Waunakee won a state championship last season in Division 2 out of the Badger North Conference. Here's a look back at what all eight teams did in 2017.
You're going to read a bunch about Waunakee in this look back at last season, and for good reason. They were one of two area teams (Lodi) to win a state championship in 2017. The Warriors breezed through the regular season, their most serious challenge coming on the road against Mount Horeb/Barneveld, when Javian Dayne went down with an injury midway through a game that was a one-score difference at the time. However, Dayne came back, and carried the ball over 30 times to help the Warriors win 42-20. Waunakee out-scored their opponents 165-40 en route to the Division 2 championship, which they rallied to win 14-13 over Brookfield Central. An extremely talented senior class departs, but the cupboard isn't bare, as Waunakee returns seven players with all-conference honors despite losing 20 such players to graduation.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld finished as runner-up in the conference, losing to Waunakee in the regular season and then, after a blowout win over perennially-solid Evansville/Albany to open the playoffs, exiting against a perennial state title contender in Division 3 Catholic Memorial by one score, 26-20, in Level 2. The Vikings bring back seven players with all-conference honors, led by running back Malik Winston, but graduated 13 that had received some form of all-conference award. Also, Mount Horeb/Barneveld will be under the direction of former Delavan-Darien coach Bret St. Arnauld, who went 17-22 with the Comets in four seasons, and who coached the team to a playoff win over Mount Horeb/Barneveld in 2016. Former coach Ryan Kleppe is joining the staff at Monona Grove.
The team returning the most from last season, in terms of all-conference honors in the Badger North, is DeForest. Last year's third-place team in the league lost their playoff opener against a very large and talented Slinger squad 20-7 (the Owls were bounced the very next week by Waunakee 28-7). With eight all-conference players back, the Norskies could be one of the teams to watch as a challenger to Waunakee's grip on the top of the Badger North.
Beaver Dam's first year in the Badger North was a bit up and down, ending with back-to-back shutout losses to Waunakee in Week 9 and then in the first round of the playoffs. After losing both of their crossover games, the Golden Beavers went 4-2 in Badger North play prior to running into Waunakee in the final two weeks of their season. Only two players return with any all-conference honors, including second-team pick Adam Bird and quarterback Kendrick Jimenez.
After playing for a trip to state only two seasons ago, Reedsburg found themselves on the outside looking in on the postseason. The Beavers loaded the honorable mention ranks of the all-conference list, with 13 total honorees, but nobody selected to the first- or second-team. Three of those players are back, including two Class of 2020 players, so things could be trending the other way in 2018 for Reedsburg.
When Portage announced the hiring of Bob Hepp as head coach, one figured that while the Warriors might take a season to assimilate the new leadership, the program was in good hands. Hepp's reputation as a turnaround artist is well-founded; in previous stops at East Troy, Viroqua, and Campellsport, his teams took a season or two to acclimate, and then eventually made it to the postseason. Portage had won two games in the three prior seasons combined, yet won twice in 2017 and was competitive in a handful of other games. Only two players who received all-conference consideration have graduated, with one returning.
In a bizarre story as camps were breaking, Sauk Prairie's former head coach stepped down prior to the start of the 2017 season, so former North Dakota State player and Sauk Prairie Eagles coach Scott Schutt took over on an interim basis for the program, leading them to a 2-7 season despite the difficult circumstances. Schutt is back for one more season as interim coach, as Sauk Prairie is hopeful to find a long-term solution at head coach (at Schutt's insistence). The Eagles bring back a pair of 2020 linebackers who made Badger North honorable mention all-conference last season.
Baraboo had to wait until Week 9, but the Thunderbirds got into the win column by defeating Reedsburg, ending any playoff hopes for the Beavers. Baraboo brings back experience in their incoming senior and junior classes, including one returning all-conference honoree.
2017 Conference Standings: Waunakee went 7-0 in the conference and 14-0 on the season to lead the way. Mount Horeb/Barneveld's loss to Waunakee was the only blemish on their regular-season record, and the Vikings finished 9-2 overall. DeForest lost to each of the teams ahead of them in the standings, as the Norskies had a 6-4 campaign. Beaver Dam's first year in the Badger North resulted in a 4-3 league mark and a playoff berth, and a 4-6 overall record. Portage and Reedsburg ended up a win short of a possible playoff bid, finishing 2-7 overall. Sauk Prairie and Baraboo each went 1-6 in league play.
2017's Top Games: One of the greatest state title rallies of all time, Waunakee scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat Brookfield Central 14-13 for the Division 2 championship. Quarterback Nate Carter played the entire game, despite breaking his hand on the third play from scrimmage... DeForest trailed Portage 28-7 in the second quarter, but came all the way back, scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to beat the Warriors 35-28 in Week 9... In the same week, a fourth-quarter field goal by Baraboo helped the Thunderbirds get their first win of the season in the final week, 17-14 over Reedsburg... Reedsburg survived a slugfest the week prior against Portage, needing an overtime field goal to win 3-0 over Portage in Week 8... With 63 seconds to play, Mount Horeb/Barneveld won the battle for second place in the conference by scoring a touchdown to defeat DeForest 35-28 in Week 8... In Beaver Dam's first-ever Badger North conference game, the Golden Beavers needed a touchdown in the final minutes to topple Baraboo 14-13 in Week 3.
All-Conference Honors: Chances are if you played for Waunakee last year, you were an all-conference pick. 10 offensive and eight defensive players made the first team, with the Warriors sweeping the player of the year honors as well. Quarterback Nate Carter and running back Javian Dayne shared the offensive player of the year award, while Spencer Nellis claimed the offensive lineman of the year prize. Defensive back Lucas Statz was the defensive player of the year in the Badger North, while Nolan Thole was named defensive lineman of the year. Only three of the Waunakee first-team honorees weren't seniors: center Gabe Zander, edge rusher Reed Ryan, and kicker Nate Stevens, who is committed to play baseball at Arkansas after his 2018 senior season. Mount Horeb/Barneveld picked up eight total first-team nods, with running back Malik Winston and punter/kicker Cris Pertusatti returning for 2018. DeForest's Bryce Duffy (defensive back) and Beaver Dam's Dillon Livingston (receiver) were the only other two players on the first team that weren't from Waunakee or Mount Horeb/Barneveld. Three second-team all-conference picks, DeForest's Edwyn Erickson (defensive end), Mount Horeb/Barneveld's Tyler Denu (linebacker), and Beaver Dam's Adam Bird (defensive back), will return for the 2018 season, as well as a half-dozen offensive players: receiver Sawyer Maly and tackle Nathan Miller of Waunakee, guard John Smozynski and running back Evan Armstrong of DeForest, and center Zach Junck of Mount Horeb/Barneveld (as well as MH/B's kicker, Cris Pertusatti).
All-Region Honors: Waunakee loaded the all-region team with Warriors. Senior offensive linemen Spencer Nellis and Al Olkowski, defensive lineman Nolan Thole, defensive back Lucas Statz, receiver Riley Zuhde, running back Javian Dayne, quarterback Nate Carter, linebackers Kyle Pahnke and Logan Kvalo, and returning defensive end Reed Ryan all made the southwestern region team. Mount Horeb/Barneveld's Travis Klassy was named all-region at defensive back, as was Beaver Dam's Dillon Livingston, who earned the nod as a utility player.
All-State Honors: Javian Dayne ran for 2,263 yards and keyed Waunakee's state championship rally, and made WFCA All-State as a running back. Lucas Statz also represents the Warriors as a defensive back on the 2017 all-state team.
A Quick Look Ahead: We'll have a full preview of each team, and the conference, coming up as we get closer to the start of the season on August 17. In the Badger crossover games the first two weeks, one very intriguing game out of the gates for potential upstart conference title contenders has DeForest visiting Oregon in Week 1. Mount Horeb/Barneveld at Edgewood will match up first-year head coaches with their respective programs, in a game to be played at Breese Stevens Field. Week 2's Oregon at Mount Horeb/Barneveld game is another contest of potential conference title challengers, while Monroe at DeForest is another game in the same vein that week. Look for individual team previews to roll out in July, with full conference previews to come in August.
2018 High School Football Preview Schedule
Late June/Early July: 2017 In Review (by conference)
Mid-July: Team-by-team previews
Early August: Conference previews
Coming Next: July 11: Big 8 2017 In Review
Daily High School Sports Content Schedule
June 28: Throwback Thursday - Top 2017 Games #5: Waunakee 14, Brookfield Central 13
June 29: Capitol South 2017 In Review
July 2: Capitol North 2017 In Review
July 3: Rock Valley 2017 In Review
July 5: Throwback Thursday - Top 2017 Games #4: Stoughton 30, Oregon 27
July 6: Greater Madison Area 2017 In Review (everything outside of Big 8, Badger, Capitol, Rock Valley)
July 9: Badger South 2017 In Review
July 10: Badger North 2017 In Review
July 11: Big Eight 2017 In Review
July 12: Where Are They Now: Class of 2015
July 12: Throwback Thursday - Top 2017 Games #3: Cambridge 25, Belleville 19
July 13: 2017 High School Football In Review
July 16: Start of Team-by-Team Previews (multiple per day)
July 19: Where Are They Now: Class of 2016
Julu 19: Throwback Thursday - Top 2017 Games #2: Madison West 30, Middleton 27
July 26: Where Are They Now: Class of 2017
July 26: Throwback Thursday - Top 2017 Games #1: Lodi 17, St. Croix Central 10
August 2: Where Are They Now: Class of 2018
August 6: Start of Conference Previews (one per day)
August 9: Where Are They Now: Classes 2013 and Earlier
August 13: Prep Report and Game of the Week content begins