Monona Grove fell short in their bid to return to state, falling in Level 3 of the playoffs in 2017, and will lose a small but talented group of seniors led by all-state quarterback Alec Ogden. The Badger South looks challenging again in 2018, but the cupboard is far from bare.
With eight returning all-conference honorees, including four players on the first team and the co-defensive player of the year in the Badger South a season ago (linebacker Trenton Herber), the Silver Eagles will have plenty to work with in 2018, a season after picking up the program's 400th all-time win.
Like most teams, coach Brandon Beckwith says it starts up front. "We bring back three starters," said Beckwith, noting that first-team all-conference linemen Michael Williams-Davis and Nathan Wilcox are back, as well as honorable mention honoree Max Hengst. "They'll lead the way up front for us."
On the flip side, Williams-Davis, who plays nose tackle in certain packages, will be back on the defensive line, along with returning starters Sam Gronski and Reece Barker. Linebacker should be a position of depth, said Beckwith, led by the return of Herber and Ethan Beehner, as well as several players who recorded playing time at the position in 2017.
The skill positions will see the most turnover. Defensively, there are a few holdovers, such as first-team all-conference defensive back Jalen Ostrowsky, returning starting corner Payton Spaulding, safety Tijis Santiago, and defensive back Jordan Bishop (who will take over as starting quarterback), but on offense, Beckwith says they'll have to step up to cover for the talented group of seniors who graduated.
"We'll have competition there," said Beckwith. "Sam Hepp is a guy who got in there last year, who will have to step up and lead us." Beckwith added Spaulding and other defensive regulars might be tasked with playing offense as well, at least in the early going, and mentioned that Trenton Herber could be the starting tight end, replacing Lucas Gerlach.
Of course, the big question is how the Silver Eagles replace all-state quarterback Alec Ogden, and this season, it will be Jordan Bishop, a multi-sport athlete who contributed mostly on defense last year. Bishop, who waited in the wings while Ogden ran amok through defenses the past few years, will try to lead one of the most productive offenses in the state the past two seasons.
Running back could have any number of players in the rotation, as the Silver Eagles have to replace another impressive player there in Jackson Thomsen.
"We've got some guys with really good potential," said Beckwith. "We've got some guys that could make some position changes, so those players can step in. We're a little inexperienced."
Monona Grove will play on the road for their two Badger crossover games, against two squads that look to be improved from a season ago. First up is Baraboo, followed by a trip to Portage. The Silver Eagles play their first home game of the season on August 31, when they host conference challenger Oregon in the Badger South opener, which will be broadcast on The Big 1070 as our Madison Taxi Game of the Week.
After a road game at Breese Stevens against Edgewood, Monona Grove will return home for a pair of games against Fort Atkinson and Monroe in Weeks 5 and 6. The Silver Eagles finish the month of September at Milton for their Homecoming.
In Week 8, on October 5, Monona Grove's Homecoming will be a rematch of last year's Badger South championship game, when the Stoughton Vikings visit John Klement Stadium. The regular season wraps up at Watertown on October 12.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Monona Grove Silver Eagles coach Brandon Beckwith:
Monona Grove Silver Eagles - Badger South
Head Coach: Brandon Beckwith (4th Season), 31-6 Overall (7-3 Playoffs; 2016)
2017 Result: 11-1 (7-0), 🏆1st in the Badger South (Lost in Level 3 of the Division 2 playoffs to Waukesha West, 28-7)
Three-Year Record: 31-6 (7-3 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 12 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (22 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 24 First-Team, 14 Second-Team, 25 Honorable Mention (63 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (8): LB/RB Trenton Herber [🏈 WSN] (🏅co-Defensive Player of the Year) (1st Team-LB), Sr.; DB/WR Jalen Ostrowski [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-DB), Sr.; T/NT Michael Williams-Davis [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-OL), Sr.; LB/RB/ST Ethan Beenher (HM-LB), Sr.; WR Sam Hepp (HM-WR), Sr.; G Max Hengst (HM-OL), Sr.; DL Sam Gronski (HM-DL), Sr.; G Nathan Wilcox (1st Team-OL), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Jordan Bishop, Sr.; CB/WR/ST Payton Spalding, Sr.; DT Reece Barker, Sr.; S/WR Tijis Santiago, Sr.; TE/LB/LS Daunte McConley, Sr.; FB/LB Ryan Hinaus, Sr.; RB/LB/ST Shane Duncan, Sr; RB/LB Noah Khamphouy, Sr.; DL Trenton Gothard, Sr.; DB London Rice, Sr.; DL Benny Fluke, Sr.; DL Evan Schoenfeld, Sr.; DL Cole Bestman, Sr.; LB Camden Sisler, Sr.; DB/WR Semaj Nururdin, Sr.; DB Hunter Meyers, Sr.; DB Jack Swart, Sr.; WR/K Carter Tomczak, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Oregon, August 31 (🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week); vs Monroe, September 21; vs Stoughton, October 5 (Homecoming)