Four weeks from today, high school football players around the state will lace up their cleats for the first practice of the fall season.
Summer seemingly just began, but the countdown to Friday Night Lights is already ticking.
With that in mind, here are five storylines that are on my mind and will start playing out with Week 1 games the fourth Friday of August.
Can Janesville Craig or Parker make some noise one last time in the Big Eight Conference?
With the Wisconsin Football Coaches Associaton’s realignment plan going into effect in 2020, the Vikings and Cougars are embarking on their final season in the Big Eight—for football only, at least for now.
Craig was in the league title hunt deep into last season before finishing 6-3 and tied for fourth place.
At first blush, it’s hard to see either city team winning a conference title, but I’d have no problem if I was wrong about that. And even in I’m right, it would be fun to see the Vikings or Cougars at least play the role of spoiler to some league title hopeful.
Another early Rock game
Speaking of conference realignment, perhaps the move of Craig and Parker to the Badger Conference in 2020 means we’ll see the last way-too-early rivalry meeting in 2019.
Parker and Craig square off in the Battle for Monterey Rock in Week 2 this year, on Aug. 30. The first day of school is Sept. 3.
For some reason, the Big Eight never could figure out a way to make sure the biggest rivalries were played when school was in session. It doesn’t seem that hard, yet Parker and Craig have played each other in Week 2 four of the past six years.
The new conference realignment means an eight-team league, with two nonconference games presumably in Weeks 1 and 2 moving forward.
That means Parker and Craig won’t face each other until Week 3 at the earliest.
Wedig to Milton
Several of our area high school teams will have new head coaches, including Whitewater and Walworth Big Foot.
But perhaps the most intriguing is Rodney Wedig’s debut in Milton.
Wedig spent the past five seasons at Beloit Memorial, going 6-41 in those seasons. But before that he was at Big Foot, where he coached the Chiefs to a state title in 2009 and to state championship games two other times.
Milton posted just nine victories in the past three seasons but isn’t far removed from being a Badger South title contender.
Can Wedig get the Red Hawks headed back in that direction?
Edgerton won 10 consecutive games between a Week 1 loss to Rock Valley champion McFarland and a Division 4 state quarterfinal loss to Lakeside Lutheran.
Can the Tide get rolling once again?
They definitely have some building blocks back in place.
Gone is Jordan Lietz, who was the Rock Valley’s lineman of the year and defensive player of the year. So, too, is standout quarterback Jaden Johnson, who combined for more than 3,000 yards (rushing and passing) and accounted for 40 touchdowns.
But Devin Jorgensen, Reed Farrington, Ben Wileman and Skyler Gullickson were all named to The Gazette’s all-area team as juniors.
Speaking of returnees ...
Those four Edgerton juniors were joined by six others on The Gazette’s all-area team, which typically seems to be very senior-oriented.
Elkhorn quarterback Mason Buelow, Evansville/Albany receiver Sulley Geske, Craig offensive lineman Zach Veium, Big Foot offensive lineman Sam Dickerson, Badger offensive lineman Kyle Freund and Delavan-Darien linebacker Ross Gengler were the others.
Gengler, in particular, has been a tackle machine, and Travis Wilson of WisSports.net reported last month that he has received an offer to be a preferred walk-on at Wisconsin.
Still lots of time to see how all these things play out, but with just four weeks to go until the first day of practice, it’s never too early to get your mind on it.