Fox River Classic
What a race it was in the league's inaugural season. Ashwaubenon, De Pere and Bay Port battled to 7-1 records to share the title, while Green Bay Preble, Green Bay East and Green Bay Notre Dame all finished with 5-3 marks.
With that many quality teams and such spirited competition, only a handful of spots on the first- and second-team all-conference squads were taken by non-seniors, but depth shouldn't be a big problem for many of these programs.
Manitowoc Lincoln managed a .500 mark in league play and became the seventh playoff qualifier.
The Jaguars, who have at least shared five conference titles this decade, finished the regular season at 8-1 and reached the playoffs for a 10th consecutive campaign. But the 2000 and 2001 Division 2 state champions were eliminated in the second round, defeating Kaukauna, 29-25, before losing to league rival De Pere, 31-28, another head-knocker after the Jaguars had claimed the regular-season matchup by four.
Ashwaubenon must replace standouts in first-team linemen Kyle Cavil and Zak Saevre, quarterback Jody Van Laanen and linebacker Mike Taylor, a University of Wisconsin recruit who was the second-team punter. Cavil is headed to Southern Illinois, while Van Laanen takes his talents to Northern Illinois. Also gone is honorable mention lineman Eddie Noll.
Senior first-team defensive tackle Chris Vandervest is one of the team's anchors for new coach Larry Nelson, who's in his first season after replacing the late Rich Bessert, who passed away recently after succeeding longtime head man Ken Golomski.
The return of running back Vince Workman gives the offense a big weapon, and the Jaguars should have an able replacement for Van Laanen in senior Brandt Baierl or junior Adam Michalski.
The holes left by Taylor and Cavil won't be easily filled, but Ashwaubenon fields topnotch linebackers in junior Derek LaBonte and seniors Mitch Klapper and Matt Lewis.
The Redbirds advanced to the postseason for an eighth straight year after finishing the regular season at 8-1. They reached Level 3 for the first time since 1993, disposing of West Bend East (62-26) and Ashwaubenon (31-28) before being drubbed, 49-7, by eventual state titlist Kimberly.
Senior second-team quarterback Brent Jorgensen is the lone all-league returnee for a team that is seeking its third crown in four years. The third-year starter ranked second in the FVCC with 10 touchdown passes and 1,058 yards.
However, De Pere's prospects will be determined by how well it replaces the likes of first-teamers in tight end and defensive lineman Drew Nowak, wide receiver Ross Kornowski, tight end Chase Austin, linebacker Jed Habeck, defensive lineman Tyler Kampo and defensive back Russell Lemke.
The same goes for second-teamers in running back Vincent Haupt and offensive lineman Neil Brooks and honorable mention punter Ryan Gloe.
Nowak has taken his talents to Western Michigan.
The Pirates lost their only nonconference contest to finish 7-2 before falling in the postseason opener, 29-11 to Appleton North, while making their seventh trip in a row.
Bay Port must replace the likes of first-teamers in guard Casey Compton, running back Josh Zank, defensive back Tommy Gannon and defensive end Chad Meyer, second-teamers in tackle Rob Gonzalez, running back and kicker Andy Lindsay and defensive end Bobby Hendricks as well as honorable mention picks in wide receiver Zach Jaro and defensive lineman Brian Dvorak.
Zank and Meyer will compete at Carroll College, quarterback Josh Metzger plans to play at UW-Eau Claire, Gonzalez has landed at UW-Oshkosh and Jaro heads to UW-Whitewater.
One of the Pirates' key returnees is senior honorable mention defensive end Colin Destache.
Green Bay Preble
The Hornets wound up 6-3 overall and then went 1-1 in the Division 1 playoffs, whipping Milwaukee Riverside, 28-0, but dropping a 19-9 verdict to Hartford. That was quite an accomplishment after finishing 1-8 the year before.
Senior quarterback Steve VandenAvond directs the ground-oriented attack that must figure out how to operate without first-team back Garrett Medenwald, who led the loop with 1,037 yards on 156 carries.
Seniors Matt Pieschek and Andrew Smits are the leading candidates and should see plenty of action. Their cause will be helped by the return of senior second-team center Brian Vandevoorde.
Also expected back are senior second-team defensive lineman Brian Deviley, senior second-team defensive back Alex Kraft and honorable mention selections in senior defensive lineman Reid Curtis and defensive back Taylor VandenWoude.
Preble still must fill gaps left from the graduation of first-team offensive lineman and second-team defensive lineman Chris Marcelle, a St. Cloud State recruit, and honorable mention choices in kicker-punter Lucas Bartlett, tight end Danny Taicher and defensive back Chris Laux.
Medenwald and Taicher will be teammates at UW-Whitewater.
Green Bay East
The Red Devils finished 5-4 but lost in the first round of their 12th postseason appearance and second straight trip, a 42-7 pasting by eventual state champion Kimberly.
First-team defensive back David Will, second-team wide receiver Dylan Masse and honorable mention picks in running back Sam Froelich, quarterback Matt Gajewski, tackle Adam Greene and defensive back Chris Wightman must be replaced.
Senior running back Peter Froelich returns after ranking third in the conference with 911 yards on 110 attempts and topped the circuit with 12 rushing TDs, earning honorable mention recognition. He erupted for 247 of those yards and four of those scores against Pulaski, which he highlighted with 57- and 66-yard jaunts.
Marc Shield is targeted to replace Gajewski (527 yards rushing) at quarterback.
Gajewski and Will are taking their services to UW-River Falls.
Green Bay Notre Dame
The Tritons got off to a frustrating 0-4 start, all four setbacks coming by seven points or less. However, they got hot and finished the regular season with a 5-4 mark heading into the D-3 playoffs, where they beat West De Pere (34-27) and Waupun (35-14) before suffering a 28-16 defeat to eventual state runner-up New London.
Senior running back Steve Denis led the league in rushing with 595 yards through five contests, including a 228-yard outburst against Manitowoc. But that's the same game he broke his kneecap and missed the rest of the season; he had been felled by an ACL injury in the 2006 opener. His health will go a long way in determining Notre Dame's fate.
The Tritons lost their entire offensive line, including first-teamer Jake Collin and honorable mention pick Nate Sydney. Also gone are first-team defensive lineman and punter Max McHugh, second-team running back Robert Moore, second-team defensive back and honorable mention running back George Jadin and second-team defensive lineman Brad Van Hemelryk.
Moore is headed for Michigan Tech, while Collin has taken off for St. Cloud State.
The Ships finished 4-4 in conference competition to qualify for the D-1 playoffs, ending the regular season at 4-5. Then they dropped their postseason opener for an eighth consecutive time, this one a tough 26-22 contest against Bradley Tech.
Key holes occurred with the graduation of first-team kick returner and second-team running back Shane Diederichs, second-teamers in tight end Eric Huckins, offensive lineman Max Steimle, defensive lineman Ben Adamavich, linebackers Wyatt Hrudka and Jake King and honorable mention running back Josh Dahm.
Returning for the Ships are junior defensive back Andrew Rosik and senior defensive lineman Alex Waniger, both honorable mention choices.
The Redwings missed the school's third postseason berth with a 3-5 league mark, finishing 4-5 overall.
Sheboygan South could struggle trying to improve after losing first-teamers in running back Ray Smith, a preferred walk-on at Kansas State, and wide receiver Curtis Wilson graduate. That goes for second-team defensive back Charlie Risse and honorable picks Collin Johnson at defensive back and Jeff Zelko from the defensive line.
Second-team offensive lineman James Boutelle does return.
Green Bay Southwest
The Fighting Trojans also finished 3-5 and 4-5, respectively, under former NFL and Green Bay Packers standout Bryce Paup, who's starting his second season at the helm. They missed the playoffs after earning the school's first postseason victory in 2006.
Senior running back Travis Bastien, an honorable mention pick after gaining 674 yards on only 64 attempts (10.5), is among the top returnees.
However, Southwest must replace first-team linebacker Kory Wilkinson, who also plans to suit up at Michigan Tech.
The Red Raiders went 1-7 in conference action and 2-7 overall, losing their final six games. And the numbers don't look good with 16 seniors, so a much deeper junior class will need to grow up in a hurry for Coach Dennis Bogacz.
Pulaski must replace quarterback Ethan Drella and second-team wide receiver Doug Irwin. Drella led the conference with 1,277 yards, while Irwin hauled in a loop-high 31 balls for 427 yards. Senior Max Noeldner takes over for Drella.
The Red Raiders also must fill the voids left by second-team defensive tackle Matt Greatens and honorable mention picks in linebacker David Pelton and defensive end Mitch Socha.
Bogacz knows all about rebuilding and building, arriving at his alma mater in 2005 after eight seasons at Darlington, which he led to eight straight playoff appearances while winning 75 games.
Green Bay West
The Wildcats avoided the cellar at 1-7 and 1-8, missing the playoffs for an 11th straight season and not being competitive in most games as their offense averaged only 10 points per outing while the defense was ripped for 33 or more points eight times.
Former Packer and 49ers running back Harry Sydney—whose son, Nate, was an all-leaguer for Notre Dame last season--takes over the struggling West program.
Honorable mention offensive lineman John Shoman and honorable mention defensive back Richard Leaman have graduated.
The Golden Raiders were skunked at 0-8 in the league and 0-9 overall. They missed their second straight playoff trip after ending a six-season drought in 2006.Honorable mention defensive back Nohl Depies was the lone all-league selection for Sheboygan North, and he graduated.