Coming off of their deepest playoff run in a generation, capped by a thrilling upset of Middleton in the playoffs, Madison West graduates most of their roster from last season, and faces another uphill climb in 2018. That doesn't seem to bother the Regents much, however.
"Our program hadn't been to that round since 1981," said coach Brad Murphy, speaking about the Regents' appearance in Level 3 a season ago. "That was huge for our program."
Led by Keishawn Shanklin, Jaden Stephens, Armoni Warfield, and David Maravilla (along with others), the Class of 2017 left their mark on the program with a nine-win season and a pair of playoff victories.
"We had a great group of seniors who led our younger guys," said Murphy. "We didn't really find an identity until later in the year."
Madison West had a surprisingly small roster of just under three dozen players, an oddity considering the size of the school. Most of their senior class last year played significant roles on offense, defense, and special teams, and that won't change for this year's seniors either, as Murphy expects to have several players playing both ways.
"We're looking at starting eight to ten sophomores on varsity," Murphy notes. "But, they've been in the program for a while now. We're trying to change the culture. We've only got seven kids in our junior class out for football. That's almost unheard of in a school our size."
"We're excited about the future," added Murphy. "We have a great freshman class coming up."
With so many players graduating, the roster at a glance appeared somewhat bare. Only 26 players suited up for their final varsity contest of the season in 2017, and now the Regents will have to replace their entire backfield, most of their offensive line, and half of their starting defense.
"One thing we have to accomplish is to become a good running football team," Murphy said. "We did a pretty good job of working to that last year."
That effort will be aided by the addition of some transfer students. Dayne Armwald arrives from Middleton, where he was a running back and defensive end. The big prize, however, will be the addition of Kelvin Opoku-Appoh, who received multiple all-conference honors at various positions as a running back, defensive back, and special teams ace at Marshall. Murphy says Opoku-Appoh will be the starter.
Opoku-Appoh's younger brother, Collins, will also be joining the Madison West program as a sophomore transfer. His former coach, Matt Kleinheniz at Marshall, said that he's a pretty good player as well.
A position of strength for the West Regents will be the lines. Patrick Horvath, a first-team All-Big 8 center who is also on WisSports.net's Class of 2019 top-ranked players, will man the middle, while Carson Meyer will line up along side of him up front. William Thomas is also back after starting at points of the 2017 season. On the defensive line, in addition to the transfer Armwald, Samy Smith is back after earning honorable mention all-conference as a freshman defensive lineman.
In addition to the transfers, Ezra Thompson is back on both sides of the ball, playing out of the slot last year on offense while also subbing in as the quarterback on plays that Keishawn Shanklin went deep as receiver last year. Thompson also started at safety, where he received all-conference honorable mention. Wesley Kidau started in the defensive backfield, and he'll help along with transfer Opoku-Appoh to form an athletic secondary for the Regents. Another member of the secondary, Damion Diaz, will also line up at receiver for Madison West.
The biggest hole may be at linebacker, where Zach Mercier comes back after a productive sophomore season, but will have to replace tackling machine David Maravilla, who had over 160 tackles as a senior. On special teams, they will miss their fantastic kicker, Kacper Lupe, but will have some weapons in the return game.
Madison West gets right into the intra-city match-ups with a pair of road games to the east side in weeks 1 and 2, facing La Follette and East in back-to-back weeks. The Regents then host Middleton, a rematch of a Level 2 game that West won in the final seconds to upset the Cardinals and move on to Level 3. That game kicks off a stretch of four straight games at Mansfield Stadium, with Verona coming to town on September 7.
West's game against Madison Memorial is technically a road game, but the schools share Mansfield Stadium as their home venue. The Battle for Burt Hable's Clipboard will also be The Big 1070's Madison Taxi Game of the Week on September 14.
The long stay at Mansfield finishes with Beloit Memorial in Week 6, and then the Regents head to Janesville for back-to-back weeks with games against Parker and Craig. Madison West finishes the regular season with a game against Sun Prairie, in their first meeting since the Cardinals ousted West in Level 3 of last year's Division 1 playoffs. Sun Prairie won 37-7 and 49-17 over Madison West last year.
Here is The Big 1070's conversation with Madison West Regents head coach Brad Murphy:
Madison West Regents - Big Eight
Head Coach: Brad Murphy (3rd Season), 14-8 Overall (2-2 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 9-3 (7-2), 3rd in the Big 8 (Lost to Sun Prairie in Level 3 of the D1 playoffs, 49-17)
Three-Year Record: 15-16 (2-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (13 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 13 First-Team, 6 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (34 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (5): OL/DL Patrick Horvath [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-OL in 2017 and HM-OL in 2016), Sr.; OL/DL Carson Meyer (HM-OL), Sr; WR/QB/S Ezra Thompson (HM-WR), Jr.; DL/OL Sammy Smith (HM-DL), So.; RB/DB/ST Kelvin Opoku-Appoh (Transfer from Marshall) (1st Team-ST in 2017, 2nd Team-RB in 2017 and 2016, 2nd Team-DB in 2016; all awards earned in the Capitol South), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: OL/DL William Thomas, Sr.; WR/CB Wesley Kidau, Sr.; DB/WR Damion Diaz, Sr.; LB/RB Zach Mercier, Sr.; RB/DE Dayne Armwald (Transfer from Middleton), Sr.; QB/RB/DB Collins Opoku-Appoh (Transfer from Marshall), So.
BIG Games: at Madison La Follette, August 17; vs Middleton, August 31; at Madison Memorial, September 14 [🔊 Madison Taxi Game of the Week]; vs Sun Prairie, October 12