2017 was only the second season ever in which Belleville made the playoffs as a stand-alone program, having made it three times as a co-op with Albany in the mid-2000's. The Wildcats graduate a handful of seniors, but return largely the same group from a season ago that won a conference championship.
That group, according to coach Chase Ritter, is led by the seniors, but also Danny Enloe, who won lineman of the year in the conference in 2017. The offensive line is bringing back four of their five starting lineman.
"He sets the tone," said Ritter. "[Enloe] will be doing something, and whether you're a lineman or not, you have to match what he does."
Ritter added that the team brings so much back, that it's hard not to be excited about the upcoming season. Belleville has seven former all-conference honorees back in the fold.
"We've got some very high expectations," said Ritter. "The success of the program continues to build. It's exemplified by the number of kids in the weight room this offseason."
Coach Ritter also credits the school and community for their support. "All the sports seem to be on the upward trajectory," he said.
The WFCA proposal for football-only conference realignment sits just fine with coach Ritter. "It's been tough in the Capitol South, with only five teams," said Ritter. "We have trouble getting respect at seeding meetings."
"When we heard about the realignment, we were really excited about getting to play top competition [in the SWAL]. Having eight teams in the conference will be good," he added.
After the program's second-ever standalone playoff appearance (the first since 1982) and the fifth all-time (three times as a co-op in the 2000's, most recently in 2007), Belleville will work towards their first-ever back-to-back playoff appearance in school history.
Belleville will make the trip up north to Elcho/White Lake to kick off the season, a year after welcoming the co-op program to Belleville in a home-and-home. Week 2 is a home game against Parkview of the Trailways. On Thursday, August 24, the Wildcats will play at Wisconsin Dells, in one of the only games on the schedule for that evening in the entire state.
As of July 25, there is not a Week 4 opponent for Belleville.
Conference play begins with a home date against one of the Capitol South champs from a year ago, New Glarus/Monticello. The week after, on September 21, Belleville is at Waterloo. The Wildcats will have Homecoming in Week 7 against Cambridge, who they narrowly lost to a season ago in our Madison Taxi Game of the Week coverage. Cambridge was the other conference championship from last season.
October 5 is a home game against a potential future conference opponent in the SWAL, Cuba City. The regular season wraps up on October 12 at Marshall.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Belleville Wildcats head coach Chase Ritter:
Belleville Wildcats - Capitol South
Head Coach: Chase Ritter (3rd season); 11-8 Overall (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 6-4 (3-1), 🏆 1st in the Capitol South (Lost in Level 1 of the Division 6 playoffs to Racine Lutheran, 69-7)
Three-Year Record: 13-15 (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 8 First-Team, 7 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (15 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 15 First-Team, 19 Second-Team, 4 Honorable Mention (38 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (7): QB/LB Nate Mabis,[🏈 WSN] (1st Team-LB; 2nd Team-QB), Sr.; G/DT/LS Danny Enloe (🏅co-Offensive Lineman of the Year; 1st Team-OL; 2nd Team-DL in 2016), Sr.; CB Jackson Richter [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-DB), Sr.; RB/S/ST Luke Kelly (2nd Team-ST in 2016), Sr.; T/DT Dylan Gratz (2nd Team-OL; 2nd Team-DL in 2016), Sr.; WR/LB Jared Schulting (2nd Team-LB), Sr.; T/DE Ogden York (1st Team-LB), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: G/DL Markus Markiewicz, Sr.; RB/LB Jack Diederich, Sr.; WR/DL Will Smith, Sr.; WR/LB Isaac Morrick, Sr.; C/DL Noah Karr, Sr.; C/DL Joe Gibbs, Jr; QB/DB Mike Bracken, Jr.; WR/DE Josh Grebel, Jr.; RB/LB Sawyer Fahey, So.; G/DL Mason Markiewicz, So.; QB/S J.J. Wenger, So.; G/DL Drew Enloe, So.; LB/WR Tyler Fahey, So.