Deep playoff runs give Badger wealth of experience
With consecutive WIAA state semifinal losses the past two years, the Lake Geneva Badger football team could agonize over missing its chance to play in a state championship game.
But Badger coach Matt Hensler isn't worried.
In fact, Hensler said he is reaping the benefits of having a combined eight extra weeks of postseason practices the past two years.
“Our seniors are more advanced after having extra time to practice as sophomores and juniors,” Hensler said. “Most of our kids have valuable game experience that they wouldn't have without our deep playoff runs.”
The extra practices came into play after the Badgers won their first 12 games before falling 35-14 to Franklin in a WIAA Division 1 state semi last season.
Now the Badgers will look to make another postseason run with a mixture of veterans and new starters.
One of the new starters is senior quarterback Colton Surgis, who is tasked with replacing second-team all-conference quarterback Mason DuMez.
“Colton is a different talent at quarterback because he is more of physical runner with his good size,” Hensler said. “He sees things well on the perimeter and throws the underneath passes well.”
Joining Surgis in the backfield will be senior running back Will Keller III, along with seniors Nick Aufmuth and Braden O'Laughlin, and junior Jordan Hodges. Senior Wes Sontag is the starter at fullback, with Adam Gallagher also expected to see time.
The offensive line will be tasked with replacing first-team all-conference linemen Matt Szesol and Andrew Glass. Returning starter Sarek Hoerth will help anchor the line, along with center Sam Kaider, and senior Alex Evans. Hensler will also rotate a group of linemen to help pick up the slack.
Senior tight end Angelo Camalieri will help the offensive line and the passing game. Other receivers include senior Dawson Vance and junior Connor Love.
“Because we pulled sophomores up for postseason practices the past two seasons, we've been able to do more things on offense and we've put more stuff into the playbook,” Hensler said.
On defense, senior Nathan Borst and Evans will anchor a line that will have a deep rotation.
To help compensate for the loss of all-conference linebacker Ryan Sproul, the Badgers moved O'Laughlin from safety to linebacker. Senior Levi Krahn and junior Brett Adams will also start.
The secondary is led by returning all-region safety Austin Flower, along with Aufmuth, Colin Jackson, and Keller III.
With an experienced team, the Badgers figure to challenge for another conference championship. Hensler, however, says Wilmot is the favorite to win the Southern Lakes.
“Wilmot is loaded,” he said. “They are as good as any team that we've seen come through this conference in the past few years.”
The Badgers travel to Wilmot Sept. 29 in what could be the deciding game in the conference race.