Monona Grove Silver Eagles - Badger South
Coach: Brandon Beckwith (3rd Season), 20-5 Overall (5-2 Playoffs; 2016)
2016 Result: 11-3 (5-1), 2nd in the Badger South (Lost in D2 State Final to Brookfield East 42-36)
Three-Year Record: 28-8 (6-3 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 9 First-Team, 6 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (22 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 23 First-Team, 15 Second-Team, 27 Honorable Mention (65 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): QB Alec Ogden (First Team-QB) (Honorable Mention-QB in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - QB) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 50 Player), Sr.; RB Jackson Thomsen (Second Team-RB) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - RB), Sr.; DL Trevor Wunderlin (Honorable Mention-DL), Sr.; TE/SS Lucas Gerlach (Honorable Mention-LB in 2015), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: OL/DL Marcus Wallace, Sr.; OL/DL Connor O'Rourke, Sr.; WR/DB Colton Moran, Sr.; WR/DB Jordan Jenks-Recker, Sr.; WR/DB Anthony Ellis Krehl, Sr.; RB/LB Taylor Duncan, Sr.; TE/LB Bronz Geissler, Sr.; WR/DB/K Will Horstmeier, Sr.; QB/DB Jordan Bishop, Jr.; RB/LB Ethan Beenher, Jr.; RB/LB Trenton Herber, Jr.; WR/DB Jalen Ostrowski, Jr.;
BIG Games: vs Edgewood September 8 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week), at Monroe September 22, vs Milton September 29 (Homecoming), at Stoughton October 6, vs Watertown October 13
Last year, the Monona Grove Silver Eagles surprised many with a deep playoff run that took them all the way to Camp Randall and the Division 2 state championship game against Brookfield East.
For many Silver Eagles backers, it brought back some memories of their last championship run in 2013, when they took home the gold ball. Last year's seniors were freshmen when Monona Grove took home their last championship.
Despite the loss of nearly three dozen seniors from last year, Coach Beckwith said that there won't be many changes to how Monona Grove approaches 2017. "Expectations are the same. Our expectations are always high. We take it one game at a time. We hope to compete in every game and win the conference, like always." - Monona Grove Head Coach Brandon Beckwith
This year, Monona Grove will look to re-load after graduating 32 seniors and both senior managers, which represented one of the largest classes of football players in the school's history. Third-year head coach Brandon Beckwith, who took over for WFCA Hall of Fame coach Mike Stassi after the 2014 season, says that he credits that large and talented group for keeping the program's tradition alive after the coaching change.
"They really stuck with me," said Beckwith, who was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator under Stassi since 2004. "Those seniors went through thick and thin, rode it out, and got better as players and as people."
The highlight for those seniors will be a remarkable trip through the Division 2 playoffs, winning all four games on the road before playing in the state final in Madison, their shortest trip of the playoffs.
"No one expected that run," said Beckwith.
Monona Grove defeated Waterford, Waunakee, Waukesha West, and Homestead, all on the road or at neutral sites, before reaching state.
Outside of playing at Camp Randall, the highlight of the season "was definitely the two-point conversion against Waukesha West," said Coach Beckwith.
"It really wasn't a tough call," said Beckwith. Monona Grove had scored a touchdown in overtime in Level 3 against Waukesha West to make it a one-point game, and after an offsides penalty moved the ball four and a half feet from the end zone, the Silver Eagles went for two and the win.
"All the players and coaches wanted it," said Coach Beckwith. "I was probably the most on the fence about it."
The rest was history:
After losing nearly three dozen seniors, Monona Grove will have "one of the smallest senior classes in recent memory," said Beckwith. The incoming senior class numbers only in the low teens, although nearly all of them will be major contributors in 2017.
"We've got our normally-high good numbers coming up in the junior and sophomore classes," said Beckwith, "and our freshman class is huge."
Aided in part by the prospect of solid numbers coming up through the ranks that began in Monona Grove's nearly half-century-old peewee football program, the Silver Eagles certainly have plenty to look forward to this season.
