With nine starters back on defense and seven on offense, no wonder Sheboygan South football coach Jason Harder is optimistic.
“You’ve got to be,” he said. “I mean, I like the way the kids are working. I like the way we have a strong core group of kids who put in a lot of time and work for this season. As we build the program up, you want to get back to where your entire team is that committed to what you’re trying to do and committed to your program to make themselves better. Because the league that we’re in is highly competitive. It’s a different level of football. You’ve got to get them coached up and ready to go out there to compete at that level.
“But yeah, with all those guys back, we’re working on some nice team chemistry. I feel good about the season and feel good about where we’re at in practices so far.”
The lone two that have to be replaced on defense were the only ones that made all-Fox River Classic Conference honorable mention last season: linebackers Zeke Grunow and Luke Wildman.
Linebacker Jesus Castenada started as a sophomore last season and he will be joined on the inside by Marcus Fish.
Laine Thompson, Kalen Buchner and Nic Bennett are back to anchor the line, safeties Dylan Foth and Colin Brennan return, and so do cornerbacks Josh Govek and Elliott Pethan.
Offensively, the entire line remains intact thanks to Buchner, Bennett, Thompson, Matt Steffen and Owen Case.
“It’s nice, and we’ve got some pretty good depth on the line,” Harder said.
The others who started on offense were Govek at quarterback and Colin Brennan at receiver.
New quarterback: Govek will not be the quarterback again, but it has nothing to do with his season-ending shoulder injury sustained in the first game of last season.
His coach feels he can better help the offense playing the slot receiver.
“We felt really good about his athleticism and his play-making ability at (quarterback),” Harder said. “Unfortunately he got tackled and landed wrong.”
As of last week, three players were battling for the starting QB position: senior Noah Londre, and juniors Jacob Pitsch and Eric Gonzalez.
SOUTH AT A GLANCE
Coach: Jason Harder
Last year: 1-8 (1-8 FRCC, 9th)
Reigning champ: Bay Port
*Nine starters return on defense and seven on offense.
*Two players made all-conference last year but both graduated.
*South has a total of four wins in four years – all against North.
*The Redwings won nine straight over the Golden Raiders.
Fox River Classic
*Bay Port (Div. 1), Pulaski (Div. 2) and Notre Dame (Div. 3) reached the state quarterfinals a year ago.
*The Pirates have won the last three league titles with a combined record of 27-0.
*Bay Port senior Max Meeuwsen is the reigning defensive player of the year in the league.
*Pulaski running back Dylan Hendricks, the offensive player of the year in the FRC, graduated.
All games at 7 p.m.
Aug. 22 at Pulaski
Aug. 29 Notre Dame
Sept. 6 at De Pere
Sept. 13 Ashwaubenon
Sept. 20 at Southwest
Sept. 27 Man. Lincoln
Oct. 4 North
Oct. 11 at Bay Port
Oct. 18 Preble