Depth key to Delavan-Darien success

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By Tim Wester/Special to the Gazette
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What's the best way to combat having the smallest enrollment in a conference?

For Delavan-Darien, the answer was adding players from a second high school.

This season Delavan-Darien's football team will co-op with Williams Bay High, which disbanded its football program in 2016.

In accordance with WIAA rules, the Williams Bay student-athletes had to sit one season before gaining eligibility to play for Delavan-Darien. Now the former Bulldogs players get their chance to help the Comets make another playoff bid.

“We have some solid kids from Williams Bay that help improve our depth,” said Delavan-Darien coach Bret St. Arnauld, whose team advanced to the second round of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs last year. “Despite losing some good players, our strength is actually in our depth. I have four or five kids that I can play at every position.”

The Comets' improved depth is coupled with eight returning starters from last year's defense that made impressive strides in the physical Southern Lakes Conference.

“I expect a big year out of our defense,” St. Arnauld said. “Losing (Wisconsin walk-on Ethan) Cesarz is hard, but the reality is that having a talent like him is not the typical case, so we will need to rely on our 11 guys on the field to all play efficiently.”

Outside linebacker Mike Maldonado will anchor the Comet defense.

“Mike will play sort of hybrid linebacker, which is where I think his talents fit the best,” St. Arnauld said. “I expect a big year from him, and I'm pleased to see him starting to get recruiting attention.”

Joining Maldonado at linebacker are Dakota Williams, Ross Gengler, Eric Gonzalez, and Danny Essington.

The talented linebacking corps will play behind a defensive line rotation that includes Will Cook and Zach Torres.

The secondary is led by safety Jaxson Sawtelle and cornerback Austin Schmidt.

The offense is still a work-in-progress. The Comets are working on a replacement for departed quarterback Jake Benzing. Williams and Seth Grabow are in a fierce competition.

The Comets backfield will also feature a rotating group.

“Maldonado is going to be incredible as a running back, and Gonzalez and Sawtelle can also carry the ball,” St. Arnauld said.

Maldonado and company will run behind left tackle Justin Johnson (6-foot-6, 350 pounds) and left guard Zach Silverman (6-6, 350) on the left side.

“They are our twin towers on the left side that have very good technique,” St. Arnauld said.

The rest of the Comets line includes Torres at center and Cook at right guard. The Comets passing game will be led by Norton and Logan Rios.

“This year, it will be more about the team and our depth,” St. Arnauld said. “We should be fresher in games against Lakes teams, which hopefully will help us remain healthy late in the season.”

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