East Troy success a surprise to some, but not to Trojans
Milton and Evansville, two long-time postseason fixtures, will likely sit this year out.
Janesville Parker’s Adam Vesterfelt has rushed for 1,323 yards and scored a staggering 21 touchdowns but does not even rank in the top 10 in the state.
Yet nothing is more shocking than the resurgence of football at East Troy—at least to those on the outside. Even this paper had its doubts about the Trojans, picking them fifth out of six teams in the Rock Valley North in our preseason football tab.
But for East Troy coach Eric Sulik and his talented team, the 6-1 start is anything but shocking.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think it’s a big stretch that we’re 6-1 right now,” Sulik said. “We expected to do well. In fact, our No. 1 goal was to win the conference (Rock Valley North). Even though that’s not going to happen because we lost to Jefferson, we felt we were going to be good enough to make a run at it.”
The Trojans have been anything but good enough for the past decade. East Troy will be making its first postseason appearance since 2002, and Sulik, now in his fifth season, is 7-29 overall.
Why the sudden turnaround?
“It obviously starts with the kids,” Sulik said. “They’re a talented group that is another year older and stronger.
“But I think the biggest thing is that they started to understand that where teams were really beating us was November through August. It came down to making that off-season commitment.”
East Troy has steamrolled its way to a playoff berth. The Trojans’ prolific spread offense is averaging 43.6 points a game, scoring 40 or more points in six of seven games. Senior tailback D.J. Sweet leads a rushing attack that is averaging 282 yards per game. Sweet, a senior, has 1,161 yards, 18 touchdowns and is averaging a
robust 9.6 yards per carry.
Sam Eckert and Nate Dodge lead a receiving corps that has complemented the ground game with a combined 35 receptions for 549 yards and six touchdowns.
“We call it a variation of the spread offense because what we really like to do is spread out our receivers,” Sulik said. “That opens up our running game. And if teams want to put eight men in the box to stop the run, we’ve got great athletes with great size playing receiver.”
Many of those great athletes with great size are members of the Trojans’ successful basketball program. East Troy has won 99 games in the last five years and five straight conference titles. Six-foot-8 junior twins Brett and Alex Prahl started on the basketball team, along with quarterback Myles Olsen and the 6-3 Dodge.
Sulik believes the basketball program’s success has carried over to football.
“There’s no question that the success those kids have had in basketball is paying dividends for our football team,” Sulik said. “They’re smart kids that understand what it takes to have success at the highest level. That’s something you can’t coach.”
As East Troy looks to the future and its first postseason berth in 10 years, the present includes a Friday night home game against unbeaten and second-ranked Walworth Big Foot. The Chiefs dominated the Trojans, 49-0, a year ago.
“We’re going to have our hands full. That’s for sure,” Sulik said. “That is an outstanding high school football team we’re going to play. They’ve got great size and a special player in Kenneth Walker.
“But like I told our kids. It doesn’t come down to what they do; it comes down to what we do. Athletically and talent-wise, I think we can match up with them.”
That’s something East Troy football hasn’t been able to say for a long time.