Beaver Dam's first playoff appearance since 2011, only the fourth appearance for the school since 1996-97, resulted in a quick exit thanks to opening the postseason with eventual state champion Waunakee, but the Golden Beavers only graduated a handful of players and will have good numbers in the senior and junior classes for 2018.
Head coach Steve Kuenzi says that although the team is bringing back only a handful of starters on each side of the ball, there are plenty of players with experience from a season ago. One area that at a glance appears to be working through turnover is the offensive line, which loses four of five starters, but Kuenzi believes this year's group could be even better.
"We only bring back our starting center, " said Kuenzi, "but I think this year's group can be more athletic. We might play some juniors there, maybe even a sophomore."
Offensively, quarterback is the lone holdover from a season ago, where honorable mention all-Badger North Kendrick Jimenez will work again as a senior in 2018. However, every spot around him will have a fresh new face.
"James Brown had a pretty good year running on JV," Kuenzi said, talking about one of the potential candidates for the running back position. "We're expecting him to do some things for us this year." Kuenzi added Parker Leisses, who is the leading returning rusher to the backfield behind Jimenez, will be at the position as well.
On defense, Kuenzi isn't sure how it will shake out beyond all-conference defensive back Adam Bird. "He had a great year, he led the conference and was up there in the state in interceptions... he'll be one of our leaders back there." Bird had five interceptions in 2017.
Kuenzi, a longtime defensive coordinator at Beaver Dam, is excited about some of the position battles in camp, saying that there'll be competition for every spot. Ultimately, though, it'll be up to the coaches to figure out where the players fit the best.
On special teams, Max Wiersma returned a handful of kicks and punts last year, but the top two returners on the team form last year have graduated. In the kicking game, three players who put up punts last year will be back, including Jimenez, Miguel Lemus, and James Fletcher. Beaver Dam will be looking for a new kicker for the upcoming season, though, since last year's kicker graduated.
Kuenzi acknowledged that it's a challenge, after his first year in the conference, to go up against some of the longest-tenured and most successful coaches in the state. However, the first year in the Badger showed that Beaver Dam can compete, having made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 (and the first time in Kuenzi's head coaching career).
The crossover games take Beaver Dam to Watertown in Week 1, where Kuenzi was the head coach from 1999-2001, his first head coaching gig after his college football days were done at UW-Eau Claire. After that old Little Ten match-up, the Golden Beavers will host Fort Atkinson in the other crossover game.
Badger North play begins with a date at Baraboo before returning home for two big games, first against Mount Horeb/Barneveld and then against Reedsburg (in the Battle of the Beavers). The Golden Beavers will hit the road for September 21 to play Portage, then host DeForest in Week 7. October begins with a road game at Sauk Prairie before finishing the season against last year's D2 state champs, Waunakee, the team that beat them in Week 9 and then again the very next week in Level 1 en route to their state title.
Beaver Dam will play all of last year's top finishers in the Badger North at home this season as opposed to on the road last year in the two-year cycle of scheduling, as well as picking up a fourth home game in the schedule after only having three conference games at home in 2017.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Beaver Dam Golden Beavers head coach Steve Kuenzi:
Beaver Dam Golden Beavers - Badger North
Head Coach: Steve Kuenzi (5th Season at Beaver Dam, 8th Career), 12-25 (16-48) - Watertown HC 1999-2001 - 0-1 Playoffs
2017 Result: 4-6 (4-3) - 4th in the Badger North (Lost to Waunakee in Level 1 of the Division 2 Playoffs 57-0)
Three-Year Record: 10-18 (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 6 Honorable Mention (10 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 2 First-Team, 8 Second-Team, 12 Honorable Mention (22 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (2): DB/WR Adam Bird (2nd Team-DB), Sr.; QB/DB/P Kendrick Jimenez (HM-QB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: LB/K/P Miguel Lemus, Sr.; RB/DB Parker Leisses, Sr.; WR/DB Neil Braker, Sr.; RB/LB Colton Parson, Sr.; DL/OL Anthony Kuenzi, Sr.; OL/DL Ramiro Vazquez, Sr.; DL/OL Walker DeJager, Sr.; P/WR/LB James Fletcher, Sr.; RB/LB James Brown, Jr.; RB/LB Mitchell Graff, Jr.; WR/DB Max Wiersma, Jr.; OL/DL Noah Cook, Jr.; LB/OL Cody Gartland, Jr.; OL/DL Alex Thompson, Jr.; OL/DL Adam Firari, Jr.; LB/RB Andrew Rosado, Jr.; WR/LB Austin Huffman, Jr.
BIG Games: at Watertown, August 17; vs Mount Horeb/Barneveld, September 7; vs Reedsburg, September 14; vs DeForest, September 28; vs Waunakee, October 12