2017 High School Football Preview: Madison West

Madison West Regents - Big Eight

Coach: Brad Murphy (2nd Season), 5-5 Overall (0-1 Playoffs; 2016)

2016 Result: 5-5 (5-4), 4th in the Big 8 (Lost to Badger in Level 1 of D1 playoffs, 30-7)

Three-Year Record: 11-18 (0-2 Playoffs)

2016 All-Conference Honors: 5 First-Team, 1 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (11 total)

Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 11 First-Team, 9 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (26 total)

Returning All-Conference Players (5): QB Keishawn Shanklin (First Team-QB), Sr.; FB/LB Armoni Warfield (Honorable Mention-LB), Sr.; LB/K David Maravilla (Honorable Mention-LB), Sr.; RB/LB Jaden Stephens (Honorable Mention-LB), Sr.; OL/DL Patrick Horvath (Honorable Mention-OL), Jr.

Other Players To Watch: TE/DE Gus Zeiss, Sr.; OL/DL Javon Enochs, Sr.; OL/DL Johnny Gutknecht, Sr.; FB/LB Brandon Thill, Sr.; WR/DB Ryan Wendland, Sr.; OL/DL Alex Okelue, Sr.; WR/DL Amir Harris, Sr.; WR/DB Quinn Burgess, Sr.; OL/DL Carson Meyer, Jr.; OL/DL William Thomas, Jr.; WR/DB Nyshun Mcghee, Jr.; QB/LB Ezra Thompson, So.

2017 Schedule: Go Here

BIG Games: vs Madison Memorial August 25, at Middleton August 31, vs La Follette September 15, vs East September 22 (1977 Championship 40th Anniversary Celebration)

An exciting year, filled with thrills and some of the biggest plays in school history, finished with the Madison West Regents in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Along the way, West picked up the City of Madison championship, courtesy of sweeping Memorial, La Follette, and East. While a talented group of seniors, who in their four years found their way into the playoffs three times, now departs, a large core of last year's squad remains intact.

West swept the three intra-city match-ups last year, a big part of the reason why they advanced to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. While the Regents have plenty in place to make it five trips in six years, Coach Murphy was quick to point out how tough it is to win in the Big 8. "It should be very competitive throughout the conference," said Murphy.

"Our seniors that just left the program deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround we had last season," said Head Coach Brad Murphy, who is entering his second season. "They laid the foundation of the program going forward. All of us coaches wish them the best in the future."

In 2015, the Regents went 1-8 before hiring Murphy, who had been the offensive coordinator at Monona Grove from 2009-2013. 2015 is the only year since 2011 that West has missed the football playoffs.

While Terrell Carey, now playing at Division 1-FCS Northern Iowa, stole the highlight reel on several occasions last year, the truth is that the Regents bring back some very important pieces for 2017. Back for the Regents are five players who made all-conference a year ago, led by senior quarterback and all-conference first-team selection Keishawn Shanklin, who is also a standout basketball player. 

The backfield combination of senior Armoni Warfield (third on the team in rushing a season ago) and senior Jaden Stephens (fifth) along with Shanklin (fourth) means a solid deal of their run game will return with experience, since the first- and second-leading rushers from last year have graduated, but only had a combined 255 yards rushing more than Warfield. 

Senior Brandon Thill provides depth at fullback. Running back may be a committee approach after Stephens, with no other players on the varsity stat sheet for 2016, and the only other quarterback listed on the roster is sophomore Ezra Thompson, who didn't attempt a varsity pass last year.

Wide receiver will be an interesting position this year, with one of the state's top performers hauling in nearly 75% of the yardage and over 2/3 of the touchdowns through the air last year for the Regents. West will bring back Stephens to the fold, second on the team in catches, yardage, and touchdowns in 2016, but he's expected to play mostly at running back. Other than Warfield's one reception, West won't have any other player on the roster that caught a pass last year, so the Regents' receiver position will see plenty of new faces this season, among them junior Nyshun McGee.

Up front, honorable mention all-conference selection Patrick Horvath, a junior, will anchor the middle of the Regents' line. Carson Meyer, a junior, and Johnny Gutknecht, a senior, are expected to contribute on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, seniors Gus Zeiss, Alex Okelue, Javon Enochs, Amir Harris, and junior William Thomas project to be the top players along the line.

The linebacker group will boast a trio of all-conference selections. Seniors Armoni Warfield, Jaden Stephens, and David Maravilla all earned honorable mention all-conference nods a season ago. In the secondary, senior Ryan Wendland was fourth on the team in tackles in 2016, and others, like senior Quinn Burgess, will be back as well at a position that like receiver will see some new faces this season.

The return game will see some new faces as well with no returning player having returned a kick or punt last year. Keishawn Shanklin led the team in punting a season ago, while David Maravilla was 12 for 15 on extra-point tries.

West swept the three intra-city match-ups last year, a big part of the reason why they advanced to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. While the Regents have plenty in place to make it five trips in six years, Coach Murphy was quick to point out how tough it is to win in the Big 8. "It should be very competitive throughout the conference," said Murphy.

While the Regents play two road games in their first three contests, the total round-trip distance of those games is four miles. An opening-night battle against Beloit Memorial, a 27-14 win for the Regents a season ago, counts as their home game. They won't have to leave Mansfield Stadium, however, as Madison Memorial hosts the week two contest. West earned a 24-14 victory in 2016.

Two true road games follow, as part of a difficult three-game stretch that includes the Madison Memorial game. First up is a short trip up the road to Middleton. Last year, the Cardinals held on to a 30-22 victory. Then, it's off to Verona in week four. Last year, the Wildcats trounced the Regents, 27-6.

After three road games, West will then play three home games, the first two to complete their intra-city work. La Follette visits on the 15th of September, which was a 28-16 West win a year ago. Then, it's the big West-East game on September 22, in which the Regents will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1977 state championship team. West won a wild 60-27 game over at Breese Stevens last September.

The homestand wraps up with Sun Prairie, who defeated West 36-0 last September.

West will spend the final two weeks of the regular season in Janesville, at Monterey Stadium, the opponent for both of the Homecomings of Craig and Parker, respectively, on October 6 and 13. West eked out a one-score win over Craig at home last year, but was defeated by Parker 52-34.

"Our goals for the 2017 season is and always will be to win a conference championship," said Coach Murphy. "We have a lot of room to grow in order to reach that goal, but I know if we continue to work hard, good things will come our way. Other goals we set were to become better leaders on and off the field. We also focused on the weight room because we knew we had to get stronger as a program."

--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska

Information from WisSports.net was used in this preview. Visit WisSports.net for everything you need to gear up for the high school sports season.

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