Baraboo won one game in 2017: their season finale, against rival Reedsburg, in the latest edition of the longest-running rivalry in the state of Wisconsin. Now, with a loaded senior class, the Thunderbirds set out to move up the standings in the difficult Badger North in 2018.
It won't be easy, however, as in the second year of the current Badger football scheduling cycle, the Thunderbirds will again take on Monona Grove and Stoughton. The teams combined for three losses total last season, one of them when the Silver Eagles topped the Vikings.
That's okay by fifth-year head coach Steve Turkington. "I think you get better playing the Waunakees, the Monona Groves of the world," he said. "You sort of see what it takes to get to that level."
Because of the very difficult schedule, in which the top two teams in each conference went 9-0 and 8-1, the record can be a little deceiving, says Turkington. He also credits his team last year for sticking with it, which resulted, after some tough losses during the season, in a victory over their biggest rival in the season finale.
Now, the team sets their sights on taking that momentum from the final game of last season into the upcoming campaign. "It doesn't show up on the all-conference lists much from last year," said Turkington, referencing his lone returning all-conference player, linebacker Gabe Larson, "but with the guys we have coming back, I think we'll put some guys on it this season."
Some of those guys include highly-touted tight end prospect Caden Blum, who also starts at defensive end for the Thunderbirds. He was rated one of the top tight ends in the state by WisSports.net for the 2019 class, and will start both ways, said Turkington. Coach Turkington's son, Brock, will return to start at quarterback as well.
An area that Turkington (the coach, and probably the player too) is particularly excited about is the offensive line. In addition to returning incoming seniors Matt Gust and Joe Schick, Turkington says they've got some younger players coming up from JV that should add some beef up front. "We should average about 250 pounds on the lines this year," he added.
The JV squad, which had some success last season, will also restock the roster with some talent to supplement a talented senior class, particularly along the edges. The team welcomes back both starting safeties, Michael Wech, who is also one of Baraboo's top hockey athletes and figures to be a primary ball carrier on offense, and Pablo Ramirez. Their top receiver, Alex Brown, is back in the fold. Depth should be good along the defensive line with seniors Brady Quinn and Colton Terry in addition to Blum on the end.
Special teams will include the return of Graham Langkamp, the now-junior kicker who booted Baraboo to victory in the big win over Reedsburg last season.
It'll be another difficult schedule to manage for Baraboo this season, which will include both Badger Conference champions, both Badger Conference runners-up, and of course, the rest of the Badger North. The tough draw again this year will have the Thunderbirds taking on Monona Grove in the opener, but at home this year, before heading down to Stoughton on August 24 in the two Badger crossover games.
Badger North play begins with a home game on August 31 against Beaver Dam, and that's followed up by their penultimate home game of the season on September 7 against Portage. From there, Baraboo plays four of their final five games on the road, beginning with Mount Horeb/Barneveld on September 14th.
After traveling to DeForest for Week 6, Baraboo's Homecoming and final home game will be against Sauk Prairie on September 28. The Thunderbirds will visit defending state champion Waunakee on October 5 before wrapping up the season with the next iteration of the longest-running rivalry in the state of Wisconsin, a road game at Reedsburg. Last year, Baraboo kicked a late field goal for their only win of the season, a 17-14 victory over the Beavers.
Here's The Big 1070's interview with Baraboo Thunderbirds head coach Steve Turkington:
Baraboo Thunderbirds - Badger North
Head Coach: Steve Turkington (5th Season), 7-30 Overall
2017 Result: 1-8 (1-6), 7th in the Badger North
Three-Year Record: 5-22
2017 All-Conference Honors: 0 First-Team, 1 Second-Team, 1 Honorable Mention (2 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 1 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (12 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (1): LB/RB Gabe Larson (HM-LB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: TE/DE Caden Blum [🏈 WSN], Sr.; QB/DB Brock Turkington, Sr.; RB/S Michael Wech, Sr.; WR/DB Alex Brown, Sr.; WR/S Pablo Ramirez, Sr.; FB/LB Joe Zemanovic, Sr.; OL/DL Matt Gust, Sr.; OL/DL Joe Schick, Sr.; DE/OL Brady Quinn, Sr.; DL/OL Colton Terry, Sr.; K Graham Langkamp, Jr.; FB/LB Tyson Fry, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Monona Grove, August 17; vs Sauk Prairie, September 28 (Homecoming); at Waunakee, October 5; at Reedsburg, October 12
Information from WisSports.net was used in this preview. Visit WisSports.net for everything you need to gear up for the high school sports season.