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Gazette staff
Sports Editor Eric Schmoldt and reporter John Barry break down the top five area players from the 2014 high school football season.

The 2014 All-Gazette High School Football Team

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, November 16, 2014

Here's a look at the first All-Gazette football team. The 25-player group was selected by Eric Schmoldt and John Barry with input from other Gazette staff and area coaches.

QUARTERBACK

Derek Severson rewrote the Clinton record books over the past two seasons. The Cougars hosted a WIAA Division 4 playoff game for the second time in school history—and second time in as many years—thanks to the dual-threat signal-caller who put Clinton's hurry-up offense on the map.

In his senior year, Severson completed 46 of 105 passes for 688 yards and 11 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He also carried the ball 161 times for 1,094 yards and 10 more scores despite missing most of a Week 7 game and all of Week 8 with an ankle injury. He was named the Rock Valley South offensive player of the year for the second straight year.

“He's basically broken the majority of the offensive records for an individual—rushing yards and touchdowns for a single season and a career,” Clinton coach Jeff Spiwak said. “To have someone with his athleticism and intelligence made it really easy to install our offense.”

RUNNING BACK

With several 1,000-yard backs in the area, this might have been the toughest category to pick.

Edgerton's Ricky Williams played in just six games due to injury, yet he still led all backs in the Gazette coverage area in rushing yards. He ranked No. 1 in the state with 234.2 rushing yards per game and finished with 1,405 overall and a whopping 18 touchdowns.

Like Williams, Parker senior Jovanni Sanchez doesn't walk off the bus and immediately strike fear in opponents. But the 5-foot-7, 160-pound back did plenty of damage in the Big Eight Conference. Sanchez ran 192 times for 1,254 yards and nine touchdowns for the Vikings.

“He definitely ran hard and hit the hole hard. He didn't balk at us giving him the ball 30 or 35 times,” Parker coach Eric Skrzypchak said. “The last couple of years we've had one guy and opponents knew it. Credit to Jovanni.

“The last drive against Madison West (in Week 9) we ran nine straight times and they couldn't stop him. He ended up scoring on the ninth play and we won the game.”

WIDE RECEIVER

The Milton Red Hawks didn't go to the air often, but when they did, they trusted the sure hands of senior Colin Weberpal.

Weberpal had 31 of the Red Hawks' 71 receptions and earned first-team all-league honors with 547 yards and nine touchdowns.

“He's a great athlete; you don't get to be a three-sport starter if you're not,” Milton coach Bill O'Leary said. “He really came into his own this year.”

Jake Benzing was the go-to target for Delavan-Darien dual-threat quarterback Jesse Collins. Benzing hauled in 28 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns. The Comets also found him 15 carries, and he turned them into 149 rushing yards.

“Jake is a gamebreaker for us,” Comets coach Bret St. Arnauld said. “Anytime we needed a play, you could look to Jake an he'd come up with one. Relying on a sophomore isn't very common at our level, let alone any division, so he's a special player.”

TIGHT END

Benzing wasn't the only young target to emerge for the Comets. Sophomore Ethan Cesarz matched Benzing's six touchdowns and finished with 25 catches for 550 yards.

Both he and Benzing were named first-team all-Southern Lakes Conference players.

“Neither one of them even has their license yet,” St. Arnauld laughed. “Ethan is just athletic. He's got long arms and decent speed, good physicality. ... I can't recall him dropping any passes this year, and he is just a crisp route-runner.”

OFFENSIVE LINE

Senior Ross Smith was the heart and soul up front for a Janesville Craig offense that thrived until it lost quarterback Shayne Ellis to a season-ending collarbone injury in Week 7.

The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder was the starting right guard and a first-team all-Big Eight selection.

“He was a team captain that started on both sides of the ball,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “He's really matured. He's physical and smart, a real cerebral player who always has himself in good position. He was a great teammate, and he'll hit you.”

A team that sometimes passes the ball just once or twice a game needs a leader up front to plow ahead on the ground. For Elkhorn, that was senior Ian McDonald.

At 6-foot-3 and 288 pounds, McDonald helped the Elks run for more than 2,200 yards on their way to a share of a league title.

“He had a shoulder issue in the Wilmot game and sat out a week but finished out the season with a harness. He's a tough kid,” Elkhorn coach Tom Lee said. “He's a dominant offensive lineman. When we had to get short yardage, we ran behind him.”

Evansville/Albany senior Austin Rupiper was named co-lineman of the year in the Rock Valley North Conference for protecting a freshman quarterback and helping junior running back Nate Redders eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

“We were awful young on the line, but he made some positive gains at left tackle,” coach Ron Grovesteen said. “He played last year but got injured. He had a good summer workout and came back ready to play.”

Brodhead/Juda senior Reave Lincoln anchored a powerful front line that nearly helped two Cardinals running backs each rush for 1,000 yards.

Lincoln, at 5-foot-9 and 285 pounds, was first-team all-Rock Valley South at both offensive and defensive line, and he was named the league's lineman of the year.

“He was one of the top four linemen in the region,” Cardinals coach B.J. Bockhop said. “All through middle school and through sophomore year, he was our fullback. We converted him to guard/defensive end. We needed somebody big with great feet. He flourished in those spots.”

And then there's Milton's Avery Ousterhout. A first-team all-conference player on both sides of the ball and the Badger South lineman of the year, Ousterhout is The Gazette's inaugural area player of the year. Read all about him here.

DEFENSIVE LINE

There was no more destructive force up front in the Rock Valley South than Walworth Big Foot senior Will Utesch. Accordingly, he was named the league's defensive player of the year.

He finished with 82 tackles—49 solo and 11 for loss—along with four sacks, three forced fumbles, and a fumble he recovered and ran back for a touchdown.

“He's a great combination of strength and size, but he's got unbelievable feet,” Big Foot coach Greg Enz said. “I've been around a number of pretty good linemen, Division I linemen, and he might not have the height, but he has the ability.”

Senior Quin Dixon proved to be the perfect complement to Utesch up front. Just 6-foot and 200 pounds, he moved up from linebacker early in the season and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Dixon piled up 98 tackles, including 10 for losses, and eight sacks.

“He's kind of our version of Clay Matthews,” Enz said. “He doesn't put his hand down; he plays the end. He's a little unsound technically at times, but the thing is he's so athletic and explosive that he can put himself out of position but still recover and make a great play.”

Brodhead/Juda three-sport standout Logan Maurer, like Lincoln, could have been picked for his spot on either side of the trenches, but we split them up for one of each.

Maurer, a two-time state track and field champ and all-state heavyweight wrestler, was first-team all-conference on offense and defense. Defensively, he had 42 tackles, six for loss, and three sacks.

“A lot of guys 6-4, 300 pounds usually don't have the feet like he does,” Bockhop said. “His wrestling shows you how good of feet he's got. He's got a lot of things that you just can't teach.”

The Badger South coaches couldn't be convinced to take two defensive lineman from one team for their first-team defense, so Ousterhout got the nod. We've got no such parameters here.

Senior defensive tackle Hunter Nelson was an interior force to be reckoned with for Milton. He had 111 tackles—43 solo—with five sacks and 19 tackles for loss on a defense that allowed less than 15 points per game.

“He was second on our team in tackles and was just an unbelievable force in disrupting things,” O'Leary said. “He had a tremendous year playing the 3 technique, where he sees the big tackle and tight end on every down.”

LINEBACKER

Opposing quarterbacks entered each Big Eight game hoping they weren't the victim of a Harry Henschler blindside hit.

The Janesville Craig senior tied for the area lead with nine sacks. Henschler, a first-team all-conference pick, also had 67 tackles, 34 of them solo.

“I think he's a kid that could play at the next level if he wanted to,” McCormick said of Henschler, also a talented hockey defender. “He's got a motor that doesn't quit. He's a great speed pass-rusher, but he also had a pick this year, so he could drop into coverage, as well.”

Brodhead/Juda senior Brady Colden was the quintessential leader in the middle for the Cardinals. He finished with 56 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss.

“He's a high-character kid who does anything you ever ask of him,” Bockhop said. “He was our team-voted captain, a good all-around kid. You wish you had 11 of him on the field.”

Grovesteen was happy to have Jordan Meyer in the fold this year. The dynamic Evansville wrestler went out for football and made his presence felt, earning WFCA all-region honors. Meyer finished with 83 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown.

“He decided to come out, and that was a big gain for us in football,” Grovesteen said. “He's just a super kid to work with and works hard. On defense, he was just always around the footlball.”

Opposing coaches respected Elkhorn senior linebacker Keaton Verhoeven enough that they refused to let him pile up statistics. Verhoeven finished with 49 tackles—37 solo—with four tackles for loss. The numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but Lee says there's a reason why:

“They didn't run to his side, and when they did, he didn't let them get many yards,” Lee said. “I can't say enough about him. He's just a solid kid, great open-field tackler. He had a motor that didn't stop.”

At first glance, Milton senior John McCarthy's statistics seam unfeasible. O'Leary stands behind them 100 percent.

“They're legit,” O'Leary said. “He's in on so many tackles. That's what our defense is designed for—Avery outside, Hunter inside, and they funnel them right to John.”

McCarthy finished with an area-high 114 tackles, including 19 for losses, and added three sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Walworth Big Foot junior Zak Greco did a little bit of everything this year. But his biggest game-changing moments came on defense. He intercepted an area-high eight passes in 10 games and finished with 55 tackles and a forced fumble for the Chiefs.

“He's a gamer. He could walk out of the hallway, and you could challenge him to a game of HORSE. He'd say sure and then probably beat you on five shots,” Enz said. “There's nothing he'll back down from.”

Speaking of versatile players, Elkhorn senior Jon Wulff rarely left the field, as well. Along with kicking and playing receiver, he intercepted four passes, including one each in the final two weeks of the regular season, when Elkhorn knocked off Badger and Burlington to earn a share of the Southern Lakes title.

“He has a knack for the ball,” Lee said. “He had a pick-six to start off the game against Waterford. He has an ability to read the quarterback's eyes.

“He's not the fastest kid but was always in great position.”

Clinton senior Luke Risse suffered a gruesome elbow injury late in a Week 7 loss to Big Foot, but the three-sport standout had done plenty up to that point to prove he belongs on this list.

Risse earned all-region honors thanks to posting 73 tackles—45 solo—with four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“Measurables—he's small, not that fast—they won't jump off the page at you,” Spiwak said. “But the heart and intensity and the way the kid plays have been remarkable for us. That's what makes him the player he is.”

SPECIALISTS

How to pick between two area kickers who made critical field goals this season?

Name one the kicker and one the punter.

Craig senior Joe Glowacki turned heads early in the year with his 50-yard field goal. It was definitely the longest kick by a Janesville player in recent history and perhaps all-time. Glowacki also had a 37-yard field goal in the waning seconds that capped a victory at Verona.

“On kickoffs, he had 12 touchbacks, and the others were directional kicks down near the goal line every time,” McCormick said. “He's gotten better and better and better.”

Milton junior Dylan Swerig is the pick at punter, though he was versatile in all facets. He made a 48-yard game-tying kick at Monona Grove that set up the Red Hawks' overtime victory.

His punting in a first-round playoff game against Watertown might have got him on the list by itself. Swerig had a 72-yard field-changing boot and pinned two others at the 1- and 8-yard lines.

HONORABLE MENTION

QB: Jesse Collins, sr., Delavan-Darien; Tyler Westrick, sr., Milton; Brett Morris, sr., Big Foot; Shayne Ellis, sr., Janesville Craig. RB: Griffin Day, sr., Brodhead/Juda; Nate Redders, jr., Evansville/Albany; Keenan Leahy, sr., Elkhorn; Mitchell Johnson, sr., Brodhead/Juda; Howie Greene, sr., Milton; Hunter Marshall, jr., Parkview. WR: Chandler Hehr, sr., Big Foot; Ned Slocum, jr., Brodhead/Juda; Zach Kaminski, sr., Clinton. TE: Trevor Bierman, Evansville/Albany; Patrick O'Leary, jr., Milton. OL: Malik Williams, Janesville Parker; Kyle Kolloff, sr., Milton; Max Grover, Delavan-Darien; Brenden Taylor, Clinton; Samuel Topel, Evansville/Albany; Kyle Bavery, Edgerton; Adrian Radtke, Edgerton; Tyler Bemus, Elkhorn; Stephan Wieder, Badger.

DL: Austin Kuhl, Janesville Craig; Clayton Adamson, sr., Milton; Noah Petrasek, so., Elkhorn; Andrew Berra, jr., Evansville/Albany. LB: Victor Martinelli, sr., Milton; Gavin Baade, sr., Brodhead/Juda; Ed Jacobson, so., Janesville Parker; Kaleb Kruckenberg, sr., Edgerton; Nick Kretsch, sr., Badger; DB: Sandy Toyer, Janesville Parker; Chase Craig, Badger; Brandon Calbert, Milton; Anthony Williams, Big Foot; Chase Katzenmeyer, Evansville/Albany; Javen Murry, Janesville Craig.



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