A large, talented, and productive class of seniors has graduated, and Fort Atkinson's longtime head coach, Steve Mahoney, moves on from coaching to athletic director. The new leader of the Blackhawks is former UW-Whitewater standout Brady Grayvold, who coached at Sun Prairie last season during their run to the Division 1 championship game.
Grayvold, who was a student teacher at Fort Atkinson before taking on his most recent assignment as a defensive coach with Sun Prairie, said taking the job made sense since he had prior connections to Fort Atkinson, and it's close to where he played college football.
"I have a lot of connections still at college," said Grayvold, referring to UW-Whitewater, where Grayvold was a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Award, given to the nation's top Division 3 player.
He'll be taking over for Mahoney, who will be the athletic director at the school, which Grayvold views as a bonus. "It's very helpful because any question I have to ask, anything that comes up, I can ask him and he can tell me how he did it."
Grayvold expects that his experiences as a player and coach will help him tremendously. "My dad was a coach," said Grayvold. "I went to a high school with 19 players on the team. Then I go to Sun Prairie where there's 160 kids in the program. I played at Whitewater. That should all help me out here."
Fort Atkinson graduated every player who touched the ball last year, save for one player who got an interception on defense. So, the Blackhawks figure to rely on a beefy front line on both sides of the ball to help navigate a wave of new players stepping into larger roles on the team.
Those lines will be led by the likes of Jordan Flodin, who was honorable mention on the defensive line as a junior in the conference, but also by several other incoming seniors and juniors who were on varsity last year behind a large crop of seniors. Most of the returning players for 2018 had at least some experience on defense, which should be a boon towards them earning bigger roles on the team.
"We'll be underdogs. We're one of the smallest teams in the Badger," said Grayvold. "I like it. We get the opportunity to play the best teams in the state, the Waunakees, the Monona Groves, the Watertowns. It's a really competitive league."
What a way to begin the season for Fort Atkinson: the defending Division 2 state champions, Waunakee, will be at Blackhawk Stadium on August 17. Fort Atkinson will head to Beaver Dam for the other Badger crossover game the following week.
Badger South play begins with a home contest against Watertown, before heading west for a pair of games against Oregon and Monona Grove in September. After a home game against Edgewood on September 21, the Blackhawks go to Monroe to wrap up September in Week 7.
The final home game of the season is a home contest with Milton, before heading west again to play at Stoughton on October 12.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with first-year Fort Atkinson Blackhawks head coach Brady Grayvold:
Fort Atkinson Blackhawks - Badger South
Head Coach: Brady Gravold (1st Season)
2017 Result: 3-6 (2-5), 6th in the Badger South
Three-Year Record: 11-18 (1-1 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 2 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (12 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 11 First-Team, 10 Second-Team, 19 Honorable Mention (40 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (1): OL/DL Jordan Flodin (HM-DL), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: LB/RB Drew Hebbe, Sr.; DB/RB Jack Wachuta, Sr.; LB/RB Keegan Aarstad, Sr.; OL/DL Dayne Sebranek, Sr.; DB/WR Trent Hachtel, Jr.; DB/WR Brent Torrenga, Jr.; DB/WR Bryan Carrera, Jr.; LB/TE Mika Gutoski, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Waunakee, August 17; at Monona Grove, September 14; vs Milton, October 5