Lakeside Lutheran Warriors (Lake Mills) - Capitol North
Coach: Paul Bauer, 17th year; 102-59 Overall (6 Conference Championships; 2012)
2016 Result: 4-5 (2-3), 4th in the Capitol North
Three-Year Record: 14-13
2016 All-Conference Honors: 2 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 6 Honorable Mention (13 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 10 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 12 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (5): WR Cade Olszewski, Sr. (Second Team), DB Matthias Winters, Sr. (Second Team), LB Casey Ponyicsanyi, Jr. (Second Team), DB/ST Brevin Jegerlehner, Jr. (Honorable Mention at both DB & ST); DB Jack Monis, Jr. (Honorable Mention)
Other Players To Watch: G Isaiah Coleman, Sr.; TE Dustin Pampel, Sr.; OT/DT Caleb Raymond, Jr.
BIG Games: vs New Glarus/Monticello September 1 (non-conference), vs Lodi September 22, at Lake Mills September 29, at Columbus October 6
A shift from the double wing to the veer didn't result in a playoff trip for Lakeside Lutheran in 2016, but the experience could pay dividends down the road.
"We started six sophomores last year, and will be a junior dominated team," said Coach Paul Bauer, entering his 17th season at the helm for the Warriors.
"I don't see anyone [in the Capitol North] being as dominant at Lodi two years ago, and Columbus last year, but there are no weak teams and plenty of returning talent." -Head Coach Paul Bauer
Last year, the large sophomore class saw plenty of varsity experience, with small junior and senior classes ahead of them. Now those players as juniors will be expected to take on more important roles with the team, and become leaders of the program.
Lakeside Lutheran returns a trio of All-Conference honorees in the junior class for 2017. Three juniors earned all-conference nods on defense: linebacker Casey Ponyicsanyi (second team), defensive back Jack Monis (honorable mention), and defensive back Brevin Jegerlehner (honorable mention), who also earned honorable mention for his work on special teams. Lineman Caleb Raymond also returns to a two-way role in the junior class.
Some of the key returning seniors include second-team all-conference wide receiver Cade Olzsewski, second-team all-conference defensive back Matthias Winters, a three-year starter at guard in Isaiah Coleman, and Dustin Pampel at tight end.
For the Warriors, the goal remains the same: To return to the WIAA playoffs. Lakeside Lutheran last appeared in the postseason in 2012, when they lost in Level 3. In the past two seasons, the Warriors have had their chance late in the year to clinch a postseason bid, but ultimately fell a little short.
"We were very disappointed to not make the playoffs the past two years," said Coach Bauer. "It came down to the last game, and we came up with poor performances both times. It's a goal every year to make the playoffs."
The path to the postseason for the Warriors is a tough one. Six teams occupy the Capitol North, which means that a team must win three conference games to become playoff eligible. Even in years when the WIAA has to pull sub-.500 teams into the playoffs, a 2-3 team in conference play has virtually no chance of being selected, when 4-5 and 3-4 teams rank ahead of that team in the pecking order.
Lodi was the best team in the conference two years ago, and Columbus took over that mantle last year, with each team returning enough starters to be a conference title contender yet again in 2017. Lake Mills made a run to Level 3 last season, and returns one of the best athletes in the state in Ben Dunkleberger. Poynette and Watertown Luther Prep also turned over some talented seniors, but figure to be tough outs again in 2017.
"I don't see anyone being as dominant at Lodi two years ago, and Columbus last year, but there are no weak teams and plenty of returning talent," said Coach Bauer, also highlighting the returning Capitol North offensive player of the year in Lake Mills' standout athlete Ben Dunkleberger.
On the schedule, Lakeside Lutheran will get some intriguing non-conference tests. They'll open the season with Adams/Friendship, who went undefeated in the regular season before being upset in their Level 1 playoff game. They'll also see defending Capitol South champion New Glarus/Monticello in their third game.
The Capitol North figures to be tough, as noted above. Lakeside Lutheran's key stretch of games will come in weeks six through eight, when they play at home against Lodi, then hit the road to play cross-town rival Lake Mills before wrapping up the trio of conference clashes at Columbus. In terms of a conference outlook, there may not be an undefeated conference champion in 2017, since every team will be re-loading for the 2017 season. The conference title favorites figure to be Lodi, Columbus, and Lake Mills, but the remaining three teams, including Lakeside Lutheran, all will have their chances to make a run as well... and will need to win at least one of the games against that favored trio in order to make the playoffs.