Thursday the high school football season kicks off, so it’s time to unveil the initial FOX 11 Top 11 for the season.
The rankings of the teams factors in a few variables: last year’s success, this year’s potential and conversations I have had with different coaches about teams this season. And remember, if you don’t like where your team is ranked, or maybe it’s not ranked, don’t worry. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
Without further adieu, here are the rankings:
1. Kimberly (9-2): The Papermakers placed second in the Valley Football Association North Division last season, but based on what I saw at its scrimmage, the Makers will once again be formidable. What’ll be interesting to watch this season is Scott Schreiber moving from WR, where he tied for the state lead with 18 TD catches last season, to quarterback. Schreiber is a quality pitcher on the baseball team and is a good athlete, so his transition in replacing Ben Diedrick, who graduated, should be successful.
2. Waupaca (12-1): The Comets pulled off the biggest win in our area last season, beating West De Pere in Level 4 and thus ending the Phantoms’ winning streak at 39 games. Waupaca lost to graduation LB/RB Beau Ash and QB Sam Menzies, who rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Nonetheless, coach John Koronkiewicz always reloads and the Comets should once again be a factor in the Eastern Valley Conference and the postseason.
3. St. Mary’s Springs (13-0): The Ledgers have the area’s longest current winning streak at 27 games after repeating as Division 6 champs. Springs lost key players in RB Darin Ward, QB Evan Henderson and WR Eric Feldner. But if you know anything about coach Bob Hyland, he reloads better than maybe any team in the state. The Ledgers will be factors again in Division 6.
4. West De Pere (11-1): The Phantoms failed to three-peat last season but based off their scrimmage at Kimberly, they won’t be going anywhere. West De Pere is moving Chandler Diekvoss from WR to QB and it appears he will be able to give the Phantoms’ offense more versatility than a year ago when it run heavy. Defensively, some studs were lost in Kegan Wirtz and Brad Ambrosius, but West De Pere always finds a way to replace quality kids.
5. Green Bay Southwest (10-1): The Trojans are coming off their first conference title since 1975, but have big holes to fill. Coach Bryce Paup left for an assistant coaching job at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, and his son, Nathan, the FOX 11 Large Division defensive player of the year graduated. Still, the cupboard isn’t bare, especially with one of the best defensive lineman in the area in Kahlil Mackenzie.
6. Appleton North (10-1): The Lightning won the VFA North last season, but lost some key players, like most quality teams. Like West De Pere and Kimberly, North is moving a player to QB as the Lightning’s No. 2 receiver a year ago, Dan Rothbauer, steps under center. The Lightning should have a quick start to the season as four of its first five opponents finished under .500 in the regular season a year ago.
7. Bay Port (8-2): Where have you heard this before? The Pirates are moving RB Alec Ingold, who rushed for 1,024 yards last season, to QB. Ingold is just a junior and his addition under center will give the Pirates a run-pass option. Bay Port fell just shy of winning the Fox River Classic Conference a year ago, losing to Southwest in the regular-season finale, and should be an FRCC contender once again.
8. Freedom (9-3): Sorry defenses, but Nathan Peters is back. The senior RB led the state in rushing a season ago with 2,249 yards, and didn’t start until Week 4. Now, he has added 20 pounds, weighing 190 pounds, and says he is faster. Freedom’s run to Level 4 in Division 4 last season, should have the Irish’s confidence at an all-time high as the season starts this week.
9. Seymour (8-2): Before Waupaca beat West De Pere last season, the Thunder almost did, before losing 12-7. Seymour is back and could dethrone West De Pere in the Bay Conference. QB Dakota Oskey is solid and the offensive line has a massive stud in Jon Dietzen (6-6, 315), who is getting major Division I interest. Keep an eye on Seymour, as it could be in store for a breakthrough season.
10. Chilton (7-2): The Tigers won their first seven games last season, shared the Olympian-Large title, but their season ended in a Level 1 loss to Freedom. The Tigers don’t figure to be going anywhere but will have to find a way to replace 1,300-yard rusher Austin Hephner.
11. Brillion (10-2): The last four seasons the Lions have won a state title (2010) and reached the state semifinals (2010, 2011 and 2012). Coach Pete Kittel knows how to win a lot of games – 47-5 over the last four seasons – but must find a way to replace his son, Erik, who was the team’s best offensive and defensive player last year (he was the FOX 11 Small Division defensive player of the year last season).
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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