Cambridge Blue Jays - Capitol South
Coach: Mike Klingbeil (11th Season), 62-50 Overall (8-6 Playoffs in 6 Appearances)
2016 Result: 3-6 (0-4) - 5th in Capitol South
Three-Year Record: 20-13
2016 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (7 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 17 First-Team, 10 Second-Team,6 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (3): QB/DB Spencer DeForest (First Team-DB) (Second Team-QB) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - DB), Sr.; LB/RB Camden Eagan (Second Team-LB) (Honorable Mention-RB), Jr.; TE Jordan Marty (Honorable Mention-TE), So.
Other Players To Watch: OL/DL Braden Ranguette, Sr.; OL/DL Hunter Pursell, Sr.; WR/DB Bailey Furseth, Jr.; HB/DB Riley Olson, Jr.; WR/DB Rudy Hommen, Jr.
After making the playoffs for three straight seasons, Cambridge struggled through a 3-6 campaign with low numbers and tough competition in the Capitol South.
Such as life as a small school in the state of Wisconsin, as the ebbs and flows of enrollment, participation, and population can show in the standings on a year-by-year basis.
"[We] return 16 to 18 starters, along with [all of our specialists]... We'll have some big games, and [we] will be competitive." - Cambridge Blue Jays Head Coach Paul Klingbeil
"We were as young as a team as we've had in 12 years last year," said Cambridge Head Coach Mike Klingbeil, who returns for that 12th season in 2017.
Last year's team graduated just six players, and this year's team will have only five returning seniors. Leading the way will be standout two-way player Spencer DeForest, who made all-conference both as a defensive back (first team) and quarterback (second team). Joining DeForest in the senior class are returning linemen/interior defenders Braden Ranquette and Hunter Pursell, as well as defensive back Josh Scheel and lineman Kevin Walimaki.
Nearly a dozen players are in the incoming junior class, which is the same size as Cambridge's 2016 and 2017 classes combined. Leading the way are two-way all-conference pick Camden Eagan at linebacker and running back, where Eagan will slot in for the graduated Jeff Anderson. Running back/defensive back Riley Olson and receiver/defensive back Rudy Hommen also return as key players for the junior class, which will be bringing as a whole plenty of varsity experience.
Sophomore tight end/defensive lineman Jordan Marty is back as well. Marty earned an honorable mention all-conference nod as a freshman.
With so much experience across multiple classes, Cambridge should be primed for a bounce-back 2017.
"[We] return 16 to 18 starters, along with [all of our specialists]," said Coach Klingbeil.
Still, this is a young team, reminded Klingbeil, and the goals for the program remain as they always have been.
"We're looking forward to improving each week, challenging our players to grow as a team, and learning more about the mental part of the game," said Klingbeil.
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.
The Blue Jays will open their season against a Division 5 playoff team from a year ago, Brookfield Academy. Last year, Cambridge lost on the road 24-7 as Brookfield Academy went on to a 7-3 season. Cambridge stays at home for Week 2 against Deerfield, who Cambridge defeated last year 37-14. Deerfield went winless in 2016.
A three-game road trip takes the Blue Jays from non-conference play to Capitol South action. First up, they will take on Horicon/Hustisford of the Trailways, another D5 playoff participant from last season. Then, it's Wisconsin Dells, who didn't earn a victory last year.
The first conference game is on the road against Waterloo. Cambridge lost a hard-fought decision to the second-place team in the conference, 14-8, a season ago. The Blue Jays will then return home for three straight games.
Cambridge's final non-conference game is a special home date for Blue Jays faithful, said Klingbeil. "We're going to dedicate our field to Hall of Fame coach, Bob Nodolf, the week we play Darlington."
Darlington advanced to the Division 6 state championship last year. Nodolf, who coached Cambridge from 1969 into the 2000's, led the team to a state title in 1979, and was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame in 2000. His 234 wins rank 26th all-time in state history.
Two home conference games arrive in weeks 7 and 8, with Belleville and Marshall in town, the latter of which is also homecoming for the Blue Jays. Cambridge will finish the season against last year's Capitol South champion, New Glarus/Monticello.
In the Capitol South, New Glarus/Monticello is considered the favorite, but the remaining four teams in the conference, including Cambridge, will not make it easy on the Glarner Knights. Almost every team brings back key performers from 2016.
"We'll have some big games, being a smaller school," said Coach Klingbeil, "and [we] will be competitive."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska