Capitol North Conference - Full Schedule Here
2016 Standings (Go to team name for full preview)
Columbus - 11-1 (5-0) - Lost in Level 3 to Cedar Grove/Belgium in D5 playoffs
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 4/10
"How our defense plays will determine the outcome of our season. We still have some playmakers on offense that we know we can count on, but defensively, we have a lot of inexperienced talent. We have some pretty athletic guys, but they need to show they can get it done under the lights." - Columbus Head Coach Calvin Zenz
Lodi - 8-3 (3-2) - Lost in Level 2 of D4 playoffs to River Valley
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 9/3
All told, Lodi will bring back nine players who earned all-conference honors last year, and feature six players on WisSports.net's class of 2018 watch lists across six different positions. Most of those players are two-way standouts
Lake Mills - 8-4 (3-2) - Lost in Level 3 of D4 playoffs to River Valley
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 4/4
"I love having our team in the Capitol North. It prepares you for the postseason if you manage to survive and make it." - Lake Mills Head Coach Dan Ferkovich
Lakeside Lutheran - 4-5 (2-3)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 5/6
"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
Poynette - 4-5 (1-4)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 3/7
The Capitol North has been very loaded for a few years now for sure. There haven't been any easy weeks in the Capitol North lately, and I wouldn't expect there to be this season either." Head Coach Greg Kallungi
Luther Prep - 2-7 (1-4)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 6-4
The Phoenix will play all three of the conference's top contenders for the Capitol North title in Columbus, Lake Mills, and Lodi at home this season, something no other team in the conference can claim.
Returning 2016 All-Conference Team
QB: Ben Dunkleberger (SR), 1st Team/OPY - Lake Mills
RB: Jacob Heyroth (SR), 1st Team - Lodi
WR: Hayden Iverson (SR), 1st Team - Lake Mills; Cade Olszewski (SR), 2nd Team - Lakeside Lutheran
TE: Kade Crissinger (SR), 1st Team - Lodi
OL: Noah Black (SR), 1st Team - Columbus; Lucas Brisky (SR), 1st Team - Lodi; Dan Bruce (SR), 2nd Team - Lake Mills; Desmon Sachtjen (JR), 2nd Team - Lodi; Anthony Benson (SR), HM - Lodi
DL: Kade Crissinger (SR), 1st Team - Lodi; Josh Bauer (SR), 1st Team - Luther Prep; Christian Barnharst (JR), 1st Team - Poynette; Will Richards (SR), 2nd Team - Lodi; Nick Koss (SR), 2nd Team - Poynette; Simeon Glende (SR), HM - Luther Prep; Jacob Heyroth (SR), HM - Lodi
LB: Connor Manthey (SR), 1st Team/DPY - Columbus; Max Barreau (SR), 1st Team - Lodi; Casey Ponyicsanyi (JR), 2nd Team - Lakeside Lutheran; Abel Bain (SR), 2nd Team - Luther Prep; David Hirsch (SR), HM - Luther Prep; Joe Hirsch (SR), HM - Luther Prep
DB: Hayden Iverson (SR), 1st Team - Lake Mills; Dominic Scola (SR), 1st TEam - Lodi; Matthias Winters (SR), 2nd Team - Lakeside Lutheran; Brevin Jegerlehner (JR), HM - Lakeside Lutheran; Jack Monis (JR), HM - Lakeside Lutheran
K: Savannah Curtis (SR), 2nd Team - Lodi; Adam Mitchell (JR), 2nd Team - Lake Mills
P: Andy Vujnovich (SR), 2nd Team - Columbus; Micah Otto (SR), HM - Luther Prep
ST: Jacob Heyroth (SR), 1st Team - Lodi; Jack Moll (SR), HM - Poynette; Brevin Jegerlehner (JR), HM - Lakeside Lutheran; Cole Maxwell (SR), 2015 1st Team - Columbus
Based on information from coaches and returning players
Lodi: Behind five first-team all-conference players, led by senior Jacob Heyroth and Kade Crissinger, the Blue Devils bring the most back of any of the contenders after a down year by recent standards. If Lodi can navigate a difficult Capitol North schedule, they are a threat for a deep playoff run.
Lake Mills: One of the state's most prominent quarterback-receiver combinations in Ben Dunkleberger and Hayden Iverson led the L-Cats to a once-in-a-generation level of success at Lake Mills. In order to repeat last season's run to the state quarterfinals, they'll need to compete within the deep Capitol North.
Columbus: Last year's dream season was led by an outstanding group of seniors, so now it will be up to new head coach Calvin Zenz to rally behind Capitol North conference defensive player of the year Connor Manthey and two-time all-conference selection at offensive line, Noah Black, to keep the momentum in the program going.
Lakeside Lutheran: Despite a winning record the past three years, the Warriors have missed the playoffs each time. That may change as their talented juniors (class of 2019) gain more experience, led by Casey Ponyicsanyi, Brevin Jegerlehner, and Jack Monis, who were on the all-conference lists last year. With the core of the team still young, this will be a team that will rise as the year progresses.
Luther Prep: On paper it appears the strength of the Phoenix will be on defense, but Coach Justin Gregorius is also touting the experience of his offense, with returning starters at quarterback and in the backfield. With all of the contenders playing in Watertown, the Phoenix have the right ingredients to surprise an unsuspecting team or two.
Poynette: The Pumas have plenty of experience returning, and will rely on the senior class to power them through. With three all-conference players back and 16 letterwinners total, Poynette is yet another talented Capitol North squad to keep an eye on this season.
Every team has had a winning record in at least one campaign in the past two seasons, and half of the team has one at least one playoff game in the last three years. Every opposing coach mentioned Ben Dunkleberger (Lake Mills) as a specific example of the type of terrific athlete that they will see on a week-to-week basis in the conference. Only three wins are required to make the playoffs, so some of the late-season games could have plenty of drama.
Week 1: Lake Mills at Marshall (NC) - The L-Cats will get an early challenge against perennial playoff participant Marshall. The Cardinals have depth and youth on their side in this week one battle.
Week 1: Delavan-Darien at Lodi (NC) - Only a 10-6 Lodi win a year ago, both teams ended their seasons in Level 2 of last year's playoffs. This could be another classic.
Week 2: New Glarus/Monticello at Lake Mills (NC) - Another Capitol Crossover game for Lake Mills as they take on the defending Capitol South champions at home.
Week 3: New Glarus/Monticello at Lakeside Lutheran (NC) - An intriguing Capitol Crossover game that features the Capitol South champ against a Capitol North squad looking to make a playoff run in 2017.
Week 3: Marian Central Catholic (IL) at Columbus (NC) - The lone out-of-state match-up for any Capitol North team, the Hurricanes finished 2-1 in last year's playoffs in Illinois. Columbus has a tough non-conference slate that also includes Ripon, Platteville, and Adams/Friendship, and this one could be the highlight.
Week 4: Lodi at Marshall (NC) - Another Capitol Crossover, Lodi will travel to play the young and talented Marshall Cardinals in their final non-conference game.
Week 4: Belleville at Lake Mills (NC) - A sneaky-good Capitol Crossover game, given that Belleville didn't make the playoffs, but did manage a winning record. The respective histories of these programs roughly mirrors each other in terms of postseason success, so this will be an interesting barometer of each half of the Capitol conferences.
Week 5: Lodi at Lake Mills - We won't have to wait long to see the Lodi Blue Devils' defense tested against the QB/WR duo of Lake Mills. This will be a huge mid-season game for both teams that are competing for the Capitol North title.
Week 7: Lakeside Lutheran at Lake Mills: This cross-town showdown has featured some big upsets and playoff implications in most years, but it may be overshadowed by the other league game on the docket.
Week 7: Columbus at Lodi: This has become a must-watch game in the greater Madison area for some time now. Last year, Columbus finally solved the Lodi riddle, but now Lodi hosts this classic match-up with intentions on returning to the top of the league.
Week 9: Lake Mills at Columbus: This could be for a playoff trip (or even a conference title) to close out the season.
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska