Jefferson Eagles - Rock Valley
Coach: Steve Gee (12th Season at Jefferson, 74-39; 15th Season Overall, 91-52) (6-13 career playoffs)
2016 Result: 7-3 (7-2), 3rd in the Rock Valley (Lost in Level 1 of the D3 playoffs to Pewaukee, 50-16)
Three-Year Record: 18-13
2016 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 3 Honorable Mention (14 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 17 First-Team, 15 Second-Team, 9 Honorable Mention (41 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): LB/RB Paul Hollenberger (First Team-LB) (Second Team-LB in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Players To Watch - LB), Sr; RB/DE Evan Anfang (Second Team-RB) (Second Team-DE), Sr.; OL/DL Nick Hauser (Second Team-DL) (Honorable Mention-DL in 2015), Sr.; OL/DL Aldair Ramirez (Honorable Mention-OL), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Zack Peterson, Sr.; TE/DE Matt Siefkes, Sr.; RB/DB Ian McGowan, Sr.; OL/DL Jakob Parent, Jr.; RB/LB Nolan Klawitter, Jr.
Jefferson's 2016 season ended with the program's tenth straight trip to the postseason after finishing only one game behind earning a conference championship.
Prior to the arrival of now-12th year head coach Steve Gee, the Eagles had made the playoffs four times in their history, including a Division 3 state championship in 1991.
"Anyone is capable of winning on any Friday night in our league. We hope to be one of the top teams in the conference this season, but realize there will be no weeks off." - Jefferson Head Coach Steve Gee
"Our goals are always the same," said Coach Gee, who had previously coached at Milwaukee Custer as head coach for three seasons, after spending five years as an assistant. "A winning record, [becoming] eligible for the playoffs, [and to] be in a position to make week nine your biggest game of the season."
For Jefferson, while the playoffs seem automatic these days, Gee keeps the team grounded and focused on what's in front of them.
"We strive to meet these goals by always remembering that the most important play is the next one," said Gee.
The Eagles will lose a half-dozen all-conference performers from last season, but the group of seniors in 2016 helped return Jefferson to near the top of the Rock Valley. "After a tough 2015 season, last year's seniors helped re-establish the winning tradition we have been fortunate enough to enjoy for over a decade," said Coach Gee. "My hope is that their great example will keep things going for us in 2017."
Jefferson will return one of the top linebackers in the state in Paul Hollenberger, who was named one of the state's class of 2018 players to watch at the position. Hollenberger has been on the Rock Valley all-conference team the past two seasons. Another senior, Evan Anfang, made second-team all-conference at both running back and defensive end.
Two key cogs in the Eagles' lines are returning second-team all-conference senior Nick Hauser, who also made honorable mention as a sophomore at defensive line, and honorable mention all-conference offensive lineman Aldair Ramirez. The lines will also be bolstered by junior Jakob Parent.
Some of the other top returning student-athletes for the Eagles include seniors quarterback Zack Peterson, tight end Matt Siefkes, and defensive back Ian McGowan. In the junior class, running back Nolan Klawitter joins lineman Jakob Parent as players expected to have big roles for Jefferson.
On the schedule, Jefferson will see the same nine teams it saw a season ago. That's because the Rock Valley Conference has 10 member teams, which means that the Eagles will play each of the other nine teams once to comprise their entire regular season.
The Eagles open up with a road game against Whitewater, winless a season ago. That game serves as a prelude to a five-game stretch, with just two home games, against the other five teams in the conference that made it to the playoffs in 2016.
In Week 2, Jefferson will host Evansville/Albany, one of the co-Rock Valley champs from last season. The Eagles handed Evansville/Albany their only conference loss of 2016, 20-17. Next up is a road trip to Brodhead/Juda, as the Cardinals upended Jefferson 27-12 last year.
Week 4 features a clash against Big Foot, which was a one-point 24-23 win for Jefferson a season ago. The next two weeks take the Eagles on the road, at one of the co-Rock Valley champions from last year, Clinton (Jefferson's other conference loss last season), followed by a trip to East Troy.
Jefferson will wrap up the season with three games against teams that missed the playoffs last year. First up is Homecoming against Turner. The Trojans figure to be stronger in 2017 behind an experienced, talented front line. After a road game at McFarland, Jefferson will wrap up the regular season against Edgerton.
It's typical in the Rock Valley that the race for conference championship is a bit muddled, but there aren't any clear-cut favorites in 2017. Turner looks to bounce back behind a strong offensive line led by Brandon Malkow. Big Foot will return the conference's offensive player in the year in Jackson Enz. Brodhead-Juda's run game looks to power the Cardinals to another postseason. East Troy's strong offensive line, with three all-conference honorees, will lead their efforts. Edgerton will lead a youth movement this year behind incoming juniors and all-conference honorable mention players Jaden Johnson at quarterback and Mason Simmons at linebacker. McFarland will have experience at most of its skill positions, with the strength of its team in the junior and sophomore classes. Whitewater returns one of the top players in the state in Jimmy DuVal.
Of the defending conference champions, Clinton looks poised to be at or near the top of the conference again behind seven returning all-conference players, one year following a run to the state semifinals. Evansville/Albany loses 13 players that earned all-conference honors last season, but have a fourth-year varsity quarterback in Zach Mielke, and another large, talented group of upperclassmen set to increase their roles.
Jefferson figures to be one of the primary contenders in the 2017 season in the Rock Valley, behind a strong returning defense and several returning players with varsity experience.
"Anyone is capable of winning on any Friday night in our league," said Coach Gee. "Our opponents are well-coached and there is a lot of great history between all of the teams.
"We hope to be one of the top teams in the conference this season, but realize there will be no weeks off."