After earning a conference title in 2015 and making the playoffs in 2016, the Pirates missed the postseason last year. For this season, Waterloo will have a new head coach as the program attempts to return to the top of the Capitol South.
Aaron Erickson, Waterloo's athletic director and former wrestling coach, was an assistant football coach at the school, so it's not like he's stepping into a brand-new setting. "It's something I definitely wanted to do," said Erickson. "I have a passion for the sport of football."
Erickson's wrestling background should serve him well coaching football players. "I think there's a ton that correlates with footwork and using your hands as linemen and linebackers," said Erickson. "I definitely see a strong correlation [between the sports]."
Since he's been around most of the student-athletes, Erickson won't be unfamiliar to the players. However, as head coach, he wants to establish consistency and discipline. "That way, we can build and build as the weeks go on," added Erickson.
In terms of the roster makeup, it's a nearly complete reset. "We've got to get the best 11 guys on the field any way possible." Erickson noted that it could require position changes, especially at spots where there are several players stacked up, to fill roles elsewhere on the field.
There are only a handful of seniors coming back, as the team was very sophomore- and senior-dominated last year. That being said, there's experience at the varsity level for several players, including first-team all-conference running back and edge player Matthew Mankowski, one of the few seniors on the team. Defensive back and wide receiver Spencer Noel made the Capitol South's second team as a defensive back, and sophomore Blake Huebner will be in the mix for a starting backfield spot as well as punting duties, in addition to making the conference's honorable mention ranks a season ago.
Waterloo's schedule, like every team in the Capitol South, is more non-conference than conference games. The Pirates kick off the year with three straight road games, first at Poynette of the Capitol North. Then, Waterloo heads over to Palmyra-Eagle, before finishing up their August road trip with a Thursday game at Wautoma in Week 3.
A big game against Luther Prep of the Capitol North looms on September 7, and that game will be the home opener for the Pirates. Then, Waterloo plays their entire conference schedule in four weeks. They'll face Cambridge on the road on September 14 before coming back home for back-to-back games against Belleville and Marshall (the latter is Homecoming), and then finish up Capitol South play with a road game against New Glarus/Monticello in Week 8. The Pirates finish the regular season with a non-conference home game against Fennimore on October 12.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Waterloo Pirates head coach Aaron Erickson:
Waterloo Pirates - Capitol South
Head Coach: Aaron Erickson (1st Season)
2017 Result: 3-6 (1-3), 4th in the Capitol South
Three-Year Record: 14-16 (1-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 3 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 3 Honorable Mention (11 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 16 First-Team, 12 Second-Team, 8 Honorable Mention (36 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (3): HB/DB/K/P Mathew Mankowski (1st Team-RB and 2nd Team-DL), Sr.; WR/DB Spencer Noel (2nd Team-DB), Sr.; FB/QB/LB/P Blake Huebner (HM-LB), So.
Other Players To Watch: RB/LB Jason Perez, Sr.; WR/DB Aaron Brey, Sr.; OL/DL Riley Ritter, Sr.; QB/DB Andrew Seelye, Jr.; QB/DB Chase Bostwick, Jr.; RB/LB Abdon Tonche-Aguero, Jr.; FB/LB Daniel Aguero, Jr.; FB/DT Jacob Filter, Jr.; WR/DB Earnest Jiles, Jr.; WR/DB Cody Kegler, Jr.; OL/DL Mason Mosher, Jr.; OL/DL Jesse Nitka, Jr.; OL/DL Loius Sanchez, Jr.; WR/DB Elisha Strand, So.
Non-conference schedule: at Poynette, August 17; at Palmyra-Eagle, August 24; at Wautoma, August 30; vs Luther Prep, September 7; vs Fennimore, October 12