Delavan-Darien’s Fowlkes tops area All-State selections
It was more than Friday night thrills this fall for those following Delavan-Darien High School’s championship football season.
Coach Steve Tenhagen, in fact, told the story some time ago how it was just as exciting to watch the replays of his explosive team—and Justin Fowlkes, in particular—the next day.
“Films have been fun to watch on Saturday mornings,” Tenhagen said midway through the Comets’ often-electrifying 11-2 season that carried them to the WIAA Division 3 state semifinals.
Now, the fun continues. While the dynamic Fowlkes gets set to unleash his talent on the basketball court, those in Comet Country can celebrate the honor he received today with the announcement of The Associated Press all-state football selections.
Fowlkes, who did double duty in Delavan-Darien’s offensive backfield, has been named a second-team running back in the voting by a panel of sports writers from AP member newspapers.
On his way to earning that honor, Fowlkes was compared by some opposing coaches to now-graduated Michael Walker, the elusive Walworth Big Foot star, who also became a second-team all-state pick last year after leading the Chiefs to the Division 4 state title.
“He’s definitely something special,” Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig said of Fowlkes, a 5-8, 160-pound senior, who played a key role in helping Delavan-Darien knock off the Chiefs in the second game of the season. “He may have been a little shiftier than Michael. But just like Michael, when he got into the open field, he was gone.”
Meanwhile, some might have thought Big Foot’s chances for another outstanding season were gone after the Chiefs’ heavy graduation losses from 2009. However, senior lineman Dean Smith, for one, wasn’t about to let that become a reality.
As a result, the 6-2, 290-pound Smith joins Fowlkes on the AP second team, both as an offensive tackle and a defensive nose guard.
“It’s a crowning reward for all he accomplished,” Wedig said of the all-state honor for Smith, a three-year starter and Co-Lineman of the Year this season in the Rock Valley South. “He’s such a great leader, and everyone knows how we looked to him.”
Looking at the final stats, the Chiefs averaged 35 points in 13 games and allowed only three touchdowns through a seven-game stretch late in the season. And no team does that without considerable help up front.
“That was especially true for us this year,” Wedig said. “From the start, we said, ‘We’ll see how far our line can take us.’ ”
Well, the Chiefs won their fourth straight conference championship, extended their Rock Valley win streak to 29 games and reached the Division 4 state semifinals before finishing an impressive 10-3—with much thanks to Smith, Wedig was quick to add.
“He’s not your real proto-type offensive lineman in not being as big (tall) as some guys,” Wedig said. “But he’s got quick feet and is deceptively quick.
“And with the exception of Travis (Frederick),” Wedig said of the former Big Foot all-state star and present University of Wisconsin red-shirted sophomore, “He’s the best offensive lineman I’ve seen come through.”
Brodhead/Juda had a good one, too, in three-year starter Nick Jacobson. The 6-5, 245-pound senior shared the Rock Valley South’s top lineman award with Smith and has received AP all-state honorable mention after helping his 11-3 team defeat Big Foot in the Division 4 semifinals and become the state runner-up.
Milton senior quarterback Nate Hammon, who passed for almost 2,100 yards and rushed for more than 800 in 10 games, joins the distinguished list of those receiving honorable mention.
The area’s AP honors are headed by six first-team selections. The senior group includes Middleton running back Jamie Hofer, Sun Prairie offensive lineman Dylan Seiter, McFarland punter Tyler Wedel and Verona outside linebacker Jordan Braxton, along with Waunakee offensive end Austin Maly and Madison Memorial defensive end Jordan Fredrick, two University of Wisconsin recruits.
Monona Grove’s Badger South champions, who lost only to unbeaten Division 2 state champion Waunakee, have senior offensive end Zach Zweifel and senior inside linebacker Taylor Steinke on the second team. That group also includes senior defensive back Ross Maly and junior running back Leo Musso from Waunakee.
But none of the all-state selections had a more spectacular season than Fowlkes, the Southern Lakes coaches’ obvious choice as their conference Offensive Player of the Year. He was a sensation from the start and led Delavan-Darien to its first undisputed conference championship since 1988, deepest penetration into the playoffs and a school-record number of victories—all by a team that scored 40 or more points eight times and averaged 36.3.
Fowlkes started out as a running back, then shifted to quarterback when classmate Austin Fritzinger suffered a shoulder injury, and he stood out at both positions. He finished 1,892 yards rushing for an average of 8.2 a carry, completed 42 of 73 passes for 931 yards and 14 touchdowns, topped 2,200 in all-purpose yards, and scored 28 touchdowns and 188 points.
“Justin’s explosiveness gave him an opportunity to score every time he had the ball,” Tenhagen said. “There were times when we saw linebackers look like they had angle on him. And the next thing you knew, he was by them.”
And, yes, it made those Saturday film sessions just as thrilling.
“You don’t want to miss an offensive possession,” Tenhagen said at midseason, “because he’s making highlight-reel runs on a regular basis.”