Badger South Conference - Full Schedule Here
2016 Standings (Go to team name for full preview)
Monroe - 11-1 (6-0) - Lost in Level 3 of D3 Playoffs to Pewaukee
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 7/10
Monroe will see six playoff teams from 2016, two of the top quarterback-receiver combos in all of Wisconsin in the span of three weeks, and a crucial stretch of four weeks in the middle of the season when they see the four other postseason squads from a season ago in a row. Even with the benefit of four home games in five weeks to close out the season, Monroe will have their hands full defending their conference title.
Monona Grove - 11-3 (5-1) - Lost in State Finals of D2 playoffs to Brookfield East
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 3/16
Despite the loss of nearly three dozen seniors from last year, Coach Beckwith said that there won't be many changes to how Monona Grove approaches 2017. "Expectations are the same. Our expectations are always high. We take it one game at a time. We hope to compete in every game and win the conference, like always." - Monona Grove Head Coach Brandon Beckwith
Stoughton - 6-4 (4-2) - Lost in Level 1 of D2 playoffs to Waukesha West
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 9/7
Stoughton appeared in the playoffs for just the third time in school history, but for the second time in two seaons as well in 2016. With nine players back who have earned all-conference honors, and virtually every position returning starters from a season ago, the Vikings figure to be in the mix as one of the top Badger South teams in 2017
Fort Atkinson - 6-5 (3-3) - Lost in Level 2 of D3 playoffs to Monroe
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 3/11
Fort Atkinson lost its five games in 2016 by a combined 32 points, and never by more than 14 in any single game. The Blackhawks face a similarly difficult schedule this year as they did last year in a deep Badger South (with Waunakee in one of the crossover games to boot). "The league will be very good," said Fort Atkinson Head Coach Steve Mahoney. "Top to bottom, hard to pick a favorite."
Milton - 3-6 (2-4)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 4/8
"We had some teams that made playoff runs last season, and I think it is an indicator of the quality football being played right now in the Badger South. I think it will be a battle every week for every team." - Milton Head Coach Matt Lee
Edgewood - 2-7 (1-5)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 4/9
Edgewood Head Coach Al Minnaert admits that they don't have many players returning to the skill positions, but that the competition should fuel some success and results for the players that emerge. "We've got experience on the lines," said Minnaert. "However, we are rebuilding the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions."
Oregon - 1-8 (0-6)
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 4/7
"We have a number of guys coming back that I am really excited about, and many of them have to play like veterans right off the bat because our conference doesn't give us any easy teams. It is pretty tough each week for us." - Oregon Head Coach Dan Kissling
Watertown - 6-5 (5-2) - Played in Wisconsin Little Ten in 2016
Returning/Lost All-Conference: 2/10
"I believe the Badger South is a very good football conference. I am excited about the number of big-game match-ups we have this year. We are proud of the fact that we have been able to qualify for the playoffs the last six years in a row." - Watertown Head Coach Benji Kamrath
Returning 2016 All-Conference Team
QB: Alec Ogden (SR), First Team - Monona Grove; Dylan Fagerland (SR), First Team - Watertown; Connor O'Brien (SR), HM(WR) - Fort Atkinson
RB: Jackson Thomsen (SR), Second Team - Monona Grove; Brett Wannebo (SR), Second Team - Oregon; Brady Schipper (SR), Second Team - Stoughton; Kardelle Phillips (SR), HM - Oregon
WR: Ryan Hayden (SR), First Team - Watertown
TE: Jack McNeil (SR), Second Team - Edgewood; Max Fernholz (SR), HM - Stoughton
OL: Cory Schroeder (SR), Second Team - Fort Atkinson; Joe Hughes (SR), Second Team - Monroe; Mark Luebke (SR), HM - Edgewood; OL Will Foht (SR), HM - Edgewood; Eric Hessenhauer (JR), HM - Milton; Henry Milz (SR), HM - Oregon; Elijah Krumholz (SR), HM - Stoughton; Aodan Marshall (SR), HM - Stoughton; Matt Krcma (SR), HM - Stoughton
DL: Troy Nachtigal (SR), First Team - Fort Atkinson; Tysen Welsch (SR), Second Team - Monroe; Jack McNeil (SR), Second Team/2015 - Edgewood; Trevor Wunderlin (SR), HM - Monona Grove; Gavin Miller (SR), HM - Stoughton
LB: Kalevi Breckterfield (SR), First Team - Edgewood; Travis Wolf (SR), First Team - Monroe; Jaxon Soddy (SR), Second Team - Milton; Mitch Bartelt (SR), Second Team - Monroe; Sam Reynolds (SR), Second Team - Oregon; Jerry Lipke (SR), HM - Milton; Tyler Dow (SR), HM - Stoughton; Lucas Gerlach (SR), HM/2015 - Monona Grove
DB: Brayden Zettle (SR), Second Team - Monroe; Blake Fuchs (SR), HM - Milton; Sam Kind (SR), HM - Monroe; Jordan DiBenedetto (SR), HM - Stoughton
K: Dempzy Foley (SR), Second Team - Monroe; Sam McHone (SR), HM - Stoughton
Based on information from coaches and returning players
Monroe: Because the conference is so packed in at the top, we broke the tie by picking last year's champion. While the Cheesemakers lose virtually all of their offensive production from last year, several key players are back defensively, and the lines should be solid again for Coach Toby Golembiewski. Five defenders earned all-conference honors in 2016.
