Waterloo Pirates - Capitol South
Coach: Paul Scheel (6th season); 28-22 (2-4 in 4 playoff appearances; 2016)
2016 Result: 4-6 (3-1), 2nd in the Capitol South (Lost to Pecatonica/Argyle in Level 1, 40-0)
Three-Year Record: 19-13
2016 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (10 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 16 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 6 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (3): OL/DL Mitchell Lauersdorf (First Team-OL), Sr.; FB/DL Tanner Schoenherr (Second Team-DL), Sr.; HB/DB/P Easton Ellis (Second Team-P), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: OL/DL Trevor Killion, Sr.; HB/DB/K Mathew Mankowski, Jr.; HB/DB Andrew Seelye, So.
After making the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, Waterloo Pirates football has been laying the groundwork towards returning to the status it held in the late 80's and all throughout the 90's as a powerhouse program.
Waterloo has gone 6-7 in those appearances, four of them under Head Coach Paul Scheel. Scheel was a longtime assistant for the program for 12 seasons before taking over as the head coach in 2012, and a nationally-recognized standout player in the heyday of Pirates football in the early '90's.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge that each of our [Capitol South] conference teams brings each and every week. It will be a fight for the conference title, which will bring the best out of everyone." - Waterloo Head Coach Paul Scheel
Last season, Scheel's Pirates bowed out in the opening round of the playoffs, their first foray into Division 6 after going to the playoffs 17 previous times in Division 5. The D-6 field was one of the deepest, if not the most difficult, playoff groupings in 2016. Coach Scheel says that either division would have been challenging.
"There really isn't any difference in the quality of the opponent in D-6," said Scheel. "If we were to sit and look at all of the teams that were in D-6 with us, we would find out they were the same teams we have played over the years as a D-5 school."
Last year's Pirates left their mark on the program, however, as the first class since the seniors of 1999 to graduate from Waterloo having made the playoffs in four straight seasons.
"They were a group of kids that you would say overachieved," said Coach Scheel. "When people counted them out, they came back and proved everyone wrong."
Scheel is also impressed with the outgoing group of players for their off-the-field endeavors as well.
"All of them are going to be great people in our society that are going to achieve great things," said Scheel. "The group of seniors that graduated in June left a lasting impression on this program."
Waterloo brings back a trio of all-conference performers, all of them two-way players. Mitchell Lauersdorf returns as a first-team all-conference offensive lineman, and will anchor the experienced front lines. Tanner Schoenherr made all-conference on defense (second-team), but is also the team's fullback. In addition to playing offense and defense (as a halfback and defensive back), Easton Ellis made all-conference second team as a punter. For these three seniors, Coach Scheel says, "Expect big things from these three."
Scheel also notes that senior lineman Trevor Killion, junior halfback/defensive back/kicker Mathew Mankowski, and sophomore running back Andrew Seelye will be important to Waterloo's success this season.
On the schedule, the Pirates will open up with three straight non-conference home games. In the opener, Waterloo will face Deerfield, currently mired in a 12-game losing streak. The Pirates will face another Trailways opponent in Week 2, when they host Palmyra-Eagle, who went 1-8 in their inaugural season in the Trailways-Large. They'll wrap up the homestand with Wautoma, who finished 3-6 last season, which snapped a six-year playoff run.
Waterloo's first road contest is a Capitol Conference crossover. They'll head to Watertown to take on Lutehr Prep, 2-7 in 2016 but returning one of the state's top defensive linemen in Josh Bauer.
Waterloo will see all four of its Capitol South games in a four-week stretch. "I'm looking forward to the challenge that each of our conference teams brings each and every week," said Coach Scheel.
First up is Cambridge, who didn't make the playoffs last year but had advanced to Level 3 the two years prior. After that home game, the Pirates hit the road for two games.
The first of those two games is against Belleville, who finished last year with a winning record. They'll play the following week at perennial playoff qualifier Marshall.
Waterloo's Capitol South Conference portion of the schedule concludes with Homecoming on October 6 in Week 8, when they host last year's conference champion, New Glarus/Monticello.
A road non-conference game against St. Francis, a 6-4 playoff squad last year in Division 4, wraps up the season for the Pirates.
The Capitol South remains a five-team conference for 2017 for the second straight year, meaning teams only need to win two games in conference play to become playoff-eligible and three games to clinch a playoff spot. The drop to five teams occurred prior to the 2016 season, when Wisconsin Heights opted to play 8-man football rather than continue in the Capitol South.
In the Capitol South, New Glarus/Monticello is considered the favorite, but the remaining four teams in the conference, including Waterloo, who finished second in Capitol South play last year, will not make it easy on the Glarner Knights. Almost every team brings back key performers from 2016.
"It will be a fight for the conference title, which will bring the best out of everyone," said Coach Scheel about the Capitol South.