Madison East Purgolders - Big Eight
Coach: Jeremy Thornton (First Year)
2016 Result: 2-7 (2-7), 9th in the Big 8
Three-Year Record: 7-21 (0-1 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 1 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (8 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 8 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (26 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (0): None
Other Players To Watch: QB Datril Thompson, Sr.; RB Kierre Washington, Sr.; RB/LB/DB Devan Marz, Sr.; WR Michael Balke, Sr.; OL Jonathan Garcia, Sr.; DL Keann Moore, Sr.; DL Nick Perez, Sr.; LB Ben Handel-Kutz, Sr.; DB Caleb Smith, Sr.; DB Eli Blakely, Sr.; LB/DB Colin Waech, Sr.; LB Henrickus Echols, Sr.; K Brett Richardson, Sr.; RB Javier Zarate-Morales, Jr.; RB/LB C.J. Dean, Jr.; RB/WR Zach Hanser, Jr.; QB Phil Roh, So.
BIG Games: vs Madison Memorial September 15, at Madison West September 22, at Madison La Follette October 6, vs Middleton October 13 (Homecoming)
Talk to new Madison East Head Coach Jeremy Thornton, and he will enthusiastically tell you about his family and what it means to lead the Purgolders.
No matter the question, Coach Thornton, who graduated from East in 2004 and led the team to a Big 8 championship in 2003 as a first-team all-conference starting quarterback, will always bring the response back to his family, and growing together. Thornton said it goes all the way back to his time at East, and his decision to coach the program wasn't a difficult one.
"We will focus on building a team that is disciplined, assignment driven, and aggressive. Off the field, we will be examples in the school and out in the community. The city and surrounding area will become more familiar with our brand." - Madison East Purgolders Head Coach Jeremy Thornton
"Reaching the decision was easy," said Thornton. "I am a die-heart East-side alum that wants to give back in a positive way. The opportunity presented itself and I had to take advantage of it, not only for myself, but for the community.
"I truly feel that together, my team and I will change the culture at Madison East."
Madison East football ready to grow as a family under Jeremy Thornton
In addition to discussing his playing time and his excitement to play right along the lights on East Washington, Thornton is excited to bring his vision, rooted largely in his playing days in the early 2000's, to the forefront at Madison East, which should be a little easier given that the program graduated most of its starters from a season ago. Only a few starters return for East, but that's all right with Coach Thornton, who believes it will help the team grow without the attention being paid to a small group of players. "We are a family, and will always be that, now and forever."
At quarterback, sophomore Phil Roh threw over 100 passes as a freshman on varsity, but senior Datril Thompson is also back after leading the team in virtually every passing category. East will have experience behind center.
Thompson also finished second on the team in rushing and led the team in rushing touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield will be Kierre Washington, a senior who was third in rushing and tied for second in touchdowns a season ago. Other returning running backs who earned a handful of touches last season include senior Devan Marz and juniors C.J. Dean and Javier Zarate-Morales.
Lining up on the outside will be senior Keshawn Justice, also a standout basketball player, but plenty of new faces will end up in the lineup in 2017. A few running backs, including the group previously mentioned as well as senior Michael Balke and junior Zach Hanser, caught passes last year. Justice was second on the team in most receiving categories last year.
The offensive line will work in a few new names as well. Six seniors return, including Jonathan Garcia, and a few members of the talented junior class and even a sophomore or two could find their way on to the field.
Defensively, the Purgolders bring a little more back than they do offensively. Seniors Nick Perez and Keann Moore return to anchor the middle. Linebacker may be the strongest position on the entire team, with starters Devan Marz (senior), the team's leading tackler last year, Ben Handel-Kutz (senior), and C.J. Dean (junior) all back. Seniors Caleb Smith and Eli Blakely are back in the secondary, and depth exists in the back half of the defense with returning seniors Colin Waech (who like Marz will line up at linebacker or defensive back depending on the needs of the defense at the time) and Henrickus Echols.
At kicker, Brett Richardson is the lone listed specialist on this team's roster, and didn't register a kicking stat on varsity last season.
The first game for Coach Thornton and the Purgolders is a home date with Sun Prairie at Breese Stevens Field. Then, East will hit the road for Janesville in back-to-back weeks against Craig and Parker.
East will not leave the city the rest of the regular season. Beloit Memorial visits Breese Stevens on September 8, before city play begins against Madison Memorial on September 15. East beat both of those teams last season, including a 7-6 decision against the Spartans.
Across town in Week 6, East will play West on the night that the Regents celebrate their 1977 state championship, the 30th anniversary of the event, in what should be a charge in the atmosphere of an already emotional rivalry game.
After Verona visits Breese Stevens in Week 7, the Purgolders take the short trip to their old home at Lussier Stadium to play La Follette. East still has signage up in the stadium, on the press box. East will finish the regular season against Middleton for Homecoming.
"We will focus on building a team that is disciplined, assignment driven, and aggressive," said Coach Thornton. "Off the field, we will be examples in the school and out in the community. The city and surrounding area will become more familiar with our brand."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska