New Glarus/Monticello Glarner Knights - Capitol South
Coach: Jeff Eichelkraut (2nd year in current stint; also coached 1999-2011, 15th overall); 71-61 Overall (5 Conference Championships; 2016)
2016 Result: 6-4 (4-0), 1st in the Capitol South (Lost in Level 1 to Arcadia in the Division 5 playoffs, 34-21)
Three-Year Record: 12-17
2016 All-Conference Honors: 7 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (12 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 19 First-Team, 15 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (29 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (6): OL/LB Jonah Thompson, Sr. (First Team, OL & LB) [Capitol South Defensive Player of the Year] [WFCA Honorable Mention All-State] [WSN Other Top Juniors To Watch]; RB Zach Feller, Jr. (First Team) [Capitol South Offensive Player of the Year]; DL Adam Marty, Jr. (First Team) [Capitol South Defensive Lineman of the Year]; RB Tanner Jelle, Sr. (Second Team); OL Jessiah Tetner, Sr. (Second Team); LB Jon Errthum, Sr. (Second Team).
Other Players To Watch: ATH/DB Jared Carney, Sr.; QB/RB/LB Noah Zimmerman, Sr.; RB/LB/K/P Bryce Eichelkraut, Sr.; WR/DB/P Cullen Brooks, Sr.; K Trent Sigafus, Jr.
BIG Games: at Lake Mills August 25 (non-conference), vs Belleville September 15, vs Cambridge October 13 (Senior Night)
After overseeing the program for 13 seasons from 1999 until 2011, Jeff Eichelkraut once again found himself on the sidelines of the Glarner Knights program in 2016.
All he did was coach the team to a conference championship and make it two straight years into the playoffs for New Glarus/Monticello.
"What we did last year was fun, and give us some momentum. However, we have to earn everything we get, and there are good football teams in our conference and on our schedule." - Head Coach Jeff Eichelkraut
"Last year's group led the transition to a new coach and system, and they bought in to what we were doing," said Coach Jeff Eichelkraut. "As a group, it was great to see them win the conference their senior year."
The cupboard is far from bare for the defending champions of the Capitol South. While they will have to replace the conference's offensive lineman of the year in Hunter Tierman and two other all-conference first-teamers in defensive back John Chenowith (also their starting quarterback last season) and linebacker Trent Siegenthaler, they'll return the conference's offensive player of the year (junior running back Zach Feller), defensive lineman of the year (junior Adam Marty), and defensive player of the year (double first-team linebacker and offensive lineman Jonah Thompson). Thompson was named one of WisSports.net's Class of 2018's Players to Watch.
In addition to Feller at running back, the senior trio of Jared Carney, Bryce Eichelkraut, and Noah Zimmerman all contributed in multiple facets of the offense and on special teams. Cullen Brooks was also one of the team's leading receivers in 2016.
"We have the potential to be a deeper team all across the board," said Coach Eichelkraut. "Potentially, we could have over 60 players out in grades nine through 12, so that leads to a considerable amount of depth across the board."
Coach Eichelkraut has no intentions of considering his team a front-runner, despite winning the conference with a perfect 4-0 Capitol South record in 2016. "What we did last year was fun, and give us some momentum," he said. "However, we have to earn everything we get, and there are good football teams in our conference and on our schedule."
While last year's second-place team in the conference, Waterloo, loses six all-conference performers, all five teams in the Capitol South have at least one first-team all-conference player returning, and every team has had a winning record at least once in the last three seasons. Additionally, four of the five teams have won a conference title in the past three seasons.
It figures that the Glarner Knights will be one of the top teams in the Capitol South again in 2017, but each team brings back some outstanding individual talent as well. None of what other teams are doing makes much difference to Coach Eichelkraut, however. "The key to our season is our ability to continue to grow and get better every week. If we can do that, everything else will take care of itself," he said.
The Capitol South remains a five-team conference for 2017 for the second straight year, meaning teams only need to win two games in conference play to become playoff-eligible and three games to clinch a playoff spot. The drop to five teams occurred prior to the 2016 season, when Wisconsin Heights opted to play 8-man football rather than continue in the Capitol South.
On the Glarner Knights' schedule, a non-conference date with Capitol North contender Lake Mills looms as a potentially fun game. The L-Cats handed New Glarus/Monticello a 41-13 loss last season. While virtually every Capitol South game qualifies as a big game, their September 15 conference opener against nearby Belleville will be an important test for both teams, as Belleville finished last season at 5-4, their best record in years, but went only 1-3 in the Capitol South. After playing Waterloo and Marshall on the road (with a homecoming non-conference date against Iowa-Grant in-between), New Glarus/Monticello finishes the season against Cambridge on October 13 (also senior night), in what will likely be an important game as Cambridge returns a duo of outstanding two-way players and looks to return to the playoffs as well.
The Capitol South will feature several outstanding two-way players in 2017, but the Glarner Knights will be returning three player-of-the-year winners and will be defending their conference title, so they enter 2017 as the favorite. However, the remaining teams in the conference won't make it easy on New Glarus/Monticello this season.