Prep football preview: Defending Badger South champion Monona Grove reloads for another title chase
Conference, overall: Monona Grove 7-0, 11-1; Stoughton 6-1, 9-2; Oregon 5-2, 6-4; Watertown 3-4, 4-6; Monroe 3-4, 4-6; Fort Atkinson 2-5, 3-6; Milton 1-6, 3-6; Madison Edgewood 1-6, 1-8.
WIAA Division 2 playoffs: Monona Grove advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Waukesha West; Stoughton advanced to the second round; Oregon and Watertown lost in the first round in Division 2.
WIAA Division 3 playoffs: Monroe lost in the first round.
ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST-TEAM RETURNEES
Jack Nelson, jr., offensive tackle, Stoughton; Michael Williams-Davis, sr., offensive tackle, Monona Grove; Nathan Wilcox, jr., guard, Monona Grove; Trenton Herber, sr., linebacker, Monona Grove; John Klus, sr., linebacker, Oregon; Jalen Ostrowsky, sr., defensive back, Monona Grove.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Reaching for the summit: Monroe Grove prevailed in its battle with Stoughton for the conference crown last season and those two teams again are picked by league coaches to contend for the title — with Monona Grove as the clear favorite. Top challengers are expected to be Watertown, Oregon and Monroe.
Manning the fort: Brady Grayvold, a former Sun Prairie assistant and 2015 UW-Whitewater graduate, takes over as the new coach at Fort Atkinson. He replaces longtime coach Steve Mahoney, the school’s athletic director.
Leading the crusade: Jesse Norris begins his first season as Madison Edgewood’s coach. He replaces longtime coach Al Minnaert.
Second time around: Watertown made its Badger South debut last season and tied for fourth. Coach Benji Kamrath believes the Goslings can challenge for the crown this season.
Family ties: John Powless, standout tennis player and coach and former University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach, is the grandfather of Edgewood senior receiver/defensive back Jack Powless and junior running back/linebacker Cecil Powless.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jack Nelson, 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, jr., offensive tackle, Stoughton — Nelson orally committed in 2017 to the University of Wisconsin, where his father, Todd Nelson, played. Jack Nelson is the top-ranked offensive tackle in the state, according to 247 Sports.com.
Jalen Ostrowsky, sr., 6-0, 188, defensive back, Monona Grove — A unanimous first-team choice on the all-conference team last season, Ostrowsky is the No. 7 defensive back on WisSports.net’s list of top state players. He had 39 tackles, including 34 solo tackles and three tackles for loss, and picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown.
John Klus, 6-0, 215, sr., linebacker, Oregon — Klus was credited with 162 tackles last season, including 41 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss. His tackle total ranked third in the state.
Michael Williams-Davis, 6-1, 225, sr., offensive and defensive lineman, Monona Grove — Williams-Davis is a unanimous first-team all-league offensive tackle and a standout defensive end for the Silver Eagles.
Trenton Herber, 5-10, 195, sr., linebacker, Monona Grove — The conference’s co-defensive player of the year in 2017 had 101 tackles, including 73 solo tackles, six tackles for loss and one sack.
1. Monona Grove; 2. Stoughton; 3. Watertown.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Coach: Brady Grayvold, first year (0-0); first overall (0-0).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 13/28.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 3/4
The lowdown: Grayvold’s roster is young, but he said he finds that promising for building the program. The Blackhawks will run a spread offense, seeking to employ a power running game. Leading the charge will be senior linemen Jordan Flodin and Dayne Sebranek. Junior Brent Torrenga and senior Jack Wachuta also are expected to contribute offensively. Grayvold wants the Blackhawks to play an aggressive, fly-to-the-ball style in the 3-3 defensive alignment, led by Flodin and middle linebacker Mike Gutoski. Other players Grayvold will count on include junior Trent Hachtel and senior Drew Hebbe.
Coach: Jesse Norris, first year (0-0); second overall (2-8).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 21/NA.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 7/6.
The lowdown: Senior quarterback and defensive back Thomas Hartlieb figures to be a leader on both sides of the ball. Norris, who most recently coached in Florida, will count on other two-way players, including running back/linebacker Mitchell Wendler, receiver/defensive back Alec Finger, receiver/defensive back Charlie Corcoran, offensive lineman/defensive lineman Connor Grabins and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Chase Cannarella. How the offensive line develops will be crucial to the Crusaders’ success offensively.
Coach: Matt Lee, third year (6-12); third overall (6-12).
The lowdown: The Red Hawks started fast last season, defeating Sauk Prairie, Reedsburg and Monroe, but then dropped six consecutive games. Honorable-mention all-conference offensive lineman Eric Hessenauer is a key returning player. Hessenauer also is a defensive lineman, who had 39 tackles, including 14 solo tackles and three tackles for loss last year. Milton will need to replace Chance Nelson, a first-team all-conference receiver, and two second-team performers, linebacker Jaxon Soddy and defensive back Blake Fuchs, after they graduated.
