Henke's double duty helps drive Parker to playoffs
That has been Jeff Henke’s impact on the football field this season.
The Janesville Parker High School senior starts for the Vikings at right guard and defensive tackle. Henke and the Vikings (6-3) open WIAA Division 1 playoffs Tuesday night against Badger (5-4) at Lake Geneva.
Under 18th-year coach Joe Dye’s platoon system, quality depth and a large talent pool have allowed Parker to nearly eliminate the two-way player. Matt McCulloch, who has won two NCAA Division III championships while starting for UW-Whitewater, and Harold Lloyd, now starting at Truman State, are the rare exceptions. Henke is in that mix.
“Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to put players on the field that give you the best chance to win football games. Even if it means playing them both ways,” Dye said. “That was our thinking for this football team this season with Jeff Henke.
“He was asked to step into the starting role on the offensive line this season and has been a big part of our success running the ball. Defensively, he has always been a kid whose motor never stops.”
The 5-foot-11, 255-pound Henke likes the dual role. He has been two-year starter at defensive tackle, but also started in the offensive line as a freshman and sophomore.
Faced with spending twice as much time on the field as a two-way starter, Henke concentrated heavily on the conditioning aspect of his off-season workout program.
“I still lifted almost every day, but I did a lot more running to get in better shape,” Henke said. “Coach Dye always talks about being the more conditioned team and the more physical team when it comes to the fourth quarter. That was my motivation.
“Because I had already played on the (offensive) line as a freshman and sophomore, stepping in at right guard wasn’t that big of an adjustment.”
Henke’s been part of an offensive line that has helped Parker’s running game flourish since the midpoint of the season. Led by junior tailback Adam Vesterfelt, the Vikings’ are running on high octane. Vesterfelt rushed for 863 yards during the Vikings’ current three-game winning streak, including a city-record 372 against Madison La Follette.
Henke loves the smash-mouth approach offensively.
“With Adam having the success that he has, it makes us feel good as linemen because we’re a big part of it,” Henke said. “Adam’s the first one to credit us for opening up the holes and leading the way, and that makes us all want to work even harder for him.
“We’re a physical group on the line, and Adam is a very physical runner. That’s what is so fun about our offense. You just line up and hit people across from you.”
Henke, the son of Mike and Janet, knows the Vikings are going to have a tough in Tuesday’s playoff opener against Badger, which runs a strong option offense and has won five straight games. He also is quick to point out, though, that the Vikings also are playing their best football of the season and are riding a wave of momentum.
“We’re just going to have to hit ’em and play hard,” Henke said. “We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season, but now we’re playing the way that everyone thought we were capable of playing.”