As football kickoff inches closer around the country, MaxPreps forecasts the top five teams in the state of Wisconsin for the 2009 season.
Graduation hit the Kimberly Papermakers hard this year, as they lost conference MVPs Jayme Wells (WR), Clinton Heckner (OT) and A.J. Klein (LB). However, Kimberly has one of the best traditions in Wisconsin and has a 28-game winning streak it would like to keep intact.
Among the 11 all-conference first-team picks for the Papermakers, only two return, and they are both on defense. Mike Hardy (6-5, 260) was a unanimous pick at defensive end while Colten Heagle earned the nod at safety. Matt Craggs (6-6, 200) received second-team honors at linebacker while Logan Hietpas (6-3, 190) was an honorable mention selection at defensive end.
While the defense should be solid, the offense does not return any skill players with substantial playing time from a group that scored 632 total points last season.
Arrowhead (13-1) has reached the Division I state championship three straight times, winning one of those contests, and there’s no reason to believe that the Warriors can’t make a run at a fourth straight appearance. Arrowhead has one of the state’s top rushers in Brian Cook, who ran for 1,241 yards and 26 touchdowns last year and has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his two varsity seasons.
Additionally, Tom Parish, who has committed to Minnesota, returns at quarterback after throwing for 794 yards and nine scores and rushing for 583 yards and eight more touchdowns. The Warriors also have a pair of linemen to watch in center Jason Boemer and Brad Fisher.
Two of the team’s best defenders return in first-team all-conference linebacker Matt Boerner and junior defensive back Jordan Pendergast.
Homestead won the Division I state title for the second time in three seasons, beating Arrowhead on both occasions. The Highlanders have actually reached the championship game three years in a row, but duplicating last year’s 14-0 mark won’t be easy. The Highlanders lose conference defensive MVP Ben Gardner and will also have to replace all-conference running back Aric Daniels on offense.
Lucas Speaker, an all-conference linebacker, will take over the role of top defensive player for Homestead while all-conference second-team running back Bryan Bronaugh will receive the bulk of the carries this year. He ran for 577 yards and eight touchdowns on just 65 carries last year.
Other players to watch include Brodie Brown on the offensive line and junior kicker Matt Stern.
The Comets have won 10 or more games four times since 2002, including a 14-0 finish last year that ended with a Division III state championship. Waupaca outscored opponents 515-98 last year and averaged close to 40 points a game in conference play.
The Comets lose QB Brock Jensen and LB James DeYoung, each of whom earned league MVP honors last year in the Eastern Valley Conference. The line might be Waupaca’s strength to start the season, with Derrick Minton and Matt Volkman both returning after all-conference performances last year on both sides of the ball.
The only other returning all-conference selection is Zach Litchfield, a unanimous choice at kicker.
Although Edgar is a small school playing in Division VI, the Wildcats will be a fun team to watch this year thanks to the return of Marawood Conference MVP Justin Sinz. The 6-4, 220-pound quarterback threw for 1,384 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. He was also an all-conference safety and was the league’s best kicker.
Sinz will have a number of familiar faces surrounding him this year, as eight returning starters are back on offense and six more on defense. The defense should be a bright spot, with all-conference selections Sam Lemmer (DE) and Andy Borchardt (LB) both returning along with second-team choice Doug Wagner (DE) and honorable mention picks Dylan Lepak (LB) and Nick Steinke (LB).
Edgar won its first 13 games of the season last year before falling in the state championship game.