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Bulldogs prepping for season opener



Guss (click for larger version)
August 19, 2014 | 03:34 PM
With the season’s scrimmage now over, the Bulldogs and head coach Derek Diehl, are looking forward to the season opener against Kenosha Christian Life Aug. 22 at Williams Bay.

The Aug. 16 scrimmage was a three-way tussle, with Williams Bay squaring off against squads from Beloit Turner High School and Black Hawk High School, South Wayne.

These are no patsies. Beloit Turner counts about 1,500 students, three times the Bay enrollment, and the Black Hawk Warriors were the 2013 Division 7 state champs.

Junior Michael Guss, Bulldogs running back and defensive corner back, said things “were a little rough” at the start.

But after a while, the offense began to gel.

“The running game was good,” Guss said.

Adjustment to the new 4-4 defense was not a problem, Guss added. “It doesn’t feel like anything changed,” he said.

Andrew Breen, a junior receiver and linebacker, had to sit out, recovering from a broken nose he suffered in practice. He’ll miss the team’s two opening nonconference games, Diehl said.

But Breen watched his teammates from the sidelines.

He agreed that the start of the scrimmage was a bit rough, but as the scrimmage went on, the team “got into a groove,” he said.

In particular, the team’s passing game seemed to need time before it found its rhythm, he said.

Junior Jake Olson, wide receiver, said he thought that by the end of the scrimmage, the team had played well.

“I think it shows all this work we did paid off,” he said.

“It was a typical scrimmage,” Diehl said of his team’s showing. “There was a lot of good and some bad.”

Diehl said the slow start was probably due to “scrimmage jitters.”

WIAA rules limit contact during practices, and Diehl said it took a few plays before the players got used to contact. But once the players settled in, the team clicked, especially the running offense.

Diehl said the Bulldogs running game gained positive yards every play.

The passing game started slower than expected, but it began to pick up as the scrimmage went on, he said.

On Aug. 22, the effort the players put into the practices and scrimmaging this summer gets put to the test with the school’s first contest.

Diehl said Kenosha Christian Life’s football program is still growing.

They have a new head coach this year, and he seems to be a good fit with the school’s program, he said.

And, the Bulldogs may find themselves the small dogs in this fight.

“They’re a big school and they’re going to have some size up front,” Diehl said of KCL.

But size isn’t everything, Diehl said.

“If we stay settled down and focus on us, not them, I feel good about the game,” he said.

Diehl said he doesn’t spend time worrying about the other team’s attributes. And every advantage has its disadvantages, he said.

“If they’re big, they might be slow,” he said. “If they’re fast they might be small. You don’t find many teams who are big and fast. If you do, they’re going to Camp Randall.”

Diehl said he still isn’t 100 percent sure of the starting lineup for the Aug. 22 game. He said some of the players are still in competition for a starting slot. And with a 22-man roster, it is very probable that everyone, whether he starts or not, is going to see some playing time.

“Every kid in a helmet this year is going to help us,” Diehl said.

While there may be 22 names on the roster, the Bulldogs won’t be suiting 22 for the opening game.

Breen is out, and so is Avery Lettenberger, a sophomore and receiver, who suffered a leg injury this summer, and who won’t be able to suit up until about a month into the season, Diehl said.

Diehl said he’s looking forward to getting Lettenberger’s height out on the field, where he can be a target for senior quarterback John Higgins Jr.

And this year, let no one underestimate the Bulldogs.

Last year, the team got some major monkeys off its back, and the players created a cohesion that they appear to be carrying over into this year.

With some baby elephants on the offensive and defensive lines and a few horses in the backfield, the ‘Dogs show both size and speed.

And then there’s just the pure desire to help the team, which Diehl said impresses him about his players.

“Our offensive line had some holes and we’ve had some kids who have been willing to step up and fill those holes,” Diehl said.

As far as KCL is concerned, “we’re not worried about their size.”

On the other hand, the coach wanted to make sure that neither he nor his players were taking anyone for granted.

“We’re not worried about their size,” Diehl said. “We are worried about everybody.”


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