Coach: Brandon Beckwith, fourth year (31-6); fourth overall (31-6).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 22/17.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 4/5.
The lowdown: Beckwith anticipates a strong senior group keeping the Silver Eagles flying high this season. Monona Grove, which averaged 45 points a game last year, will need to replace several key contributors -- including quarterback Alec Ogden, running back Jackson Thomsen and tight end Lucas Gerlach -- from last season’s high-octane offense. Senior Jordan Bishop is slated to step in as the quarterback and Michael Williams-Davis, Nathan Wilcox and Max Hengst return on the offensive line for an attack Beckwith believes again can be potent. Senior linebacker Trenton Herber, the Badger South co-defensive player of the year last season, and highly regarded senior defensive back Jalen Ostrowsky lead a defense that is strong up front and in its linebacking corps. Beckwith added former Mount Horeb/Barneveld head coach Ryan Kleppe as an assistant.
Coach: Toby Golembiewski, third year (15-7); overall (NA).
The lowdown: Senior running back Jordan Montgomery was a second-team all-conference performer last season and is back to power the Cheesemakers’ offense and potent running game. Key contributors should be senior Jacob Setterstrom and junior Nick Bansley, honorable-mention all-league picks on offense a year ago. Bansley was a second-team all-league pick as a defensive back, with Montgomery and senior Jake Amacher honorable-mention choices. Monroe faces a tough stretch of league games in the fourth through sixth weeks, meeting Watertown, Stoughton and Monona Grove – the last two games on the road.
Coach: Dan Kissling, ninth year (26-51); ninth overall (26-51).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 16/22
Starters returning (offense/defense): 6/6.
The lowdown: Inside linebacker John Klus, who has started since he was a freshman, leads the 3-5 defense, which also will feature Matt Rusch, Carter Erickson, Logan Ackerman and Matt Kissling. The Panthers must replace four offensive line starters. Key performers in the Wing-T offense are expected to be running back Dylan DiMaggio and Keion Szudy and receivers Erickson and Jack Haufel. Dan Kissling said the team had a good quarterback competition underway, including Nolan Look, Corey Moore and Erik Victorson. Team depth is a concern; Kissling will count on his young players to grow up quickly. The Panthers need to replace some key graduated seniors -- including explosive Kardelle Phillips on offense and league co-defensive player of the year Sam Reynolds.
Coach: Dan Prahl, fourth year (17-13); fourth overall (17-13).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 15/22.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 4/6.
The lowdown: A strong senior class, led by Brady Schipper, that propelled the Vikings to an outstanding 2017 season has departed. But Prahl believes the Vikings this season are talented and hard-working, despite their youth and relative inexperience. UW recruit Jack Nelson, a junior, and Jack True will lead the offensive line. Running back Dwight Walker and receiver/returner Nathan Hutcherson are back. The Stoughton defense returns several key individuals, including defensive end Jake Lenz, linebackers Drew Pasold and Cade Spilde, defensive backs Kadin Milbauer, Sam Wahlin and Adam Hobson. The special teams units are led by punter Spilde.
Coach: Benji Kamrath, 10th year (44-46); 10th overall (44-46).
Letter winners (returning/lost): 34/12.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 8/8.
The lowdown: The Goslings were extremely young last season, which was their first in the Badger South. But they made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and Kamrath believes his team can challenge for the conference title this season because eight starters return on both sides of the ball, 34 letterwinners are back and Watertown has depth along the offensive and defensive lines. The Goslings need to replace talented receiver Ryan Hayden and quarterback Dylan Fagerland. Junior quarterback Ethan Pauly is expected to be a dangerous dual threat for an offense that will seek to run the ball more effectively. Daniel Denault is a receiving target. Kamrath said the Goslings, who run a 3-4 alignment, have to tighten up defensively — tackling better and giving up fewer big plays.
GAMES TO WATCH
Aug. 17 – Waunakee at Fort Atkinson; Reedsburg at Monroe; DeForest at Oregon.
Aug. 24 – Watertown at Waunakee; Monroe at DeForest.
Aug. 31 – Oregon at Monona Grove.
Sept. 7 – Watertown at Monroe.
Sept. 14 – Oregon at Milton; Monroe at Stoughton.
Sept. 21 – Stoughton at Oregon; Monroe at Monona Grove.
Sept. 28 – Oregon at Madison Edgewood, Breese Stevens Field.
Oct. 5 – Stoughton at Monona Grove; Milton at Fort Atkinson.
Oct. 12 – Monona Grove at Watertown; Monroe at Oregon.