Warhawks wide receiver Tyler Huber, a preseason first-team All-American, will be among many expected to lead the way in 2012. (Bob Mischka photo)

By Dan Truttschel

Correspondent

The focus and goals for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team never change from year to year.

And rarely does the Warhawks’ run of success – the proof is in the numbers.

Whitewater enters the 2012 campaign as the three-time defending NCAA Division III champions after a 2011 season that saw it finish at 15-0 overall.

With another championship banner in place, now the Warhawks at back at work as they prepare to hold off the competition and make another run.

So far, so good, fifth-year head coach Lance Leipold said.

“Our guys have been working hard through our fall camp,” he said. “We’re just trying to get a little better a day at a time find replacements for some of our departed guys from last season.”

Leipold, who has an amazing 72-3 overall record in his five years at the helm, said he and his team embrace the past successes, but at the same time, every year presents a bunch of new challenges.

And it’s up to everybody involved to take those challenges head on, he said.

“There’s always something new coming, whether it be the season, recruiting, fall camp,” Leipold said. “I think we’ve done a good job of trying to keep our young men focused.

“When they leave our program, they should be very proud of their accomplishments. But when they’re inside the program and are still competing, they’re going to continue to be evaluated on what they’re doing at this particular time.”

One immediate challenge is to find replacements for last year’s senior class, led by all-everything running back Levell Coppage.

Coppage was a first-team, All-American, Player of the Year in Division III and is a member of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s All-Time Team.

“I think we’ve tried to instill in our guys that they have to continue to work hard,” Leipold said.

“You watch and learn and compete with those guys daily. Hopefully, you maximize your opportunity when you get your chance to play. I think we have some players who are ready to do that.”

While the Warhawks have to replace several talented seniors from a year ago, the experience they gained, not only in 2011, but in past years, will be invaluable, Leipold said.

“I think of what our guys have gone through and the ability that we’ve had to have long seasons and practices that have allowed our guys to develop,” he said. “I think that’s been one of our plusses.”

 

Pair earn preseason honor

Whitewater, which has the longest win streak at any level at 45 straight, enters the season ranked fourth nationally behind longtime title game rival Mount Union, Wesley and Linfield, according to the USA College Football Preseason Poll.

Defensive back Noah Timm and wide receiver Tyler Huber recently were named as preseason first-team, All-Americans and will be among many expected to lead the way in 2012.

All totaled, the Warhawks return 13 starters from last year’s team, which won its seventh straight WIAC title, was a unanimous selection to win the championship again this season, according to a poll of other league coaches.

But Leipold knows it won’t be easy, as the conference continues to improve. He expects both Oshkosh and Platteville, which tied at 7-3 in the WIAC a year ago, to be among the top challengers.

“It’s going to be another exciting year of highly competitive games,” Leipold said. “Top to bottom, that’s what makes our league so exciting. Anybody can beat anyone on any given Saturday.”

Whitewater begins its 2012 journey next Friday, Aug. 31, when it travels to Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.) for an 8:30 p.m. non-conference matchup.

The Warhawks open their home schedule two weeks later when they host Buffalo State College at 1 p.m.

2012 schedule

Friday, Aug. 31 at Washington University in St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 15 vs. Buffalo State College (Youth Day and Championship Celebration Day), 1 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 22 vs. UW-Stevens Point (Bob Berezowitz Day), 1 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 29 at UW-Platteville, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. UW-River Falls (Family Fest), 2 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 13 at UW-Stout, 2 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 20 vs. UW-Oshkosh (Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day), 1 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 27 at UW-Stevens Point, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. UW-Eau Claire (Shriners Day and Seniors Day), 3 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 10 at UW-La Crosse, 1 p.m.

 

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