Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
Josh Doyle, 75, will be a menace to opposing QB's this fall. Mike Ramczyk. (click for larger version)
August 20, 2013 | 03:44 PMHow do you follow a season that featured nine wins, a state semifinal appearance and the school's deepest playoff run ever?
It isn't easy, but the Badger football team has the perfect ingredients for a repeat or even a better performance.
First, the Badgers brought a coaching legend on board. Wisconsin Football Coaches Association hall of famer Keith Hensler joins the staff as an assistant.
The man who led the Mukwonago Indians to the 2004 Division 1 state football title will be his son Matt's right-hand man offensively.
Keith, the originator of Matt's brand of triple-option football, referred to himself as the "roaming offensive consultant" in an interview after the team's Aug. 16 scrimmage in Milton.
Matt, now in his seventh year, has made the playoffs every year and has taken the program to a new plateau. Though three players from last season's magical run, Peter Krien (UW-La Crosse), Robert Johnson (UW-Whitewater) and Carlos Garcia (Carroll College), are all playing college football this fall, Badger returns an unprecedented six offensive linemen who started at least one game last year, led by Logan Tenney and Josh Doyle.
And though the main cogs in this style of offense, the quarterback, fullback and center, are gone, all three positions will be strong again and four dynamic running backs will lead the offense. In an offense where the running backs are king, that's very good news for Badger.
"It's weird," Matt Hensler said.
"With so many injuries last year, so many juniors had to step up. Now we have so many guys that have played in varsity games. But we have to stay healthy. We aren't deep at all, unlike last year."
Lack of significant depth is a weakness, but Badger will feature five stud offensive linemen who play both ways. Also, running backs Matt Reynolds and Tony Ashley were on fire in last season's playoff run, and both look much improved.
Senior Andrew Allen, who had to wait his turn with Johnson at fullback last year, has the ability to take it to the house from any distance. While Krien was the man last year under center, it is currently a battle at the position.
Matt Hensler said senior Collin Broderick has the slight edge over southpaw Tom Ritzman, but Hensler has been blown away by both players' training camps.
"They're neck-and-neck right now, but Collin probably has the edge," Matt Hensler said. "Both do a great job."
Defensively, ball-hawking Austin Borst is back in the secondary after missing much of last season with an injury. Reynolds is a beast at strong safety, and Doyle has a very good chance to lead the Southern Lakes Conference in sacks.
Andy Cychner and Reynolds were 1-2 in the state in tackles last year and will punish opposing runners.
So what will it take for this lethal squad to hoist its first outright conference championship trophy since 1992?
The Badgers must stay healthy and utilize their brute strength up front.
Right now, the football program is in a position many high schools can only dream of. From Day One of camp, there was approximately 120 players in all four grades. These are numbers that rival state powers Arrowhead, Homestead, Waunakee and Kenosha Bradford.
It's good to be a Badger football player right now.
"We have 53 freshmen out for football," Matt Hensler said. "There's a lot of excitement. Our offseason was pretty good in terms of attendance."
Hensler said Elkhorn will be much improved, and defending champion Waterford and Burlington will be strong.
Hensler, donning his signature Badger T-shirt and khaki shorts, was simply happy to get back on the field for last week's scrimmage.
"I'm just happy it's football season again," he said. "It's been too long."
The area and the state are officially on notice — these guys are back and are hungrier than ever.