Prep football preview: New Glarus/Monticello is seen as the early favorite in the Capitol South
CAPITOL SOUTH CONFERENCE
Regular season, overall: Lodi 5-0, 14-0; Lake Mills 4-1, 10-2; Lakeside Lutheran 3-2, 6-4; Watertown Luther Prep 2-3, 5-4; Columbus 1-4, 2-7; Poynette 0-5, 2-7.
WIAA Division 4 playoffs: Lodi defeated St. Croix Central in the state championship; Lake Mills advanced to quarterfinals, losing to Lodi; Lakeside Lutheran lost in the first round.
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS
Offense: Danny Enloe, lineman, Belleville (co-offensive lineman of the year); Zach Feller, running back, New Glarus/Monticello; Rudy Hommen, wide receiver, Cambridge; Dylan Horstmeyer, specialist, Marshall; Matthew Mankowski, running back, Waterloo; Jordan Marty, tight end, Cambridge; Riley Olson, running back, Cambridge.
Defense: Tyler Chadwick, punter, Marshall; Patrick Craker, inside linebacker, New Glarus/Monticello; Denver Evans, inside linebacker, Cambridge; Dylan Horstmeyer, outside linebacker, Marshall; Nate Mabis, outside linebacker, Belleville; Jackson Richter, defensive back, Belleville; Ogden York, inside linebacker, Belleville.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Zach Feller, 6-0, 185, sr., RB, New Glarus/Monticello: Ran for 442 yards on 59 carries with seven touchdowns in 2017. Feller is likely to be a vocal point of the Glarner Knights’ new spread offense.
Dylan Horstmeyer, 5-11, 160, jr., RB, Marshall: Horstmeyer will benefit from a season in which his offensive focus is at running back after a season partly spent substituting for injured quarterback Josh Wehking. Horstmeyer figures to be a key cog in Cardinals’ triple option attack. In addition to offensive duties, Horstmeyer will lineup at outside linebacker.
Nate Mabis, 5-9, 170, sr., QB/OLB, Belleville: Mabis led the Wildcats with 892 passing yards and 566 rushing yards last year. Mabis will have the luxury of numerous four-wide receiver sets in the team’s power-spread offense and three capable running backs.
Riley Olson, 5-6, 160, sr., RB, Cambridge: Olson is an attacking tailback who ran for 1,112 yards on 209 rushes a season ago. The Blue Jays plan to utilize Olson more as a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and potentially at outside linebacker in 2018.
THINGS TO WATCH
Glarner Knights switch offenses: New Glarus/Monticello has moved from the wing-T attack to a spread offense this season. Coach Jeff Eichelkraut said the new offense also will feature an option component. The Glarner Knights are looking to become the first team since Marshall in 2012 to repeat as Capitol South champions after sharing the league title in 2017.
Waterloo coaching change: Aaron Erickson was hired in the spring to replace Paul Scheel, who went 31-28 in seven seasons at the helm for the Pirates. Erickson is the school’s athletic director and former wrestling coach. Scheel had coached in the school district since 2000.
Cardinals’ postseason push: Prior to the 2017 campaign, Marshall had qualified for the playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons. That streak ended when the Cardinals went 2-7 last fall, failing to win a conference game. Coach Matt Kleinheinz’s team battled injury at quarterback, fullback and linebacker last season.
Belleville program history: Last season’s share of the conference championship was the first for the Wildcats since 1982. Belleville secured a playoff berth after going 6-3 in the regular season for its first postseason appearance since 1982 as a standalone program. Belleville will look to write another chapter in the record books this season, welcoming back starting quarterback Nate Mabis to lead the charge.
Cambridge speedsters: Don’t get in a footrace with the Blue Jays this season. The team will have a pair of state championship-winning track athletes on the field. Senior Rudy Hommen won the Division 3 100-meter dash title (11.26 seconds) and was on the winning 400 and 800 relay teams. Riley Olson took home first in the 300 intermediate hurdles (:39.14) and joined Hommen on the victorious 800 relay.
1, New Glarus/Monticello; 2, Belleville; 3, Cambridge.
Coach: Chase Ritter, third season (11-8).
Last year: 3-1 in conference (tied 1st place); 6-4 overall. Defeated by Racine Lutheran 69-7 in first round of playoffs.
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 11/6.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 9/8.
The lowdown: Quarterback and first team all-conference outside linebacker Nate Mabis, who is receiving interest from Division II and III schools, is back to lead the Wildcats. Four-year starter and three-time captain Danny Enloe returns to anchor the offensive line. Ritter believes Enloe could start on any offensive line in the state. The Wildcats run a power-spread offense and plan to utilize three running backs, including Luke Kelly and Sawyer Fahey.
Coach: Mike Klingbeil, 13th season (68-54).
Last year: 3-1 in conference (tied 1st place); 6-4 overall. Defeated by Manitowoc Lutheran 39-14 in first round of playoffs.
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 18/5.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 8/8.
The lowdown: The Bluejays will have a veteran-laden team that should be in the mix to qualify for the postseason in consecutive seasons. Cambridge will need to replace quarterback Spencer DeForest, who threw for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017. Senior running back and three-year starter Riley Olson returns after rushing for 1,112 yards and more than 5 yards per carry last season. Cambridge returns a three-year starter at fullback in Camden Eagan and an all-region linebacker in Denver Evans. The team’s last game, against New Glarus/Monticello on Oct. 12, could determine the conference champion.
Coach: Matt Kleinheinz, 15th season (82-63).
Last year: 0-4 in conference (fifth place); 2-7 overall.
Letterwinners returning: 11.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 6/6.
The lowdown: The Cardinals will need production from young players at numerous positions, as the team started practice with only five seniors on the roster. Kelvin Opoku-Appoh, the team’s leading rusher and second team all-conference recipient, has transferred to Madison West. Senior Josh Wehking will head up a triple option offensive attack after missing all but four games a season ago. Wehking’s return enables Dylan Horstmeyer to move back to running back and Tyler Chadwick to slide back to his usual wide receiver spot. Horstmeyer was a first team all-conference pick at outside linebacker and as a specialist last year. Marshall’s leading tackler returns in middle linebacker Izak Plasky, who missed two games due to injury last year.
Coach: Jeff Eichelkraut, 16th season (77-65).
Last year: 3-1 in conference (tied for 1st place); 6-4 overall. Defeated by Prairie du Chien 36-14 in first round of playoffs.
Letterwinners (returning/lost): 24/14.
Starters returning (offense/defense): 4/6.
The lowdown: The Glarner Knights don’t have a ton of experience on offense, but the return of senior running back (and 2016 conference player of the year) Zach Feller will be a major boost. Feller averaged 7.49 yards a carry in 2017 and scored seven touchdowns. The team also welcomes back first team all-conference inside linebacker Patrick Craker, who had 42 tackles last year. New Glarus/Monticello will need to master its new spread offense quickly, as the team opens conference play at Belleville on Sept. 14.
Coach: Aaron Erickson, first season.
Last year: 1-3 in conference (fourth place); 3-6 overall.
The lowdown: The Pirates are expected to remain a run-heavy offense that will boast a first team all-conference running back in Matthew Mankowski. The Pirates last qualified for the playoffs in 2016, but making it back to the postseason this year could be a struggle in a competitive league.