The price of graduation is steep for both WIAA Division 2 football champion Homestead and its fellow North Shore Conference co-champion Whitefish Bay.
And both face stark challenges if they want to again attain the lofty goals they reached last season starting on Aug. 23.
They are two of the more interesting teams for the upcoming prep football season, one that saw an intensely large number of talented seniors across the board graduate, leaving more questions than answers.
The 2013 campaign, which once again sees a nine-game schedule after a one-year move to eight, only has a few certainties. One is that Arrowhead and Homestead, the defending Division 1 and 2 state champions, respectively, have signed a two-year home-and-home contract. The first game of that series will be played the second week of the season Aug. 30 at Homestead.
It is the first regular season matchup for the pair in many years and the first meeting since the last of the now legendary three straight WIAA Division 1 state championship matchups the two schools had from 2006-08. Homestead won in 2006 and 2008 and Arrowhead in 2007.
That game will be a daunting task for Homestead as one Arrowhead assistant noted this year's Warhawk squad may be better than the dominant squad that rampaged the Division 1 field last season.
Out for more gold
The Highlanders' fourth state title since 1999 last season was a bit of a surprise, fueled by the frustration of the 14-7 loss to Bay in the next-to-last regular season game and a stunning team effort led by a under-rated and over-achieving senior class that wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
But those seniors, including All-Suburban selections Ryan Stendler (defensive end) and Luke Worthington (offensive tackle) as well as all-world leaders such as running back Jay Schneider, quarterback Jake Laihinen and defensive back Riley Pelisek, are gone.
Homestead coach Dave Keel, who has been at the helm of all of the state crowns, may need to use some smoke and mirrors or at least be prepared to pull a rabbit out of his hat to help give his team a competitive chance in this one. Linebacker Bryce Juedes is a key returnee.
Bay needs to replace stars
Meanwhile, over at Bay, coach Jim Tietjen is facing similar issues. Last year's storied group, whose achievements included that now legendary victory over Homestead (the first in decades), a best-ever berth in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals and a never-to-be-forgotten overtime loss to Waunakee in that round, was built on big-time senior talent on both sides of the ball.
It included NOW All-Suburban selections like running back Rashadeem Gray and defensive back Jackson Weber as well as rock-solid leaders like quarterback Grant Menard and defensive lineman Kelly Jackson.
Senior running back Turner DeMuth and state-ranked kicker/punter Colin Downing will be among those trying to forge a new path for the Blue Dukes, who do not want to step back now that they have climbed the mountaintop.
Other NS squads
Elsewhere in the North Shore, various stages of repair and reloading are also underway. In his third year at the helm, Messmer/Shorewood coach Drake Zortman is like Tietjen. He too does not want to step back after turning in a 7-2 record last year, including a second straight WIAA state playoff berth. He'll have to replace NOW All-Purpose star Alec Grimmer, but has NOW All-Suburban tight end Jonathan Carson and veteran quarterback Taylor Dennis to build around.
Brown Deer will miss the services of two-time NOW All-Suburban receiver/defensive back Trayvon Palmer as well as a host of other seniors who helped the Falcons to a 5-4 record that included a state playoff berth and a share of a Woodland Conference divisional title.
On Aug. 30, the same night of the Arrowhead and Homestead game, Messmer/Shorewood and Brown Deer will face off in an old Woodland Conference and area rivalry, as the Greyhounds visit the Falcons. Messmer/Shorewood moved to the Midwest Classic Conference in football a few years ago in order to build a more competitive footing for itself after decades of struggle.
The game now, should be very interesting.
Finally, Nicolet was better than it looked in a 2-6 season as second year coach Dave Quam will try to build around the goodwill and energy created by graduated NOW All-Suburban linebacker Hunter Crass, the first such honoree for Nicolet in more than a decade. The Knights had several close games last season.
See full previews in the Aug. 22 edition.
Look around the area
Other notable items in the greater Suburban area to observe this coming season include the following:
· There are a lot of hopes for Greater Metro Conference favorite, Sussex Hamilton, but many of them rest on the still recovering sprained ankle of all-state running back Drew Patterson. Patterson suffered the injury mid-summer and is hoping to be at full-speed by the time the GMC schedule gets rolling Sept. 6.
· Can 2012 rising star and state quarterfinalist Brookfield East (which lost to Bay in the third round of the playoffs last year) continue its success despite steep graduation losses? East will have an advantage in that NOW All-Suburban quarterback Zach Damico returns to lead the offense in what should be a very competitive GMC this season.
· Another GMC team, Menomonee Falls, will return quarterback Adam Vechart and running back (and state track spring finalist) Christian Almonte to a squad that took several by surprise in earning a berth in the second round of the state playoffs.
· Another feel-good story out of the Woodland from 2012, Wauwatosa West, returns first-team all-league selections Jameson Brock (all-purpose) and Develyn Ferguson (receiver) as NOW All-Suburban coach of the year Matt Good looks to repeat the 7-1 success of a year ago.
· And filed under the category of 'Did you miss me?' semi-retired WFCA Hall of Famer and two-time state champion coach Phil Datka of Germantown, will return to the Warhawk sideline this fall as the quarterbacks' coach for third-year Warhawk head man Jake Davis.
Datka retired in 2010 after 40-plus years as head coach for the Warhawks and then spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Brookfield Central, which is coached by former star Warhawk running back Jamie Meulemans. Datka joked the shorter drive to Germantown means he doesn't have to fill up his gas tank as often.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Brown Deer boys tower over Shorewood in earning key league win
- Novak family has made an impression on Eimers
- Shorewood girls spoil opening night for Brown Deer's new court
- Sports Wrapups: Dec. 8
- Sports Wraps: Dec. 3
- Sports Wrapups: Nov. 26
- Sports Shorts: Nov. 21
- In light of Webb's tragedy, Nicolet football did the best it could
- Nicolet's Worlton earns third in state breaststroke
- Sports Shorts: Nov. 14