After a long stretch of making the playoffs came to an end in 2017 during an injury-plagued campaign, the Marshall Cardinals look to start a new streak in 2018.
"We had to play our entire conference schedule without our starting quarterback," said head coach and AD Matt Kleinheinz. "That impacts everyone on the team."
Marshall, like other schools in the Capitol South, play five of their nine games against non-conference opponents. That's the same case this year. "Back five, six years ago, we looked to beef up our schedule as much as possible," said Kleinheinz, in discussing the schedule. "We think that it helps us for the rest of the season."
Last year, Marshall was within striking distance late against eventual Division 4 champion Lodi, but the Blue Devils got a long run to cap off a 28-13 victory. This year, the Cardinals will welcome another small-school power in Stanley-Boyd to their non-conference schedule.
It's football, so injuries are a part of the game, but Marshall had to play without starting quarterback Josh Wehking. He'll be one of about a half-dozen seniors on the team this year, and his return will allow juniors Dylan Horstmeier and Tyler Chadwick to go back to their original positions in the triple-option attack this season. Up front, Ben Lusk and Zach Igl will return to pave the way.
Defensively, Wehking and Horstmeier (a first-team all-conference linebacker in 2017) will be back in the fold. Middle linebacker Izak Plasky returns to anchor the defense, and juniors Jack Moen and Kalob Arndt are back as starters as well. Chadwick was first-team as a punter in the conference, and he's back for his junior season as well. Horstmeier was a first-team special teams player for the Cardinals in the Capitol South last season as well.
Notably, the team's leading rusher, Kelvin Opoku-Appoh, and his younger brother Collins, have moved out of the district and will enroll at Madison West, leaving a bit of a void in the backfield for the Cardinals. Kelvin was a second-team running back in the conference the past two seasons, as well as a second-team defensive back in 2016. He's also been first-team in special teams this season and second-team last season.
"We're going to be counting on younger players to step into roles quickly," said Kleinheinz.
Four of the Cardinals' five non-conference games to open the season will be at home, starting with Palmyra-Eagle on August 17. Small-school power Stanley-Boyd makes the trek down to Marshall for an August 24 date with the Cardinals, and Adams-Friendship makes a trip down as well to round out the August slate of games on August 30.
September takes Marshall on the road for three of four games. September 7 is a Week 4 game at Poynette, before returning home on September 14 to battle Mineral Point. The conference season opens with a road game at New Glarus/Monticello before wrapping up the month with a road contest at Waterloo.
Marshall's playoff chances could be on the line in October, when they will host Cambridge on October 5 for Homecoming and Belleville in Week 9 to put a bow on the regular season for Senior Night.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Marshall Cardinals head coach Matt Kleinheinz:
Marshall Cardinals - Capitol South
Head Coach: Matt Kleinheinz (15th season); 82-63 Overall (9-11 Playoffs) - 8 Conference Championships
2017 Result: 2-7 (0-4), 5th in the Capitol South
Three-Year Record: 12-19 (2-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 5 First-Team, 1 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (6 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 17 First-Team, 13 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (32 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (2): RB/LB/ST Dylan Horstmeyer (1st Team-LB and 1st Team-ST), Jr.; WR/DB/P Tyler Chadwick (1st Team-P), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/LB Josh Wehking, Sr.; FB/LB Izak Plasky, Sr.; OL/DL Ben Lusk, Sr.; WR/LB Zion Smith, Sr.; OL/DL Deven Haberkorn, Sr.; OL/DL Zach Igl, Jr.; DE/RB Jack Moen, Jr.; WR/S Kalob Arndt, Jr.; WR/DB Cai Resler, Jr.; OL/DT Josh Hudson, Jr.; RB/S Rylan Wiltzius, Jr.; OL/DL Kelby Petersen, So.; OL/DL Caden Baumann, So.; OL/DL Alex Ugalde, So.; OL/DL Charles Warren, So.; OL/DL Mitchell Gomez, So.
BIG Games: vs Stanley-Boyd, August 24; vs Mineral Point, September 14; at New Glarus/Monticello, September 21; vs Cambridge, October 5 (Homecoming)