Stoughton: The Vikings are poised for a potentially historic season, and Coach Dan Prahl knows expectations are high. Virtually every position group has all-conference talent, led by running back Brady Schipper, and Stoughton will line up three offensive linemen who made honorable mention all-Badger South as juniors: Elijah Krumholz, Aodan Marshall, and Matt Krcma. All five starters are back on the line.
Monona Grove: Last year's run to the state finals was an exhilarating ride through the playoffs, and the quarterback catalyst for the assault on the scoreboard, Alec Ogden, returns. Jackson Thomsen also is back, who was a big-time game-changer and will carry more of the load this season. However, outside of Trevor Wunderlin and Lucas Gerlach on defense, virtually the entire team turns over due to graduation, and this year will be a test of the depth of the Monona Grove program.
Watertown: Many are excited for the Dylan Fagerland-to-Ryan Hayden quaterback-receiver combo, but the linebackers the Goslings bring to the conference aren't slouches either. Watertown brings back its second- and third-leading tacklers from last year, Devon Peirick and Clayton Goodman. How much younger players at running back, along the line, and on the outside can help will determine how Watertown fares in year one of their Badger South experience.
Fort Atkinson: It'll be a committee approach to finding production offensively for the Blackhawks, but Coach Steve Mahoney is excited about the linemen on both sides of the ball. Offensive lineman Ian Carnes and defensive lineman Troy Nachtigal will be players to watch this year for Fort Atkinson. Connor O'Brien moves to quarterback from wide receiver, where he was honorable mention all-conference last year.
Milton: It's expected to be a senior-dominated team for the Red Hawks, although Milton features only a handful of returning starters. The trio of seniors Jaxon Soddy, Jerry Lipke, and Blake Fuchs, who all earned all-conference honors, will lead the way.
Oregon: Injuries derailed the 2016 season, but Coach Dan Kissinger is encouraged by what he's seen both from the returning players (including those who had been injured) and from the younger players who earned varsity experience filling in last year as well. All told, the Panthers will have plenty of experience across the board, and after a 1-8 performance last year, they are a prime candidate for significant improvement in the win column.
Edgewood: Skill position experience will be a concern for the Crusaders, who are working in new players across the depth chart. Two-way standout Jack McNeil is back, as is linebacker Kalevi Breckterfield. One area of depth is the line, where on offense, they will return four players (two of whom made all-conference) with significant experience.
Every opposing coach noted, specifically, that Watertown is a great addition to the conference and an immediate contender. However, with the addition of the Goslings, it now takes four wins to make the playoffs, so the task is a little more difficult for the trio of teams who missed the playoffs last season. Overall, the Badger South is deep at linebacker and running back, but perhaps overshadowed by the quarterback duo of Alec Ogden and Dylan Fagerland, who will meet in the final regular-season game. Every team in the conference has made the playoffs at least once in the past two seasons.
Week 1: Watertown at Beaver Dam (NC) - The former Little Ten rivals will play each other before heading off into Badger Conference play.
Week 1: Oregon at DeForest (NC) - Intriguing from the sense that Oregon is healthy again heading into 2017, and this could be a barometer to see where they may stack up as the season goes against a solid DeForest Norskies squad. For DeForest, this represents a solid opener to work in their new starters.
Week 2: Waunakee at Watertown (NC) - One of the most highly-anticipated early-season games in the state features the passing attack of the Goslings against the powerhouse Warriors. It's a marquee match-up with college prospects on both sides.
Week 3: Monona Grove at Oregon - If the Panthers are indeed improved over last year, the Silver Eagles will have their hands full in the conference opener.
Week 4: Monroe at Watertown - The Badger South's defending champion will travel to Watertown in a clash of styles. It'll be interesting to see if it's the Cheesemakers' ground game or the Goslings' aerial assault come out on top here.
Week 4: Edgewood at Monona Grove (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast) - Edgewood's skill position players will be young and untested, but bring back an experienced line. Monona Grove's skill position players are established and decorated, but will have brand-new linemen at nearly every position.
Week 5: Stoughton at Monroe - This could be a quick game with both teams favoring the run, but will also be a battle in the trenches. Both teams are considered top contenders for a conference title.
Week 6: Monona Grove at Monroe - Monroe will now have seen the impressive passing attack of Watertown and the solid ground game of Stoughton in back-to-back weeks, so that should prepare them for the dual threat that the Silver Eagles bring at quarterback and running back. While Monroe will be wrapping up a tough run in conference play, Monona Grove's schedule kicks up a notch starting this week.
Week 7: Stoughton at Watertown - A fascinating position battle will be the Vikings' secondary against the Goslings' passing. Not only that, this game will probably have playoff or even conference championship implications.
Week 7: Edgewood at Oregon (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast) - The bitter rivals will play at Oregon for the second straight year, and last year two plays nearly literally made the entire difference in the game, a couple of scoop-and-scores for the Crusaders in a 21-7 victory.
Week 8: Monona Grove at Stoughton - A few miles of Highway 51 separate the schools, but this will likely be an important game for either playoff positioning or even the conference championship battle.
Week 8: Fort Atkinson at Milton - Another game of importance in the playoff eligibility department, most likely, as Milton tries to get back on top of the conference past the Blackhawks of Fort Atkinson.
Week 9: Watertown at Monona Grove (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast) - The premiere quarterback head-to-head match-up of the Badger South as Dylan Fagerland meets Alec Ogden on the field, this game could have all sorts of implications.
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska