Badgers will rely on returning quarterback to lead team

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

The Badger High School football team shared the Southern Lakes Conference title last year with Waterford, made it to the state semi-final Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Associationi playoff game for the second time in school history and finished 10-3.

The bad news for this season is that the Badgers lost leading rusher Tyler VanDeVelde and some of his supporting cast to graduation. VanDeVelde scored 15 touchdowns and rushed for 1,546 yards, the most yardage gained in a season during Coach Matt Henseler’s 10 years at the helm for the Badgers. VanDeVelde was also the SLC player of the year.

Badger has also lost Christian Martinez, who rushed for 405 yards, and Patrick Quinn, who rushed for 192 yards, to graduation.

The good news for the Badgers is that senior quarterback Mason DuMez is back. DuMez rushed for 697 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for another 494 yards and four touchdowns.

“Any time you have your quarterback back, it is good,” Hensler said. “He is pretty talented and is dynamite in understanding what we are trying to do. He is so smart.”

Hensler said DuMez has gotten faster and stronger since last season, and he will have to lead an offense that lacks the experience last year’s squad had. Hensler said DuMez has to succeed in doing three things for the Badger offense to click – getting the offense into the right play, getting the ball to the right people and making plays himself. Hensler said the team will lean on DuMez a lot this year.

Of course opposing teams will know that as well, so finding some running backs to fill the void left by VanDeVelde and Martinez will be key. Patrick Watrous, who rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries last season, returns and will have the opportunity to lead a running-back-by-committee approach. Hensler said juniors Will Keller, Austin Flower, Nick Aufmuth, Adam Gallagher, Keegan Lafferty, Nick Bladel and senior Cody Wrzesinski will be in the mix as well.

Hensler said the lack of experience at running back won’t change what the Badgers try to do on offense. He said the familiar triple option offense will remain the primary offense, but he hinted that a few wrinkles could be added this year to take advantage of DuMez’s talents.

“Mason is the type of kid that can take advantage of things,” Hensler said. “He has a great arm, he sees things so well, he makes good decisions on the run. That will allow us to use the back end of the playbook more often.”

The offensive line will also have something to say about how much success the Badger offense will have. Hensler said the line will have a lot of young guys and others who are being moved around to find the best fit in a group of eight to 12.

“We will see who rises to the top,” he said. “We are waiting for someone to assert themselves, and that will help us determine our identity.”

Hensler said it is too early to know if the line will be small and athletic like it was last year, bigger or a combination of both. He said both types of linemen are in the mix. The Badgers will miss linemen Nick Halpin and Cole Mikrut. Hensler said he is looking to seniors Matt Szeszol and Andrew Glass to step up. Juniors Sam Kaider, Sarek Hoerth and Alex Evans are among the candidates to fill out the line. Junior Angelo Camalieri will contribute at tight end.

“It starts up front,” Hensler said. “The offensive line will have to help out.”

Hensler said DuMez can do a lot on his own, but he cannot break 10 tackles per play. He said the line will have to do its job and be physical for the offense to succeed.

“We have to smash people,” he said. “That will be our big test and challenge.”

On defense, Hensler said the team will miss linebacker Mick Borchert and defensive lineman Akil Jackson and he said much of the secondary will be new. The front seven on the defensive line, Hensler said, have looked good and solid so far. Szeszol returns as a third-year starter on the line, and Evans saw some action in some very important games last season.

Hensler said senior Jose Garcia, at 6 feet 5 inches and 265 pounds, has also looked good.

“He had a tough time early in his career, now is his year to shine,” Hensler said.

Hensler said linebackers John Bowen, Ryan Sproul and Nathan Gibson are an experienced group. Hensler said he is still looking for the right fit in the secondary, and he is giving several players an opportunity to win time there. He said how well the secondary can cover in the passing game will be a big key in how successful the defense can be.

The Badgers open the season on Friday at Kenosha Tremper and then host Kenosha Bradford on Aug. 26. Hensler said he purposely schedules non-conference games against large schools that will help prepare the Badgers for the conference season and the post-season. Bradford is the largest school in Wisconsin.

Hensler said he and his coaches will use those two games to get film on players in game situations and look for ways to get better. Hensler said many coaches believe the biggest jump a team can make is between weeks one and two, and his team needs to make that kind of jump against two very good opponents.

The Badgers’ success last year came after going 4-6 the year before. Hensler credited that to the 4-6 team being very young and growing up a lot together and producing great results last year. He said the team had a great group of seniors in 2014 but not very many of them, so the team was forced to play a boatload of juniors. Those juniors were experienced returning varsity veterans last year.

Hensler said the goals for this year are the same as they always are – compete for a conference championship and get into the playoffs.

“We have to take care of conference play first,” he said.

That will be no easy task this year. Hensler said the SLC is the best it has been in years by a huge margin.

“Whoever wins it will do some damage in the post-season,” Hensler said.

Waterford was undefeated going into the last SLC game of the season last year before the Badgers took the team down to clinch a share of the SLC championship. The Wolverines, Hensler said, will be good, big, fast and nasty this year.

Hensler said Wilmot and Burlington are loaded, Delavan-Darien had three of the best players in southeastern Wisconsin, Elkhorn has about eight three-year starters returning, and Union Grove has one of the best quarterbacks in the state.

“There could be a heck of a football team that does not make the playoffs this year,” Hensler said.

DuMez will have a lot to say about the Badgers not being that team.

 

 
 

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