middleton lost in the first round for a fifth year in a row, this time a 42-14 setback against Milwaukee Marquette.

Senior Ryan Groy, a University of Wisconsin recruit, returns as the only first-team performer, having made the list on the offensive line. Seniors Joe Kracht at wide receiver and Ben Mathias at fullback are the returning honorable mention selections.

The Cardinals must fill numerous holes, including those left by the graduation of first-teamers in defensive lineman Andy Gabrysiak and defensive back Kevin Kruckenberg. That list also features second-teamers in offensive lineman Misha Danilov and defensive back Andrew Diebold and honorable mention selections in tight end Keegan Nesvacil, quarterback Brian Diebold and defensive lineman Josh Hensen.

Brian Diebold completed 62 of 126 pass attempts (49.6 percent) for 771 yards and nine scores and added five rushing TDs in nine outings.

Danilov will play at Northern Iowa and Nesvacil is headed to fellow I-AA school South Dakota State.

Janesville Craig

The Cougars finished 5-3 in league play, getting off to a 4-1 start that featured wins over Middleton and Parker. However, they lost three of their final four regular-season contests to finish 5-4 overall.

Bill O'Leary's squad has made six straight D-1 playoff trips, but the Cougars have come up empty-handed each time in their opener. They'll be looking for their first postseason victory since 1999 after absorbing a 21-6 defeat to Kenosha Tremper last fall.

Returning players include offensive lineman Mike Valentine, who made the all-league first team, and fellow seniors Darnell Sims and Kyle Goike earned honorable mention recognition on the defensive line and the secondary, respectively.

Craig's only other first-team performer was wide receiver Tyler Uschan, who played in the WFCA All-Star contest after setting a school record with 52 receptions, gaining 725 yards, including a 13-reception, 299-yard effort against Madison Memorial. Uschan is taking those talents to D-II Minnesota State-Mankato.

The Cougars also must replace second-team selections in quarterback and punter Charlie Roherty, running back Greg Pedersen, defensive lineman Blair Kessler, inside linebacker Kyle Leistikow and outside linebackers Jake Kuehne and Stephen Rogers. Pedersen is attending D-II program Michigan Tech.

Honorable mention picks in offensive lineman Andryw O'Connor, defensive lineman Trevor Gregoire and defensive back J.R. Negus also graduated.

Roherty's talents will be missed after he completed 123 of 232 attempts for 1,160 yards and 10 scores during the regular season.

Madison West

The Regents compiled a 2-6 Big Eight mark, losing three times by five or less points, all within a four-week span. They finished 3-6 overall and have made only one playoff appearance in the past 17 seasons, that coming in 2005.

Leighton Settle was a first-team running back as a sophomore last year and leads the offense, but he's the only returning player to receive all-conference honors after gaining 1,304 yards on 187 attempts (7.0) and scoring 16 TDs.

The Regents face the challenge of filling holes left by departing first-team defensive back Michael Carter, second-team offensive lineman Marlin McKenzie and honorable mention choices in outside linebacker John Settle, offensive lineman John Strosin, linebacker Jimmy Slattery, fullback-linebacker David Doty and defensive lineman Antwan Braxton.

John Settle is scheduled to play strong safety at Rochester Community and Technical College.

Madison Memorial

The Spartans downed Madison East and upset Craig in their first two game, but they lost their final six league tilts, five of them by at least 22 points. They wound up 2-7 overall, missing the postseason for the second straight year after reaching that goal in three of the four previous seasons.

Senior Quentin Badger was a first-team return specialist, while senior defensive lineman Mike Kuchenbecker made the honorable mention list. But they're the only returning all-league choices.

Madison Memorial must replace several key pieces, including first-team tight end and punter Spencer Lorrig, who will play at UW-La Crosse after earning honorable mention all-state status from the Associated Press.

The Spartans also will miss the services of honorable mention selections in quarterback Nick Cyganek, offensive linemen Danny Kraemer and Tristan Hemphill and defensive back Sean Finley.

Cyganek rushed for 313 yards and completed 68 of 162 pass attempts (42 percent) for 855 yards and six scores.

Madison East

The Purgolders won twice in a row to start 2-1, but then they spiraled downward on a six-game losing skid, failing to reach double figures in the final five contests to finish with a 2-6 league mark and 2-7 overall record. They are hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2003-04.

Madison East will miss first-team offensive lineman Troy Rolli, who is headed for D-II school Winona State, and first-team running back and leading rusher Erik Moser.

Leading receiver Antoine Smith, offensive lineman Alex Nelson, linebacker Jake Jones and defensive lineman Tyler Harrington also graduated after earning honorable mention honors.

Honorable mention defensive back Jorjio Hopkins is one of the team's top returning players among a host of seniors who will form the nucleus. Also expected back is junior quarterback Drew McAdams, who finished 111 of 221 (50.2 percent) for 1,097 yards and four TDs, although he threw 14 interceptions.

Beloit Memorial

The Purple Knights still took up the cellar, but they won a conference game (7-0 over Madison Memorial in week six) and were 2-7 overall, major strides for a program that hasn't made the playoffs during this decade after reaching the postseason 12 of 13 times from 1987-1999.

It was only Beloit's second conference victory during the past four seasons.

Senior second-team defenders Alex Pollizzi (lineman) and Jesse Swedlund (outside linebacker) give Beloit something to build around, as do senior honorable mention picks Ta Trinh at running back, Tyler Squires at outside linebacker and Joey Fields at defensive back.

However, the Purple Knights must replace such players as first-team inside linebacker Levi Disch and honorable mention offensive linemen Casey Loerke and Tyler Senz.

Verona

The Wildcats controlled the Badger South, fashioning a 6-0 mark in which they allowed only two foes to reach double figures, grabbing 13 positions on the all-league first teams.

They finished 9-0 in the regular season, scoring 33 or more points six times. Verona qualified for its fourth straight trip to the playoffs, where it won three times to reach the D-1 semifinals: 37-6 over Racine Horlick, 31-14 against Racine Park and 17-6 versus Kenosha Bradford. The Wildcats then fell, 24-7, to eventual champion Hartland Arrowhead.

First-team kicker and honorable mention punter Adam Means returns, as does fellow senior and second-team defensive lineman Sam Riebau. The Wildcats' offense also will rely on senior honorable mention picks in quarterback Trevor Burmeister, lineman Alex Psota and wide receiver Mason Meyer. Defensively, honorable mention selections back are seniors Nick Chenoweth in the line, Jake Stangl at linebacker and Jason Williams in the secondary.

Their talents will be needed as Verona must replace the likes of first-teamers in wide receiver Justin Scanlon, tackle Tyler Cory, guard Ben Walsh, center Andrew Olson, running backs Zach Stangl and Seth Merdler, defensive end Lucas Bauer, defensive tackle Travis Hermes, linebackers Ronnie Wagman and Grant Brooks, and defensive backs Scanlon and Nick Roach.

This was Bauer's third first-team selection as he also was an AP second-team choice and an honorable mention pick by the WFCA. Cory received the same honors. Scanlon caught 29 passes for 642 yards and picked off five aerials. Merdler finished with 1,304 yards and 10 scores on 130 attempts, while Wagman registered 104 tackles, eight for losses.

Second-team defensive lineman Matt McFarlane and honorable mention honorees Bryan Nodorft at offensive line, Sky Waters at quarterback, Andy Nettum at tight end and John Brown at running back also graduated.

McFarlane will attend Division I-AA Cornell, while Bauer is headed to D-II Minnesota State-Mankato.


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