One of the top players in the entire state according to WisSports.net (in the top 50 of all class of 2018 players and the top 15 of all senior quarterbacks), two-time all-conference selection Alec Ogden returns to lead the Silver Eagles' offense. Versatile running back Jackson Thomsen is also a returning senior, as is tight end Lucas Gerlach, who was injured for much of last season. Outside of those three, said Coach Beckwith, there will be plenty of new names to learn.
"We only have about a half dozen guys on the line that have any varsity experience," said Beckwith. Coach Beckwith noted that senior Connor O'Rourke has the most playing time of the returning group, but has never started at the varsity level.
Other possible offensive linemen candidates include Marcus Wallace and Trevor Wunderlin, although Beckwith prefers a two-platoon setup for his team, and said he expected plenty of juniors to play on the line this year. "We'll have an all-new offensive line this season," said Beckwith. "It's odd for us, since Monona Grove has been solid historically on the line."
At receiver, Beckwith said that the returning group is talented, but relatively unproven. Some of the seniors in the mix will be Colton Moran, Jordan Jencks-Recker, and Anthony Ellis Krehl. Beckwith suggested a few juniors will be in the rotation as well, including Jordan Ostrowski.
In the backfield, the running back position is poised to be very deep behind Thomsen, with senior Taylor Duncan and juniors Ethan Beenher and Trenton Herber getting a few carries last season. Alec Ogden will again be backed up by junior Jordan Bishop at quarterback.
There are likewise only a few returning players to the defense from a year ago for the Silver Eagles. Trevor Wunderlin was an all-conference honorable mention pick last year on the defensive line, and Lucas Gerlach earned an honorable mention nod himself his sophomore year in 2015. Gerlach will move to the crucial safety position in the Silver Eagles' defense, into the spot vacated by the 2016 Badger South defensive player of the year Jarrett Maier. Senior Taylor Duncan steps back in at linebacker to lead the group, and senior Marcus Wallace will join Wunderlin on the defensive line. Senior linebackers Bronz Geissler and Trenton Herber also return. Outside of those few players, said Beckwith, there will be plenty of opportunities for other players.
In the special teams department, gone is the outstanding Collin Larsh, so it appears at the moment that Alec Ogden, who was an effective punter during the Silver Eagles' playoff run, will take over that position, while senior Will Horstmeier is listed as the team's only kicker heading in to 2017. In the return game, there should be plenty of options for the Silver Eagles, although their primary kick returners from last year have graduated.
Monona Grove will line up some solid competition in 2017. "The Badger South will be one of the toughest conferences out there," said Coach Beckwith. "You can't overlook anybody."
First up are the Badger North crossover games. They'll meet two programs that missed the playoffs last year in Baraboo and Portage, both at home. Both teams appear to be on the rise, however, and Portage brings in veteran head coach Bob Hepp to help turn around the success of the program.
Badger South play kicks off at Oregon on September 1. Oregon, who dealt with a spate of injuries last year, battled the Silver Eagles tough in what ended up a five-point win for Monona Grove.
Returning home for Week 4, Monona Grove will host Edgewood, our Madison Taxi High School Game of the Week for September 8. Edgewood was a conversion away from winning the game last year over the Silver Eagles.
A pair of back-to-back road games in rematches of exciting, close games in conference play last year are up next for Monona Grove. On September 15, the Silver Eagles visit Fort Atkinson, in a rematch of a wild 57-56 win for Monona Grove last September. Then, Monona Grove will visit defending Badger South champion Monroe for the Cheesemakers' homecoming. Monroe won last year, 10-7, en route to an undefeated conference championship.
Monona Grove's Homecoming game this year is against Milton in Week 7, before the Silver Eagles play against two of the other top contenders for the league title in 2017. First up is a road trip a little ways down Highway 51 to Stoughton. Then, one of the most anticipated quarterback match-ups in the entire state awaits in Week 9 at John Klement Stadium when Watertown visits town to wrap up the regular season.
Despite the loss of nearly three dozen seniors from last year, Coach Beckwith said that there won't be many changes to how Monona Grove approaches 2017. "Expectations are the same," said Beckwith. "Our expectations are always high. We take it one game at a time. We hope to compete in every game and win the conference, like always."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska