In 2017, the young McFarland Spartans had a better season than their 2-7 record indicated, as McFarland battled in several high-scoring games that didn't go their way. Now, with most of their 2017 roster coming back, how will the team grow from those experiences in 2018?
"What we realized last year is that we were coming in to the season with a lot of youth," said coach Paul Ackley. "We realized that what we needed last year was growth. It was tough to go through as a team, but it's part of the process."
A small but talented group of seven seniors departs the program, but as has been the case for a couple of years, the 2019 through 2021 classes appear to have greater numbers coming up.
Three of the returning seniors earned some form of all-conference recognition, as did one member of the 2020 class. All told, about a dozen incoming seniors and another dozen or so incoming juniors will factor into the starting lineups, and with large class sizes, should represent the deepest the program has been in recent years.
"We were low in numbers in our senior class (last year)," said Ackley. "Low in numbers, but not low in talent. Now, we get a lot of juniors and seniors back that had a lot of playing time last year."
McFarland's leading passer, rusher, and second-leading receiver are all back for starters, as are four of their six top tacklers a season ago. One of the biggest pair of shoes to fill will be those of Nick Herbst, who was their leading receiver, kicker, and punter a season ago.
When it comes to the Rock Valley, Ackley acknowledges that the conference is deep, but preaches that McFarland has to worry about their own program. "We know it's going to be tough," Ackley said, citing the teams that have won the conference in recent years. "But, we have to worry about the things we can control, and we can control getting better every week."
2018 begins on the road for McFarland, taking the short trip over to Edgerton in a match-up of 2018 playoff hopefuls that bring back a good deal of their starting lineups for the upcoming season. On August 24, McFarland will take on Jefferson at UW-Whitewater, before heading back to the road to take on Beloit Turner in Week 3.
East Troy visits McFarland for the Spartans' first true home game of 2018, on September 7. After a road game at Whitewater in Week 5, Big Foot makes the journey to McFarland on September 21.
A pair of road games against stalwarts in recent seasons in the Rock Valley, Clinton and Evansville/Albany, come before wrapping up the regular season with a home game against Brodhead/Juda.
Here is The Big 1070's conversation with McFarland Spartans head coach Paul Ackley, also the school's AD:
McFarland Spartans - Rock Valley
Head Coach: Paul Ackley (14th season); 61-66 Overall (4-6 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 2-7, 7th in the Rock Valley
Three-Year Record: 7-20
2017 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (7 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 4 First-Team, 6 Second-Team, 8 Honorable Mention (18 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): OL/DL Mitch Roeder (2nd Team-OL), Sr.; OL/DL Connor Frasier (2nd Team-DL), Jr.; RB/DB/ST Tysen White (HM-DB 2017 and 2016), Sr.; WR/LB Reece Samuel (HM-LB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB/P Derek Schwarting [🏈 WSN], Sr.; LB Cordell Kloth, Sr.; TE/LB/K Carson Werwinski, Sr.; TE/LB Quinton Brandt, Sr.; WR Matthew Jostad, Sr.; WR/S Jonah Hewitt, Sr.; LB/RB Jonah Pribbenow, Sr.; RB/S/ST Jerimiah Price-Johnson, Jr.; QB/S Cam Schaaf, Jr.; RB/DT/ST Connor Frasier, Jr.; WR/DB Nicholas Hall, Jr.; WR/DB Donovon Hudson, Jr.; WR/DB Vivek Tara, Jr.; LB John Cain, Jr.
BIG Games: at Edgerton, August 17; vs East Troy, September 7; vs Big Foot, September 21; at Evansville, October 5
Information from WisSports.net was used in this preview. Visit WisSports.net for everything you need to gear up for the high school sports season.