Reedsburg Beavers - Badger North
Coach: Brian Pottinger (12th Season), 71-50 (17-6 Playoffs; 2016) - State Championship in 2009
2016 Result: 4-6 (4-2) - 3rd in the Badger North (Lost to Monroe 21-0 in Level 1 of D3 Playoffs)
Three-Year Record: 22-14 (6-3 playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (13 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 15 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 17 Honorable Mention (43 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (5): RB/DB/K/P Mason McMillen (First Team-P) (Second Team-K) (Second Team-K in 2016) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - K/P), Sr.; DL Jake McGlynn (First Team-DL) (Second Team-DL in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - DL), Sr.; OL/DL Michael Griffin (Honorable Mention-OL), Sr.; OL/LB Trevor Steffen (Honorable Mention-LB), Sr.;WR/DB Tobias Brown (Honorable Mention-DB), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Nate Kruser, Sr.; RB/DL Joe Lichte, Sr.; Ben Horzewski, TE/DL Matt Kohlmeyer, Sr.; OL/DL Zach Arneson, Sr.; OL/DL Dakota Klosky, Sr.; WR/DB Bryce Bierman, Sr.; FB/LB Gavin Gurgel, Sr.; RB/LB Chase Kaiser, Sr.; RB/DB Spencer Reinecke, Sr.;
It took over a decade coaching south of the Wisconsin/Illinois border before Reedsburg Head Coach Brian Pottinger came home to Wisconsin.
After 13 years coaching at three different stops as an assistant in Illinois, both at the high school and college level, Pottinger took over as head coach of the Reedsburg Beavers, and has led them to great success in now his twelve years at the school. Reedsburg advanced to state for the first time in 2008, and went back again in 2009 to take home the championship.
"It was already a grind every year trying to win three games in the conference to reach the playoffs. Now, we have to win four games [with the addition of Beaver Dam] to be guaranteed, but that won't change our expectations at all. We tell constantly tell our players that if they're an athlete and a competitor, they will look at this as a challenge. Therefore, we'll expect to compete for a playoff spot again this year." - Reedsburg Head Football Coach Brian Pottinger
It's a path a little similar to his father, LaVern, who is in the football hall of fame in two states (Wisconsin and Illinois). LaVern won a pair of state championships in Illinois and is widely regarded as an expert on the wishbone/option offense, running camps at UW-River Falls for decades.
While son Brian never was a head coach in Illinois, Coach Pottinger has found success in Wisconsin at Reedsburg, where he has built a perennial contender in the always-difficult Badger North.
Although the Beavers didn't win a playoff game last year for the first time since 2011, the last time Reedsburg wasn't part of the playoff field, Pottinger didn't believe that the lack of a deep run in the playoffs will hurt his team at all. In fact, he said, it will mean fewer surprises come crunch time for his players.
"This past season, our seniors were able to lead us to achieve our goal of a playoff berth. The biggest impact is on the younger players in our program, because they're able to see the kind of work ethic and intensity it takes to be successful on the field," said Pottinger. "The younger players are a part of the 'playoff atmosphere', so if they're fortunate enough to be a part of that in the future, it won't be overwhelming to them, and they can handle those types of pressure situations much better."
For the players, the seniors will be the leaders, says Coach Pottinger. "We'll lean heavily on our seniors," said Pottinger. "We have high expectations for [them]."
In the backfield, last year's top two leading rushers are gone, which will mean an increased workload for seniors Ben Horzewski, Joe Lichte, Mason McMillen, and Spencer Reinecke. Nathan Kruser at quarterback is another senior taking on a big role this year. Pass-catching options could include tight end Matt Kohlmeyer, another member of the class of 2018.
Along the front line, senior Michael Griffin (honorable mention all-conference) will lead a group of, you guessed it, seniors, including Zach Arneson and Dakota Klosky.
Defensively, Reedsburg brings back one of the top defensive linemen in Wisconsin in Jake McGlynn, a two-time all-Badger North selection. They also have a pair of other seniors who earned honorable mention nods on defense: Tobias Brown at defensive back and Trevor Steffon at linebacker. The starting lineup figures to be almost entirely seniors this season.
On special teams, the Beavers boast one of the state's biggest threats in Mason McMillen, a two-time all-conference pick at kicker, a first-team all-conference selection at punter, and one of the players to watch in the class of 2018 according to WisSports.net. McMillen made his only field goal try of 2016 and hit on 11 of 12 extra point tries.
Last year, Reedsburg won four games, all in Badger North play, but lost three non-conference games in Badger crossover games and then its only playoff game, against another crossover foe (Badger South champion Monroe). This year, the Beavers will face only two Badger South opponents as the league welcomes in another team with the Beavers moniker, the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers.
Speaking of defending Badger South champion Monroe, that is who Reedsburg opens up the season with in 2017, in a home game. The other crossover game is at Milton, a team like Reedsburg that took a bit of a step back in 2016 record-wise.
Badger North play begins with a home game against 2016 playoff participant DeForest at home. Reedsburg then travels to Prairie du Sac for a game against Sauk Prairie in Week 4. Reedsburg topped both by multiple scores in 2016.
In the Battle of the Beavers (please note that I made that up just now), Beaver Dam comes to town in Week 5 in the first meeting between the schools as conference opponents. Reedsburg visits Mount Horeb/Barneveld the following week.
On Hall of Fame induction night, Waunakee travels to Reedsburg on September 29. The Warriors routed Reedsburg 35-0 last year and are considered the favorite in the Badger North in 2017 after winning the conference as well in 2016.
Homecoming is one week later, on October 6, against Portage, before the Beavers wrap up the season against Baraboo. Reedsburg beat both teams last year for their other two victories.
Overall, the Badger North should be an exciting race, both in terms of who makes the playoffs and who can challenge the conference's projected top team, Waunakee, in the newly-realigned Badger North. Count Coach Pottinger among those in the conference that is excited for Beaver Dam to join the league.
"With the addition of Beaver Dam, it does change the dynamic of the conference in terms of making the playoffs," said Pottinger. "It was already a grind every year trying to win three games in the conference to reach the playoffs. Now, we have to win four games to be guaranteed, but that won't change our expectations at all."
Pottinger followed up by embracing the higher requirement to make the postseason. "We tell constantly tell our players that if they're an athlete and a competitor, they will look at this as a challenge. Therefore, we'll expect to compete for a playoff spot again this year," said Pottinger.
Coach Pottinger also said that he understands that his players have sports and lives outside of football, and wants them to pursue those interests so that they're excited when football season arrives. "Due to the summer demands of other sports and family vacations, we don't attend lineman challenges or 7-on-7 types of activities," said Pottinger. "Our major focus is to strength train and improve our speed and agility. This training is beneficial to them for all sports they may take part in. We like to tell them we're training them as athletes, not football players," said Pottinger, citing examples of how the majority of his student-athletes are multi-sport athletes.
"We don't want them to feel that football is a burden with too many demands on their time because they have so many other things going on," said Coach Pottinger. "This gives them time to do other things, and hopefully, then they're excited to get to football camp in July and the start of the season."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska