Mount Horeb/Barneveld Vikings - Badger North
Coach: Ryan Kleppe (2nd Season), 8-2 Overall (0-1 Playoffs; 2016)
2016 Result: 8-1 (5-1), 2nd in the Badger North (Lost to Delavan-Darien 28-21 in Level 1 of the D3 Playoffs)
Three-Year Record: 26-8 (4-3 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 5 First-Team, 8 Second-Team, 9 Honorable Mention (22 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 21 First-Team, 19 Second-Team, 20 Honorable Mention (60 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (10): OL/DL Hunter Pretti (First Team-DL) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - DL), Sr.; WR/DB Travis Klassy (First Team-DB) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15- DB), Sr.; OL Preston Post (Second Team-OL) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - OL), Sr.; OL/DL Eli Williams (Second Team-OL) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - OL), Sr.; RB/LB Brady Gassman (First Team-DL) (Second Team-RB), Sr.; LB Scott Hall (Second Team-LB), Sr.; RB/LB Malik Winston (Second Team-RB), Jr.; OL James Ignatius (Honorable Mention-OL), Sr.; OL/DL Cade Czerwonka (Honorable Mention-DL), Sr.; K Cris Petrusatti (Honorable Mention-K), So.
Other Players To Watch: WR/DB Tyler Crubaugh, Sr.; WR/DB Miles Steinhoff, Sr.; WR/DB Jack Frey, Sr.; OL/DL Gage Schult, Sr.; QB/DB/P Luke Hagelin, Sr.; RB/LB Ky Kalscheur, Sr.; WR/LB Max Gregory, Sr.; WR/DB Nick Cassidy, Sr.; WR/DB/P Drew Paulson, Sr.; WR/LB Tyler Denu, Jr.; WR/DB Isiah Matthews, Jr.; OL/DL Max Olinger, Jr.;
BIG Games: at Oregon August 25, vs Waunakee September 1 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week on The Big 1070), vs Reedsburg September 22, vs DeForest October 6
After an outstanding regular season, the lone blemish a one-score loss to perennial power Waunakee, the Mount Horeb/Barneveld Vikings had a somewhat disappointing finish to 2017.
"Not the ideal end to the season I was envisioning," said second-year Mount Horeb/Barneveld Head Coach Ryan Kleppe, "but I think we realized that once you get to the playoffs, regardless of seed, you need to minimize mistakes, and we weren't able to do that, and we paid for it."
"Every week in the Badger is a challenge, and we need to be mentally and physically prepared to execute to the best of our ability. I expect us to compete at the top of the conference, with a lot of returning starters and plenty of varsity experience, and we are going to work our tails off each day to improve and reflect on ways we can push each other to get better." - Mount Horeb/Barneveld Coach Ryan Kleppe
Kleppe, a 2003 graduate of Mount Horeb and former assistant on the Mount Horeb/Barneveld staff, is a big believer in preparation. "Our motto this season is 'Earn It' and our program motto is 'Raise The Bar,'" said Coach Kleppe. "We want to ensure each player approaches each day showing that he earns the right to be a part of our program."
That goes beyond the field of play, said Kleppe. What that includes: "Everything from keeping up academically to stay eligible, being on time or early to all team functions, giving effort above and beyond, and keeping each other accountable with your behaviors off the field and in the community," said Coach Kleppe.
In his first year as head coach, the senior class led the team to an 8-2 record. "We had the advantage last year of having a large chunk of players who had played significant varsity snaps over their careers and experienced a lot of success," said Kleppe. "That experience was vital in situations throughout the season, when we needed to respond in game and stay composed under pressure [or] when we needed plays to be made.
"You always remember your first group of seniors and I am so thankful for their commitment to my vision and for everything they sacrificed and gave to our program."
The return of ten players who earned a total of 11 all-conference honors should be a big positive for the Vikings heading into 2017.
Offensively, both starting running backs return in junior Malik Winston (second-team all-conference) and senior Brady Gassman (also second-team), with senior Ky Kalscheur also back. In the passing game, the Vikings will need a new quarterback (senior Luke Hagelin is the only returning player who threw a pass last season), and will be looking for contributions from a deep stable of receivers, including seniors Tyler Crubaugh (injured mid-way through last season against Waunakee), Miles Steinhoff, and Jack Frey, with seniors Max Gregory, Nick Cassidy, and Drew Paulson and juniors Tyler Denu and Isiah Matthews also returning to the positions.
One of the top lines in the area also returns mostly intact, with a pair of senior offensive linemen rated as players to watch by WisSports.net (second-team all-conference offensive linemen Eli Williams and Preston Post) and another senior (James Ignatius) who received honorable mention all-conference. Senior Gage Schult appears to be "in the mix" for play on the offensive line as well.
A strong defense is led by a pair of seniors in first-team all-conference defensive back Travis Klassy, who is in the top 15 seniors in the state according to WisSports.net at the position, and lineman Hunter Pretti, who is on WisSports.net's watchlist.
Another first-team all-conference pick, linebacker Brady Gassman, is joined by fellow senior Scott Hall, second-team all-conference, in the linebacker corps. Gage Schult returns to start at nose tackle, and will help anchor the defensive line along with honorable mention all-conference Cade Czerwonka.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld will also boast one of the area's best kickers in honorable mention all-conference selection Cris Petrusatti, a senior.
While the schedule sets up favorably for the Vikings, hosting most of the projected strongest teams in the Badger North this season, it doesn't make it any easier.
First up are the Badger South crossover games. To open the year, Mount Horeb/Barneveld will host Edgewood. In Week 2, the Vikings will head to Oregon to square off with a Panthers squad that will be much improved than their 1-8 record in 2016.
Badger South play kicks off September 1, in our Madison Taxi Game of the Week. Waunakee will visit Mount Horeb/Barneveld in a match-up of the top two teams in the conference from a season ago. Last year, Waunakee won by one score over the Vikings. This game figures to be one of the most interesting match-ups of the 2017 season.
Another home game follows, against conference newcomer Beaver Dam, on September 8. After a week in Baraboo to face the Thunderbirds (a close game last year, only a 19-14 win for the Vikings), Mount Horeb/Barneveld will host Reedsburg, in a rematch from last October's regular-season finale.
The Vikings will visit Portage on September 29. Portage hired veteran head coach Bob Hepp to lead the program this year. Then, Mount Horeb/Barneveld will face another 2016 playoff team at home, DeForest. Last year, the Vikings beat the Norskies 28-16.
In the regular-season finale, Mount Horeb/Barneveld will head to Prairie du Sac to play Sauk Prairie. The Vikings shut out the Eagles 35-0 last September.
"Every week in the Badger is a challenge, and we need to be mentally and physically prepared to execute to the best of our ability," said Coach Kleppe. "I expect us to compete at the top of the conference, with a lot of returning starters and plenty of varsity experience, and we are going to work our tails off each day to improve and reflect on ways we can push each other to get better."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska