Waunakee's run ended on a narrow loss in Level 4 against Brookfield Central last year. The Warriors re-load for 2019 behind 10 returning all-conference players, but face a difficult set of games in the regular season this year.
Waunakee gave Brookfield Central all they could handle in the cold and the snow at Oconomowoc in 2018, but came up just short. Last year's team went 12-1 and continued the long run of success that the Warriors have been on under head coach Pat Rice, who enters his 28th season at the helm of a program he's guided to a 286-40 record.
In 2018, Waunakee earned 15 first-team all-conference selections, and has had 46 over the past three years, more than the rest of the Badger North combined.
While the Warriors graduate a ton of talent, they bring back most of their stifling defense from 2018. That's led by a trio of first-team all-conference picks, Gaje Hughes, Jeb Frey, and Lawson Ludwig. Alec Morgan, Joe Hauser, and Jacob May also earned second-team honors and will also return, giving Waunakee over half of its defense back that earned all-conference recognition in 2018. Defensive linemen Zach Esser and Sam Myers will step into larger roles this season up front, with linebackers Alex Brehmer and Max Raemisch also returning. All four of those players notched at least one tackle for a loss in 2018.
Offensively, Will Ross is back at running back. He's joined by Forrest Anderson at guard, Thomas Meffert at tackle, and Caden Lewis at receiver as all-conference picks back in the fold for this year. Despite losing 17 players to graduation that earned some form of postseason honor, the Warriors appear well-stocked coming back for 2019.
Caden Nelson, a junior, is the returning letterwinner at quarterback, and he'll have to step into the shoes of Jarrett Wulf, who had a successful 2018 season leading the Warriors to Level 4. In limited action, Nelson threw for two scores and ran for two more last year.
On special teams, Lawson Ludwig and Alec Morgan fielded returns last year. Jeb Frey is back to punt, and the long snapper-holder battery is back with Wyatt Ziegler and Jacob May respectively. The Warriors do have to replace two outstanding kickers.
Coach Pat Rice told media that the strength is in the returning players for this year's team, but they will need others to step up around them in order to have success this season.
The opening game against Monona Grove (a rematch of the Level 3 game won by Waunakee handily) will be broadcast on The Big 1070. From there, Waunakee will see Stoughton before entering Badger North play. Mount Horeb/Barneveld is at Warrior Stadium on Septembr 13, before Waunakee finishes up with four of five on the road. The lone home game is Week 8, Homecoming against Portage. The Warriors will face DeForest in Week 9 on the road, a potential conference championship game. Last year, DeForest pushed Waunakee to the limit in Level 2, but the Warriors held on for a one-score victory. This game will also be broadcast on The Big 1070.
Head Coach: Pat Rice (28th Season), 286-40 Overall (State Champion 1999, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017), WFCA Hall of Fame 2014
2018 Result: 12-1 (7-0), 🏆1st in the Badger North (Lost in Level 4 of the Division 2 playoffs to Brookfield Central, 20-13)
Three-Year Record: 36-2 (9-2 Playoffs)
2018 All-Conference Honors: 15 First-Team, 7 Second-Team, 3 Honorable Mention (25 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 46 First-Team, 24 Second-Team, 10 Honorable Mention (80 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (10): DL Gaje Hughes (1T-DL) ((WSN-DL 🏈), Sr.; LB/P Jeb Frey (1T-LB) (WSN-ER 🏈), Sr; S Lawson Ludwig (1T-DB) (WSN-DB 🏈), Sr.; G Forrest Anderson (2T-OL) (WSN-OL 🏈), Sr.; RB Will Ross (2T-RB) (WSN-RB 🏈), Sr.; LB Joe Hauser (2T-LB) (WSN-LB 🏈), Sr.; CB Jacob May (2T-DB) (WSN-DB 🏈), Sr.; WR Caden Lewis (HM-WR), Sr.; S Alec Morgan (HM-DB), Sr.; T Thomas Meffert (HM-OL), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: WR Jordan Wuensch (WSN-WR 🏈), Sr.; TE Hayden Blang, Sr.; OL Nick Smith, Sr; OL Ben Benusa, Sr.; OL Ian Lange, Sr.; LS/OL Wyatt Ziegler, Sr.; RB Cole Mobley, sr.; WR David Kienow, Sr.; DL Sam Myers, Sr.; DL Zach Esser, Sr.; LB Alex Brehmer, Sr.; QB Caden Nelson, Jr.; QB/RB Drake Andreson, Jr.; RB John Kittoe, Jr.; LB Max Raemisch, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Monona Grove, August 23 (🔊The Big 1070 Broadcast); vs Mount Horeb/Barneveld, September 13; vs Portage, October 11 (Homecoming); at DeForest, October 18 (🔊The Big 1070 Broadcast)