Big Foot Chiefs - Rock Valley
Coach: Greg Enz (4th Season at Big Foot, 17th Overall), 18-14 at Big Foot, 94-74 Overall (4-11 Playoffs in 11 Appearances) - Sheboygan North '98-'99 (10-9), Little Chute '01-'12 (66-51*)
*WisSports.net and the WIAA have Little Chute with a 64-53 record for these seasons, but we are including the information we received from Coach Enz for this publication
2016 Result: 5-5 (5-4), 4th in the Rock Valley (Lost in Level 1 of the Playoffs to River Valley, 61-13)
Three-Year Record: 18-13
2016 All-Conference Honors: 4 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 3 Honorable Mention (12 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 15 First-Team, 13 Second-Team, 9 Honorable Mention (37 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (5): QB/P Jackson Enz (First Team-QB and P) (First Team-Ath in 2015) (Rock Valley Offensive Player of the Year) (WSN Class of 2018- Top 15 QB) (WSN Class of 2018 Players To Watch - Specialists) (WFCA All-State Honorable Mention - Utility), Sr.; WR Pedro Sierra (First Team-WR) (WSN Class of 2018 Players To Watch - WR), Sr.; WR Jake Heidenreich (Second Team-WR) (WSN Class of 2018 Players To Watch - WR), Sr.; OL/DL Danny Carpentar (Second Team-OL), Sr.; WR/DB Tucker Milligan (Honorable Mention-DB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: OL/DL Aaron Carpentar, Sr.; OL/LB Jose Mercado, Sr.; WR/DB Hunter Sharpe, Sr.; WR/DB Austin Brongiel, Sr.; LB/RB Sam Ritchey, Sr.; WR/DB Aidan Greco, Jr.; QB Logan Eischeid, Jr.; Cole Vance RB/LB, So.;
For a program aiming for its 15th straight playoff appearance, the Big Foot Chiefs almost seem to be operating under the radar in a deep Rock Valley Conference this season.
That despite a state title and two other state appearances during the 14-season playoff streak, and featuring one of the most highly-regarded players in the state of Wisconsin at quarterback in Jackson Enz, who is rated as a top ten quarterback in his class by WisSports.net after being one of just 29 non-seniors to be named WFCA All State or Honorable Mention in 2016.
In regards to the teams in the conference and how they will finish in the Rock Valley, Big Foot Coach Greg Enz offered, as means of a prediction: "You could shake [up] the names and pull them out of a hat."
Chiefs Head Coach Greg Enz, Jackson's father, will welcome back some of the biggest playmakers from last season, including his son and most of his receiving targets. Two of his receivers, all-conference performers and seniors Pedro Sierra and Jake Heidenreich, are on WisSports.net's senior watch list at wideout. Seniors Hunter Sharpe and Austin Brongiel also return to the receiving corps.
While having weapons in the passing attack is nice, Coach Enz wants to establish some balance on the offense this season.
"If we can develop a more consistent run game, and play more consistently on both sides of the football, we can improve upon our record from last year," said Coach Enz.
One player in the mix for the run game is sophomore Cole Vance, who finished fourth on the team in rushing last season as a freshman. Whoever ends up being featured in the backfield will be running behind twins Danny (second-team all-conference) and Aaron Carpentar, now seniors, as well as senior Jose Mercado.
Defensively, Big Foot will welcome back senior linebackers Mercado and Sam Ritchey, as well as defensive backs Tucker Milligan (honorable mention all-conference), Brongiel, and junior Aidan Greco. The Carpentars will help along the defensive line as well.
"If we can develop a more solid defense in all facets, we can improve upon last year's record," said Enz.
"All of this must come with sound fundamentals and proper execution, and less of a reliance upon big plays and athleticism as we have in the past couple of years," added Enz.
After discussing how the team could find some improvement, Coach Enz brought up last year's seniors as a model for development and leadership.
"Our seniors last year deserve a great deal of credit for where they came from to where they got," said Enz. "That group, as freshmen, didn't win a game, and as sophomores, won only once [at the non-varsity level]. To be a part of and lead a team over the past two years to the playoffs says a great deal about their character and their development, and is a credit to them, the coaching staff, and all [the] other teachers and coaches in the Big Foot community."
The Rock Valley saw six teams make the playoffs, including a trio of 5-4 teams in Big Foot, Brodhead/Juda, and East Troy. With Evansville/Albany, Jefferson, and Clinton also all returning key players, and Turner poised for a big bounce-back year, it's a little easier to see how Big Foot could get lost in the shuffle of contending teams. Coach Enz thinks the conference could see some changes to the order in the standings based on how balanced the Rock Valley is.
"I see a shift to some degree in the league," said Coach Enz, noting that every team in the Rock Valley brings back talented players and great coaching, listing off several examples from each team.
In regards to the teams and how they will finish in the Rock Valley, Enz offered, as means of a prediction: "You could shake [up] the names and pull them out of a hat."
On the schedule, because the Rock Valley is a closed conference (the 10 teams play nine games, all against other Rock Valley opponents), Big Foot will see the same schedule of teams as they did last year.
One of the only teams in the state with a longer playoff streak than Big Foot is Brodhead/Juda, 25 seasons and counting. The Chiefs will visit the Cardinals in Week 1 to kick off the season, a game Big Foot won by just one point at home last year. The Chiefs turn back around and hit the road again to play East Troy in Week 2, and will attempt to avenge last year's 48-43 loss to the Trojans.
Big Foot's home opener will be against defending Rock Valley co-champion Clinton, a game that Big Foot lost last year 44-6 on the road. Then, the Chiefs will once again play on the road at Jefferson (who beat Big Foot by one point, 24-23, in 2016) to wrap up a difficult stretch to open the season, with three of their first four games on the road and all four games against playoff teams from last year.
While it will by no means be a breeze of a stretch, the next four games see Big Foot take on teams that missed the playoffs last year. First up is against well-regarded Turner, in a home game on September 15. Many coaches, including Coach Enz, see Turner as a team poised to make a big jump up in the standings this year.
From there, the Chiefs will play at McFarland, home against Edgerton, and away against Whitewater. Big Foot will cap its season against the other co-champion of the Rock Valley from last year, Evansville/Albany, at home in Week 9.
It's typical in the Rock Valley that the race for conference championship is a bit muddled, but there aren't any clear-cut favorites in 2017. Jefferson features a very strong defense and figures to be one of the favorites in the conference this year. Turner looks to bounce back behind a strong offensive line led by Brandon Malkow. East Troy will rely on a strong offensive line to pave the way towards the playoffs and conference title contention this season. Brodhead-Juda's run game looks to power the Cardinals to another postseason. Edgerton will lead a youth movement this year behind incoming juniors and all-conference honorable mention players Jaden Johnson at quarterback and Mason Simmons at linebacker. McFarland will have experience at most of its skill positions, with the strength of its team in the junior and sophomore classes. Whitewater returns one of the top players in the state in Jimmy DuVal.
Of the defending conference champions, Clinton looks poised to be at or near the top of the conference again behind seven returning all-conference players, one year following a run to the state semifinals. Evansville/Albany loses 13 players that earned all-conference honors last season, but have a fourth-year varsity quarterback in Zach Mielke, and another large, talented group of upperclassmen set to increase their roles.
"It's going to be very competitive week in and week out, for sure," said Coach Enz.
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska