DeForest finished third in a tough Badger North last season, but that experience should pay off with eight all-conference players coming back for 2018, five of them on the offensive and defensive lines for the Norskies.
In terms of those guys coming back, DeForest coach Mike Minick says he'll have some solid returning leadership up front on both sides of the line.
"We build from there," said Minick. "That's where it all starts."
John Smozynski and Casey Faust man the interior offensive line, and both received all-conference honors last year. Defensively, Cole Schmidtkneckt, Beck Meyer, and Edwyn Erickson all picked up Badger North honors in 2017. They'll be joined "by a mix of juniors and younger guys" to fill in some of the roles vacated by graduating players.
Outside of fullback, which Minick says will have competition "between a couple of sophomores and a junior," the backfield returns mostly intact for the upcoming campaign. Evan Armstrong and Logan Hackl have both received all-conference honors, as has quarterback Trey Schroeder, who took over last season part-way through the year at the position. Wide receiver will see some competition, because outside of backs Armstrong and Hackl, nobody returning to the team caught a pass last season on varsity.
On defense, the three all-conference linemen plus linebacker Jared Stuttgen will provide depth in the front half, but like wide receiver on offense, the defensive backfield will be replacing several contributors from a season ago.
Special teams will also see some fresh faces, although Jagger Lokken was a freshman last year and kicked a handful of extra points for the Norskies.
DeForest has a difficult run for the first four weeks of the schedule against teams that have made the playoffs in the past couple of seasons. First, it's a game at Oregon, a game that coach Minick agreed was a match-up of teams that had plenty of similarities coming into the year. The second crossover game is against Monroe and their proficient ground game, and it'll double as the Norskies' home opener.
Badger North play begins with Reedsburg on August 31 at home. Then, it's The Big 1070's Madison Taxi Game of the Week when DeForest visits defending Division 2 state champion Waunakee on September 7 in Week 4. They'll complete a four-home-games-in-five-weeks stretch with games against Sauk Prairie and Baraboo following the Waunakee game.
The season finishes up road-home-road, visiting Beaver Dam and Portage in Weeks 7 and 9 sandwiched around the regular season home finale against Mount Horeb/Barneveld in Week 8.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with DeForest head coach Mike Minick:
DeForest Norskies - Badger North
Head Coach: Mike Minick (18th Season), 131-61 (19-17 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 6-4 (5-2), 3rd in the Badger North (Lost in Level 1 of the Division 2 playoffs to Slinger, 20-7)
Three-Year Record: 17-14 (1-3 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 9 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (17 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 9 First-Team, 19 Second-Team, 20 Honorable Mention (48 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (8): G/DL John Smozynski (2nd Team-OL), Sr.; RB/DB Logan Hackl (HM-RB; 2nd Team-WR in 2016), Sr.; OL/DL Casey Faust (HM-OL), Sr.; DE/WR Beck Meyer (HM-DL), Sr.; OL/DL Cole Schmidtknecht (HM-DL), Sr.; RB/DB Evan Armstrong (2nd Team-RB), Jr.; OL/DL Edwyn Erickson (2nd Team-DL), Jr.; QB/DB Trey Schroeder (HM-QB), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: LB/RB Jarrett Stuttgen, Sr.; DB/QB Cole Beyer, Sr.; RB/LB Alex Endres, Jr.; K Jagger Lokken, So.
BIG Games: at Oregon, August 17; at Waunakee, September 7 (🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week); vs Mount Horeb/Barneveld, October 5