After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2016, a large exodus of graduating players pushed Janesville Parker down the Big 8 standings a bit in 2017. 2018 may be even more challenging, as only a handful of starters return to the Vikings program.
"I'll definitely not lie about last season, it was definitely disappointing," said head coach Clayton Kreger. "But, I'm proud of how our guys responded, getting after it this offseason, training more than they ever have in the past. I'm looking forward to seeing our younger guys this year."
While a large senior class will take the practice fields this fall, there's not much experience within the group.
"I think we have three, possibly four returning starters both offense and defense," said Kreger. "It's kind of fun though, because jobs are wide open."
In terms of personnel, Kreger said he would like to get back to leaning on their lines. He also said every position is up for grabs, which is exciting.
Offensively, Casey Vanderlinden is back after finishing 2017 second on the team in rushing, but only seven other total carries return to the backfield. Also, there's no clear favorite at quarterback, as nobody returns to the 2018 squad having thrown a varsity pass. Brody Lippens was second on the team in receiving, but outside of Vanderlinden (six catches out of the backfield), only one other pass was caught by a receiving player. The line will be mostly rebuilt as well.
The news isn't great defensively in terms of returning, established players. Jakob Barlass racked up 52 tackles (leading the Vikings with four tackles for a loss), and Toby Garvoille was fourth on the team in stops with a fumble recovery to his credit, but those are the only two players who finished in the top 15 in tackles a season ago for Parker.
Lippens returned more kicks than any Viking in 2017, and lineman Nathan White attempted one extra point last year, but special teams will also see plenty of new faces due to graduation.
Parker's schedule is unusual in that it has both a three-game road trip and a three-game homestand. The season opens up with a single home game, against Verona, before the Vikings set out for (technically) a three-game road trip. Their first game of this stretch is The Battle for the Monterey Rock against Janesville Craig, but it's played at Parker's home field. However, the bus gets warmed up for a trip up to Sun Prairie on August 31 and then to Madison La Follette in Week 4.
A true three-game homestand ensues witih Madison East, Middleton, and Madison West all coming to Janesville to round out September. The Vikings will finish the regular season with road games in October against Madison Memorial and Beloit Memorial in Weeks 8 and 9.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Janesville Parker head coach and AD Clayton Kreger:
Janesville Parker Vikings - Big Eight
Head Coach: Clayton Kreger (4th Season), 9-19 Overall (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 1-9 (1-8), 9th in the Big 8 (Lost Plus-One game to Waukesha South 34-20)
Three-Year Record: 9-20 (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 0 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (6 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 8 First-Team, 7 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (30 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (0): None
Other Players To Watch: RB/LB Casey Vanderlinden, Sr.; WR/DB/ST Brody Lippens, Sr.; WR/DB Tremar Curry, Sr.; WR/DB John Bowers, Sr.; OL/DL Jakob Barlass, Sr.; OL/DL Dylan Haggerty, Sr.; OL/DL Cole McQuillen, Sr.; LB/RB Toby Garvoille, Sr.; LB/RB Bryce Dyer, Sr.; LB/TE Joel Struebin, Sr.; OL/DL Nic Graffin, Sr.; OL/DL Nathan Davis, Sr.; RB/LB Luke Roca, Sr.; WR/DB Andrew Meyers, Sr.; OL/DL/K Nathan White, Jr.; TE/OL Bryce Heerey, Jr.
BIG Games: at Janesville Craig, August 24 (The Battle for the Monterey Rock); vs Madison East, September 14; at Beloit Memorial, October 12