Janesville Parker Vikings - Big Eight
Coach: Clayton Kreger (3rd Season), 8-11 Overall (0-1 Playoffs)
2016 Result: 4-5 (4-5), 6th in the Big 8
Three-Year Record: 11-17 (0-1 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 4 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (12 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 7 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (0): None
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Jordan Bailey, Sr.; RB/LB Kyle Fuller, Sr.; WR/DB Sam Garvoille, Sr.; QB/TE/LB Max Kisting, Sr.; RB/LB Seamus Murphy, Sr.; WR/DB Josiah Benjestorf, Sr.; WR/QB Kyle Birkett, Sr.; WR/DB Toby Cook, Sr.; OL/TE Harrison Creed, Sr.; TE/DL Austin Letts, Sr.; TE/DL Dawson Shultz, Sr.; WR/DB Brody Lippens, Jr.; WR/DB John Bowers, Jr.; WR/DB Andrew Meyers, Jr.; RB/LB Toby Garvoille, Jr.; RB/LB Luke Roca, Jr.; RB/LB Casey Vanderlinden, Jr.; OL/DL Nic Graffin, Jr.; OL/DL Nathan Davis, Jr.; OL/DL Nathan White, So.
BIG Games: at Verona August 18, vs Sun Prairie September 8, vs Janesville Craig September 15 (The Battle for the Monterey Rock), vs Middleton September 22, at Beloit Memorial September 28
After a senior-dominated team nearly brought Janesville Parker back to the playoffs last year for the second straight season, this year's iteration of the Vikings figures to be much different.
Parker loses nearly half of their letterwinners from a season ago, but also will bring back only four starters from 2016's squad. It stands to reason that the Vikings will be a young football team for the upcoming season.
"We are looking to get back in the playoffs after our disappointing year in 2016. Our goal is to bring Janesville Parker back on top of the Big 8. The Big 8 Conference is one of the best in the state. Every single team in the Big 8 is a tough match on Friday night." - Janesville Parker Head Football Coach Clayton Kreger
"Very young," said third-year head coach Clayton Kreger, who graduated from Parker in 2002. He said he expects the Vikings to finish in the middle to top of the Big 8. "We lost a lot of starters so figuring out where the pieces fit" will be one of the program goals, he added.
The lone returning starter on offense is senior Jordan Bailey at quarterback. Senior Max Risting is the reserve, having thrown three passes in 2016. Joining Bailey in the backfield will be an all-new running game, led by Seamus Murphy, who was fourth on the team in yardage and third in touchdowns as a junior last season. A trio of incoming juniors, Luke Roca, Casey Vanderlinden, and Toby Garvoille, and senior Kyle Fuller will add to the depth in the I-formation offense at running back.
On the outside, the Vikings boast several capable receivers and tight ends, although little varsity experience as a starter. The group includes a group of seniors, Josiah Benjestorf, Kyle Birkett, Sam Garvoille, and Toby Cook, as well as juniors John Bowers and Andrew Meyers.
Up front, senior Harrison Creed, junior Nic Graffin, and sophomore Nathan White will be some of the top candidates to work on varsity, and who Coach Kreger mentioned as part of a large group of offensive players that made the biggest gains this offseason.
Defensively, the Vikings return three starters. Junior defensive back Brody Lippens and senior defensive back Sam Garvoille man the back end, while senior linebacker Kyle Fuller returns to man the middle. Senior defensive linemen Austin Letts and Dawson Shultz and junior lineman Nathan Davis are some of the players to watch in the trenches.
Parker will kick off 2017 with a pair of road games against 2016 playoff teams. In the opener, the Vikings will head to Verona to test their mettle against one of the conference favorites in 2017. Then, Parker will turn around and play at Madison La Follette, in a rematch of a four-point game from a season ago.
Four straight games at Monterey Stadium follow for the Vikings, including what is technically a road game against Craig on September 15. Parker will host Madison East and Sun Prairie in weeks three and four, two games that went opposite directions for the Vikings last year (big win over East, setback against the Cardinals).
September 15 marks The Battle for the Monterey Rock, which went to Parker in 2016 thanks to a 34-14 victory. On September 22, Middleton comes to town for the fourth game in this stretch.
On Thursday, September 28, Parker makes the short drive to Beloit Memorial, before returning to the road to begin play in October to play at Madison Memorial on the sixth. The Vikings' season finale is against Madison West, who the Vikings defeated in the final week of last year's regular season to give Parker a slim chance at a playoff spot.
Despite the heavy graduation losses, Coach Kreger expects his team to compete for a playoff spot and be in the mix of top teams within the Big 8. "We are looking to get back in the playoffs after our disappointing year in 2016," said Kreger. "Our goal is to bring Janesville Parker back on top of the Big 8."
While Kreger keeps his expectations high, he acknowledged and embraced the competition he will see in the conference. "The Big 8 Conference is one of the best in the state," said Kreger. "Every single team in the Big 8 is a tough match on Friday night."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska