After being announced in mid-April as the new head football coach at Walworth Big Foot High School, Mike Welden spent the next few months watching film of the players he would inherit in the fall.
The first-time head coach liked what he saw. But he acknowledges tape can only reveal so much.
“As soon as I got hired, they got me on their Hudl account,” Welden said, adding, “Some of the kids put in a ton of work in the offseason, and if I would have just gone off the film, that would have been an injustice.”
Welden spent the last 10 seasons as an assistant coach at Grafton High School, most recently serving as defensive coordinator.
He’s tasked with turning around a Big Foot team that won three games in 2018—its final campaign under coach Greg Enz, who left to become the head coach at Manitowoc Lincoln—and has missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
“Right now, we could go 9-0,” Welden said. “Anything’s possible. That’s been our motto all summer. We were 3-6 last year, but last year’s in the past.”
The great run-first offenses that carried Big Foot to a state title in 2009 and seven consecutive 10-win seasons in the mid-2000s are long gone.
As recently as 2012, the Chiefs averaged over 300 rushing yards per game. Last season, they averaged less than 110 per game and finished last in the Rock Valley in rushing. They were held under 100 rushing yards five times—all losses.
So one of Welden’s top priorities is reviving the team’s ground game. That would also take pressure off untested sophomore quarterback Basil Demco.
“At any level of football, you’ve got to be able to run the ball consistently if you want to succeed,” Welden said. “They had to end up throwing the ball a ton (last season), because they weren’t very efficient running the ball.”
Sam Dickerson, a 6-foot, 303-pound senior lineman who earned first-team all-Rock Valley honors last season, anchors Big Foot’s offensive line.
Senior Cole Vance returns to lead Big Foot’s backfield after rushing for 562 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. Senior receiver Jack Gillingham (5 touchdowns, 19.6 yards per catch) gives Demco an explosive target in the passing game.
Gillingham will also feature prominently on Big Foot’s defense, having recorded 176 total tackles and six interceptions in the past two seasons. Senior Owen Martin will be another key two-way player, starting at receiver and defensive back.
“Those kids are too special to keep off the field,” Welden said of Gillingham and Martin.
Senior linebacker Dan Hereley is coming off a 102-tackle season. He will play alongside Kyle Higgins (52 tackles in 2018) in the middle of Big Foot’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
The Chiefs won’t be able to christen their new artificial turf field, the centerpiece of a $7.8 million referendum approved last November, until a Week 3 date with East Troy.
Welden said heavy rains in recent weeks have delayed construction on the field. As a result, Big Foot’s Week 1 home game against Jefferson will be played at Delavan-Darien High School.
Big Foot 2019 roster
No. Player Yr. Ht. Wt. Pos.
1 Owen Martin Sr. 6-2 189 WR/QB/DB
2 Bryce Peterson Sr. 6-0 170 WR/DB
3 Jack Gillingham Sr. 6-5 190 WR/LB
8 Basil Demco So. 6-1 167 QB/DB
9 Jack Grunow Sr. 5-11 160 WR/DB
13 Miguel Sierra Sr. 6-0 180 WR/DB
14 Gus Foster So. 6-4 195 WR/LB
15 River Riley Jr. 6-3 160 WR/LB
17 Alex Schmitz So. 6-2 167 WR/DB
19 Eli Greco Jr. 6-0 142 WR/DB
20 John Rouse Jr. 5-10 165 RB/LB
21 Nate Hoyt So. 5-11 168 LB/RB
26 Jacob Camren Jr. 5-11 182 WR/DB
27 Cole Vance Sr. 5-8 178 RB/DB
44 Dan Hereley Sr. 6-1 161 LB/RB
45 Joey Schmitz So. 6-0 168 RB/DB
48 Kyle Higgins Sr. 5-1 152 RB/LB
56 Sam Flom Jr. 6-0 182 DL
59 Owen Ruhl Sr. 5-11 175 OL/LB
64 Matt Bailey Jr. 6-0 258 OL/DL
66 Sam Dickerson Sr. 6-0 303 OL/DL
67 Austin Clary Jr. 6-1 275 OL/DL
68 Billy Ziganto So. 5-10 230 OL/DL
70 Aiden Martin So. 6-2 235 OL/DL
74 Chuck Adkins So. 6-0 208 OL/DL
75 Jaden Gray So. 5-8 232 OL/DL
76 Connor Vogelman So. 6-0 250 OL/DL
78 Nick Minor So. 6-2 242 OL/DL
79 Bryce Harvey So. 6-0 316 OL/DL
81 Tyler Wilson So. 6-4 182 WR/LB
83 Jason Rodriguez Sr. 6-1 212 DL
88 Justin Ellison Jr. 6-4 183 WR/LB