Janesville Craig Cougars - Big Eight
Coach: Adam Bunderson (First Year)
2016 Result: 3-6 (3-6), 7th in the Big 8
Three-Year Record: 12-16 (0-1 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 0 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (9 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 2 First-Team, 9 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (26 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): TE/LB Luke Malmanger (First Team-TE) (Honorable Mention-TE in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - TE), Sr.; OL/DL Brennan Markwart (Honorable Mention), Sr.; RB/DB/RET Jacob Ngobi (Honorable Mention-DB), Sr.; TE/LB Seth Glissendorf (Honorable Mention-LB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Skylar Mashak, Sr.; WR/DB/RET Noah Berghammer, Sr.; RB/DB Kyle Clement, Sr; RB/LB Quintin Hocking, Sr.; RB/LB Logan Ramsdell, Sr.; RB/LB Stone Klingaman, Sr.; WR/DB/RET Taliq Clayton, Sr.; WR/LB Parker Kiementz, Sr.; TE/LB Quinn Kiefer, Sr.; WR/DB Julian Fernandez, Sr.; WR/DB Brady Gordon, Sr.; OL Michael Feirn, Sr.; OL Avery Caley, Sr.; TE/LB Kyle Krueger, Sr.; WR/DB Jason McBee, Sr.; WR/DB Tamarcus Daniels, Sr.; WR/DB Alijah Jones, Sr.; OL/DL Keeanu Benton, Sr.; QB/DB Ben Coulter, Jr.; RB/LB Jarrett Costello, Jr.; RB/DB Tegan Christiansen, Jr.; RB/DB/P Tressin Kussmaul, Jr.; K Anthony Saunders, Jr.; OL/DL Christopher Black, Jr.; OL/DL Josh Kelly, Jr.; OL/DL Tyler McFarland, Jr.
BIG Games: at Sun Prairie August 31, at Middleton September 8, vs Janesville Parker September 15 (The Battle for the Monterey Rock), at Beloit Memorial September 22, vs Madison West October 6 (Homecoming), at Verona October 13
After leading the Janesville Craig offense for the past three season, Adam Bunderson steps in to take on his first head coaching job, with the Cougars.
Bunderson, a 2000 graduate of Janesville Parker and former Vikings starting quarterback, will be taking over for Ben McCormick. McCormick is the school's athletic director and head boy's basketball coach.
"The Big Eight should be competitive top to bottom again this year. There aren't any easy games on the schedule, and every program has talented athletes and is well-coached. I really like the group of kids we have and think we can be competitive with any team in the conference, and win some games this year." - Janesville Craig Cougars Head Coach Adam Bunderson
While Bunderson doesn't anticipate changing much on gamedays, especially given that he's run the offense for the past few years, his first task will be replacing a solid group of graduates. "We lost a lot of seniors from last years starting offense," said Coach Bunderson. "They all had a huge impact on our program."
Offensively, Bunderson's group will seek replacements at most of the skill positions, including quarterback and running back. Two quarterbacks are listed on the roster, senior Skylar Mashak and junior Ben Coulter, who combined for one pass attempt on varsity last year.
Coach Bunderson noted the number of returning players to the running back position. "We should be very deep at running back," said Bunderson. Several players got at least a few touches last year, including seniors Jacob Ngobi, Kyle Klement, Quintin Hocking, Logan Ramsdell, Stone Klingaman, and juniors Tegan Christiansen, Jarrett Costello, and Tressin Kussmaul.
Tight end Luke Malmanger, on WisSports.net's class of 2018 watch list at the position, returns as the team's leading receiver. Senior receivers Noah Berghammer, Taliq Clayton, Parker Kiementz, Julian Fernandez, Brady Gordon, and tight end Quinn Kiefer will all compete for playing time.
Up front, seniors Brennan Markwart, Michael Feirn, and Avery Caley return to the offense. Keeanu Benton lines up defensively, and a trio of juniors could all find their way into the lineup: Christopher Black, Josh Kelly, and Tyler McFarland.
In the back half of the defense, which all told returns eight starters, defensive back Tegan Christiansen, a junior, returns to a group that includes honorable mention all-conference seniors Jacob Ngobi (defensive back) and Seth Glissendorf (linebacker). Another senior linebacker, Kyle Krueger, is back, along with junior linebacker Jarrett Costello. In the defensive backfield, seniors Jason McBee, Tamarcus Daniels, Alijah Jones, and junior Tressin Kussmaul have varsity experience as well.
On special teams, junior Anthony Saunders seems poised to take over at kicker. Tressin Kussmaul punted for the Cougars last season, and the trio of Ngobi, Clayton, and Berghammer, all seniors, fielded punts or kicks in 2016.
Overall, with 12 of 22 starters back and most of their special teams returning, not only the senior class looks solid, but the next wave appears to be on the verge as well. "We have a large group of returning juniors that have worked hard, and I think are ready to step in and be successful," said Coach Bunderson.
Even with a deep and talented returning group of players, the schedule will be a difficult one to navigate for the Cougars. "We set goals to improve each week of the season," said Bunderson, "and to be great student-athletes both on and off the field."
One of the scheduling quirks this year is that Craig will host all four Madison city schools in 2017. First up is La Follette, who graduated plenty from a team that won a 63-48 shootout to open the season in 2016. Then, Madison East comes to town. The Cougars beat East 57-38 last year.
Given that Craig will host the Madison city schools, it also means that the Cougars will have to visit the other teams in the conference. In Week 3, Craig will visit Sun Prairie, then turn around for another road game to Middleton on September 8 in back-to-back games against teams with the Cardinals moniker.
On September 15, it's The Battle for the Monterey Rock against Parker, who won it last year 34-14. Craig will play at Beloit Memorial on September 22.
Two more home games for the Cougars pit them against Madison Memorial and West (Homecoming) in back-to-back weeks, before a regular-season finale at Verona. All told, Craig will face three of the conference favorites on the road this season, but will have the opportunity to play every Madison city school at home, as well as Parker and a short trip to Beloit Memorial.
"The Big Eight should be competitive top to bottom again this year," said Bunderson. "There aren't any easy games on the schedule, and every program has talented athletes and is well-coached.
"I really like the group of kids we have and think we can be competitive with any team in the conference, and win some games this year."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska