Edgewood Crusaders (Madison) - Badger South
Coach: Al Minnaert (26th Season), 155-107; 37th season overall, 216-133 career record (47-21 at Holy Name Seminary '84-'91 in 8 seasons; 14-5 at Annawan (IL) '81-'83 in 3 seasons)
2016 Result: 2-7 (1-5), 6th in the Badger South
Three-Year Record: 8-20 (0-1 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 12 Honorable Mention (16 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 5 First-Team, 9 Second-Team, 29 Honorable Mention (43 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): RB/LB Kalevi Breckterfield (First Team-LB) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - LB), Sr.; TE/DL Jack McNeil (Second Team-TE) (Honorable Mention-DL) (Second Team-DL in 2015), Sr.; OL/DL Mark Luebke (Honorable Mention-OL), Sr.; OL/LB Will Foht (Honorable Mention-OL), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: WR Mandela Deang, Sr.; RB/DB Joe Beste, Sr.; OL/DL Ryan Thom, Sr.; RB/LB Alex Brown, Sr; RB/WR/DB Drake Brent, Sr.; QB/DB Tom Hartlieb, Jr.; OL/LB Chase Canarella, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Sauk Prairie August 25, at Monona Grove September 8 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast), at Oregon September 29
Edgewood Football Coach Al Minnaert has seen plenty in his now 37 years as a head football coach, spanning three schools and two states.
That's why a season like 2016, in which the Crusaders managed only two wins, doesn't call for a sweeping change to the goals of the program and culture he has established at Edgewood.
Edgewood Head Coach Al Minnaert admits that they don't have many players returning to the skill positions, but that the competition should fuel some success and results for the players that emerge. "We've got experience on the lines," said Minnaert. "However, we are rebuilding the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions."
"Our goals don't change because of the won-lost record," said Minnaert, who will enter his 26th season as head coach of the Edgewood Crusaders, and currently ranks 54th all-time on the coaching victories list in Wisconsin (202 of his career 216 wins have come in Wisconsin).
"We value attitude and effort. We want to be a first-class program whose members carry themselves well, play the game right, and we actively seek that acknowledgement from the others both in our community and from the other programs we see each week," said Minnaert. "We take pride in success in all of our sports, but that's as much, if not more so, important off the field than on it."
Minnaert's outgoing senior class left behind a work-hard mentality, despite facing the adversity of a losing season in the win-loss department. Now, the Crusaders get back to work this season in a Badger South that will require four wins instead of three to make the playoffs, in what is expected to be a deep conference again this season.
On the field, Minnaert admits that they don't have many players returning to the skill positions, but that the competition should fuel some success and results for the players that emerge. "We've got experience on the lines," said Minnaert. "However, we are rebuilding the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions."
With seniors Will Swita, Fred Richards, Bryce Ternus, Edwin Henderson, and Peyton Bondoc leaving the backfield, Alex Brown, Drake Brent, and Tom Hartlieb return as the only players to run the ball at least once in 2016, with Hartlieb, now a junior, throwing only five passes as the quarterback understudy last season.
At the receiver position, only Jack McNeil (a tight end) and Mandela Deang return as players who caught at least one pass last season. Deang, a standout basketball player, was second on the team in receiving touchdowns last year. McNeil was second-team all-conference as a tight end.
On offense, the clear area of strength is along the front lines, with seniors Will Foht, Mark Luebke, and Ryan Thom, and junior Chase Canarella, anchoring an experienced unit. The talent up front should give the younger, less experienced players behind them a little more room to succeed.
Likewise, defensively, the front seven will be the strength of the Crusaders. Two-time all-conference honoree Jack McNeil remains a force on the defensive line, while senior linebacker Kalevi Breckterfield was named one of WisSports.net's players to watch at the position for the senior class. In the secondary, much like on the offense, the outside positions will feature some players fresh to the varsity level, led in part by junior Tom Hartlieb and senior Joe Beste.
On the schedule, the Crusaders will open up on the road against Mount Horeb/Barneveld, one of the potential contenders in the Badger North to Waunakee, before settling in at Breitenbach Stadium in Middleton for their first game of the home portion of the schedule against another Badger North opponent, Sauk Prairie.
A pair of tough road games follow to open up their Badger South schedule. Last year, Stoughton managed to hold off two separate rallies by Edgewood and win 28-21. This year, it's Week 3 and the conference opener for both squads.
"We were a two-point conversion away from beating Monona Grove last year," said Coach Minnaert. "That will be a great game for both schools."
Indeed, Monona Grove held on for a wild 42-41 victory on October 7, when Fred Richards couldn't get into the end zone on the two-point try in the fourth quarter. Returning senior Jack McNeil hauled in half of his season's total worth of catches in last year's contest with the Silver Eagles.
That effort came as the final game of the season in terms of having a chance to make the playoffs. Edgewood was shut out in their season finale, 21-0, in 2016.
Edgewood will return to Middleton for two home games. First up, it's Badger South newcomer Watertown, before welcoming in Fort Atkinson for Week 6.
September 29 is Edgewood's rivalry game at Oregon, followed by a road trip to defending conference champion Monroe.
The Crusaders will once again wrap up their season against Milton, this time at Breitenbach Stadium.
"Everyone in the Badger South is solid," said Coach Minnaert. "No one is bad. The conference is extremely balanced this year."
While several outstanding players graduate, the conference will feature a bevy of decorated linebackers, running backs, and offensive linemen, although plenty of attention will be paid to the passing attacks at both Monona Grove and Watertown. The addition of Watertown, says Coach Minnaert, changes the conference moving forward.
"Now, you need four wins, instead of three, to make the playoffs," said Minneart. "Everyone in this conference is good. It changes the math."
The Badger South will be one of the conferences to watch this year. Coach Minnaert expects his team to be in the mix and hopes that playing against the larger schools in the regular season will benefit the team come playoff time, if they are fortunate enough to make it, when they will see schools with enrollment sizes closer to their own.
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska