|Higgins (click for larger version)|
|Boggs (click for larger version)|
August 21, 2012 | 05:52 PMWILLIAMS BAY — A fresh new season. A fresh new coach. A fresh new attitude.
It's back to the drawing board for the Williams Bay varsity football team.
And why shouldn't it be?
The team hasn't won a game on the field since 2007, when most of the current Bulldogs were still in middle school. Four straight winless seasons later, and the program is embracing change.
First-year head coach Derek Diehl, who also coaches the semi-pro Lake Geneva Generals, started the transformation in the offseason. The Bulldogs got faster and stronger, as several players improved their bench press by 90 pounds or more. In practice, Diehl has stressed discipline and football smarts. He wants the kids to cut down on mental mistakes, which plagued the team in last season's 0-9 campaign.
There may only be 27 kids in the football program, but the core is big and talented.
"Everyone is stronger and faster," Diehl said. "We made it a requirement to condition your bodies in the offseason. There was always a coach at workouts. The spring Sports guys were exempt from lifting, but they still made it. We are concentrating on the fundamentals of football. I see bright things for us. We are hungry for success. Expectations aren't high. We will go at our own pace."
The Bay lost six starters on both offense and defense, including lineman Michael Roth, leading receiver Jerid Bauscher (232 yards, one touchdown) and leading rusher Josh Hills (328 yards, three touchdowns). However, quarterback Jake Sutter (461 yards, touchdown, eight interceptions) is back and better than ever.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound gunslinger had a successful scrimmage Saturday at the Bay and helped lead the team to scores on every possession.
"Jake looked very poised," Diehl said. "He threw two touchdowns and made no mistakes. We worked with his mechanics, and he is getting the ball out of his hands quicker. With the simplicity of the offense, Jake is just reacting and playing football."
Sutter will also see time at cornerback.
Other key returners for the Bulldogs include sophomore John Higgins (6-2, 225), an all-Trailways Conference linebacker last year, seniors Deaken Boggs (FB/LB, 5-10, 215), Tony Gonzalez (OL, 6-1, 225), Parker Danz (LB/TE) and Clark Luberda (K), juniors Nathan Langhoff (6-3, 250, OT/DT), James Woss (TE, 6-2, 215), Ryan Bonamarte (WR/DB, 5-9, 125) and sophomores Andrew Olson (C/DT, 6-2, 230) and Jacob Clark (RB/DB).
Diehl said Woss moved to tight end this year after playing guard last year.
"Woss has the best hands on the team," Diehl said. "He was out of position last year. He has the potential to be an all-conference tight end."
Also, Diehl said Gonzalez cut 50 pounds in the offseason due to rigorous cardio training.
A new face is first-year football player Austin Holmes, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound senior who Diehl is looking for big things from. Also, junior A.J. Sanders (OL/DL, 6-0, 205) and sophomore Alex Guss (OL/DL, 5-11, 280) should see plenty of playing time.
Alex's brother Michael, a freshman cornerback, is a speed demon with loads of potential who Diehl has dubbed "the savior."
"Michael played great coverage in the scrimmage," Diehl said. "He has all the intangibles."
Offensively, it's a whole new ball game. The Bulldogs will use a steady diet of the wishbone formation to utilize their size.
"We're bigger than a lot of people," Diehl said. "The wishbone is designed to overpower. We will take what we have and run."
Higgins, Boggs, Clark and Bonamarte will see the majority of the carries. Diehl also is considering a power package with Gonzalez and Boggs in the backfield.
While play-action passing is vital in the wishbone, the Bay will also use a pro-I and shotgun to throw. Diehl said Bonamarte, Woss and Michael Guss should be Sutter's main targets.
"Ryan is definitely a factor with his speed, hands and vision," Diehl said. "Woss will really open some eyes. Guss will play in the slot. He will reap the benefits of the other guys getting a lot of looks."
The Bay travels to Horicon Friday for the season opener. Diehl said the scrimmage was a "step forward" in terms of progress.
"Out of the gate, we are working for success," he said. "We're no different from other kids. We put our pants on one leg at a time. Horicon is a bigger school. I believe in our nucleus. We are just lacking depth."
A dominant scrimmage
Overall, numbers are down considerably from last year. Diehl attributes that to lack of success and a new coach. But if Saturday's scrimmage was any indication, quantity may not matter when there's quality.
Facing Kenosha Christian Life and Sheboygan Kohler Lutheran, the Bay scored on each of their possessions and only allowed one touchdown.
Bonamarte scored a touchdown on the ground and was an effective receiver. Woss caught a touchdown from Sutter. Diehl said Clark, or "Crazy Legs," had a nice showing.
"Jacob is very fast," Diehl said. "He has all the tools to be a good football player."
Boggs scored on a pass out of the backfield from the fullback position. Diehl said Boggs and Higgins ran the ball with a purpose.
"Boggs abused teams in the scrimmage," Diehl said. "And Higgins' yards after contact were ridiculous."
On defense, Higgins is the anchor at middle linebacker. Higgins and Bonamarte were all over the field Saturday, Diehl said. During the scrimmage, Higgins injured his knee. Diehl said he will miss Friday's season opener, but he is currently "walking fine." He added there is no rush to force the sophomore back on the field too early.
Along with Higgins, freshman Shawn Decker is out with a season-ending knee injury.
The Bay only committed two penalties in the scrimmage. Diehl said the defense looked really good overall.