Wayland Academy's transition to 11-player football was completed in 2017, the boarding school's first season in a conference after years playing in 8-player football. The next step? Finding a way into the win column for the first time since 2013.
The 29-game losing streak is one of the state's longest (third-longest, according to WisSports.net), spanning two levels of football in Wisconsin, two conferences, and an independent year. The Big Red came close to snapping the streak in their season opener in 2017, but lost by 14 to Cambria-Friesland, after battling back to within a score in the third quarter.
Because it's a boarding school, Wayland Academy doesn't play non-conference games, instead beginning practice around the same time most other schools in the state are watching film of their scrimmages. The ability to play a full conference schedule while also being able to start practice closer to the start of school, when students arrive, was one of the main benefits of the program's move to 11-player football after the 2015 season.
Wayland Academy principal Craig Hill takes over as head coach, as the Big Red return several significant contributors from last season and make their run at snapping the streak. Middle linebacker and leading rusher Gracien Jules is back for his senior year, as is top quarterback and linebacker Abraham Luedtke. Second-leading rusher, fullback Zhixing Sun, is returning as well.
Longtime head coach Craig Hill is back for the first time since stepping down after the 2013 season, when he became the Academic Dean of Wayland Academy. Hill coached the team from 1996-1999 in the WISAA, missing the playoffs in those four years, before leading the program through several transitions in the 2000s, including a brief period as an independent and the program's move to 8-player football. Hill coached the Big Red to the WIAA playoffs in 2007 and 2008.
The Trailways-Small is a pretty loaded conference again in 2018, so the Big Red will have to navigate three difficult road games on their seven-game schedule, against defending conference champ Fall River (Week 2) and challengers Deerfield (Week 4) and Johnson Creek (Week 7, Thursday, October 11). Wayland Academy will open with a home afternoon game against Cambria-Friesland on August 31, with a Friday afternoon contest against Lourdes Academy on September 14 before hosting games on back-to-back Saturday afternoons against Rio (September 29) and Randolph (October 6).
Wayland Academy Big Red (Beaver Dam) - Trailways-Small
Head Coach: Craig Hill (19th Season, 1st in Current Stint), 44-67 (WIAA only) (0-2 Playoffs) - WISAA record unknown (4 Seasons) - partial overall record based on available online data
2017 Result: 0-7 (0-7), 8th in the Trailways-Small
Three-Year Record: 0-22
2017 All-Conference Honors: 0 First-Team, 1 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (1 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 0 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (4 total)
Returning All-Conference Players: None
Other Players To Watch: RB/LB Gracien Jules, Sr.; QB/LB Abraham Luedtke, Sr.; FB Zhixing Sun, Sr.; OL/Edge Adam Rubinchik, Sr.; CB/RB Ruiyang Wu, Sr.; S/TE Abdul Aabed Ghayur, Sr.; LB/TE Sy Laroda, Sr.; OL/DL Chang-Jui Chen, Sr.; OL/DL Chang-Yu Chen, Sr.; DT/OL Ruiyang Huang, Sr.; G/DT Yicheng Lu, Sr.; RB/S Charles Eubanks, Jr.; TE/CB Moritz Prause, Jr.; OL/DL Robert Stenzel, Jr.; RB Nawaf Altallaa, So.; OL/DT Gabe Goldade, So.; OL/DT Tyler Hampton, So.; WR/CB Isaac Eubanks, So.
BIG Games: vs Cambria-Friesland, August 31; vs Rio, September 29; vs Randolph, October 6
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.