2017 was a bounce-back year for the Cambridge Blue Jays, who tied for a conference championship and advanced to the playoffs. Those results will be among the goals for Cambridge in the 2018 season, as they bring back a good chunk of their core from last year, including eight players who made all-conference.
While last year's seniors set the tone and made major contributions, like quarterback/defensive back Spencer DeForest, coach Mike Klingbeil is optimistic about 2018.
"We've got a lot of players back," he said. "We don't have the biggest kids, but they play hard and they fight."
With four first-team all-conference selections in the fold, Klingbeil said the leadership came from a pretty experienced group of returning players, citing their honors last season. He added that some of his players have been playing since they were sophomores or freshmen.
While Cambridge graduates a good part of their offensive and defensive line rotation, there's still a half-dozen or so players in the mix on each side that earned playing time in 2018, including both starting guards and two starting defensive linemen.
The Capitol South as a whole appears loaded again in 2018 so Klingbeil knows it'll be a battle.
"We expect that," he said. "When you only have four conference games, each one is more important."
With five non-conference games, Cambridge will have their work cut out for them, as they will take on three teams that made the playoffs last year and two more who saw their playoff hopes end with a Week 9 loss. First up is Brookfield Academy in week one, a road trip, followed up by a visit to the north with Cochrane-Fountain City. A three-game homestand kicks off August 31 against Horicon/Hustisford, with Wisconsin Dells and the conference opener with Waterloo also part of the home slate.
Then, it's three road games. An interesting September 21 game takes the Blue Jays to Darlington to battle the Redbirds, a team that could be a future conference opponent in the SWAL should the current configuration of the WFCA's football-only conference proposal go through. This was a one-point game last year.
September 28 is a road game against one of the other Capital South champions, Belleville, in a rematch of a game last year that took a fourth-quarter stop to preserve a Blue Jays victory. October 5 has Cambridge in Marshall before wrapping up the regular season with Homecoming against the other Capital South champion, New Glarus/Monticello.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Cambridge Blue Jays coach and AD Mike Klingbeil:
Cambridge Blue Jays - Capitol South
Head Coach: Mike Klingbeil (12th Season), 68-54 Overall (8-7 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 6-4 (3-1) - 🏆1st in Capitol South (Lost in Level 1 of the Division 6 playoffs to Manitowoc Lutheran, 39-14)
Three-Year Record: 16-15 (2-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 8 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 1 Honorable Mention (14 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 17 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 4 Honorable Mention (32 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (8): RB/CB/K Riley Olson [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-RB) Sr.; WR/DB/ST Rudy Hommen (1st Team-WR; 2nd Team-DB in 2016), Sr.; QB/TE/LB Denver Evans (1st Team-LB), Sr.; LB/FB Camden Eagan (2nd Team-LB in 2017 and 2016; HM-RB in 2016), Sr.; WR/DB/P/ST Bailey Furseth (2nd Team-WR), Sr.; OL/DE Kaden Grieser (2nd Team-DE), Sr.; TE/DL/LS Jordan Marty (1st Team-TE; HM-TE in 2016), Jr.; K/P/WR/DB Ben Incha (HM-K), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: G/DL Luke Hellmich, Sr.; G/LB Carter Joyce, Sr.; DL/OL Alex Brende, Sr.; DL/OL Blake Gieck, Sr.; RB/LB Tyler Curtis, Jr.; LB/FB Aiden Ciha, Jr.; DB/QB Andrew Downing, Jr.; DL/OL Austin Donnelly, Jr.; DB/WR Chris Frey, Jr.; DL/OL Ryan Lund, So.; LB/WR/K Ezra Stein, So.