While a large group of seniors graduated from last year's playoff team, a strong class of incoming juniors (and a core of experienced seniors) will lead the way for new Madison Memorial Spartans head coach Michael Harris.
Harris, who previously coached at Madison La Follette, was looking forward to the opportunity to be a head coach again some day. He had been working with the youth programs at Memorial when the chance to take over the head coaching gig came up. "I had been getting that itch back to coach again at the varsity level," said Harris. "I'm very blessed and fortunate to be in this place right now."
The cupboard won't be bare, either. Jeremiah Jordan, one of the state's most highly-touted players (and committed to D1 Illinois State), will be one of several players that will carry the torch from last year's squad. Excitement for the program has spilled over beyond the returning players as well. "We've got some players who didn't even play football coming out this year," said Harris.
Harris touted the leadership and talent of the returning players, both at the skill positions and along the lines. While there were several seniors who graduated from last year's playoff team, there's optimism at Memorial. "There's enthusiasm, there's excitement, and I think the players are really working hard," added Harris.
Up front on offense, Sam Jessup returns as the group's all-conference representative. Roary Jones, Tyson Nash, Cam Bott, Mason Lahm, and Rick McGuire are some of the candidates to be contributors early on. Jason Ceniti returns for his first full season at quarterback after taking over early last year as a sophomore. The running back position will welcome back the second- and third-leading rushers from last year, Kam Marshall and Arindis Vasser, and Mike Cerniglia is back at receiver with basketball teammate Cade Ellingson on the outside as well.
In addition to the outstanding Jeremiah Jordan, the defense will have Vassir back at corner, and plenty of depth across the board with a very large and talented 2020 class filling in the spots left open by last year's graduated seniors. On special teams, Mateo Mora is back to handle punts while Kole Kerkhoff will return to handle kickoffs, extra points, and field goals, and the top two kick returners are in for 2018 as well with Vasser and Marshall each fielding over a dozen kicks and punts each.
Madison Memorial won't have to wait long for a rematch with the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. Sun Prairie comes to town in the opening week, which will be our Madison Taxi Game of the Week broadcast. Then, the very next week, coach Harris will face his former team, Madison La Follette, at Mansfield.
The Spartans head across town to play rival Madison East at Breese Stevens on August 31, and make the short trek up Gammon to play Middleton in Week 4. The Mansfield Cup is September 14, against Madison West, as the Spartans try to retake Burt Hable's Clipboard in our Madison Taxi Game of the Week.
Memorial will travel to Verona in Week 6 before returning to Mansfield to play Beloit Memorial (Homecoming) and Janesville Parker (Senior Night) in back-to-back weeks. The regular season ends with a road game at Janseville Craig.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Madison Memorial head coach Michael Harris:
Madison Memorial Spartans - Big Eight
Head Coach: Michael Harris (1st Season), 0-0; 7th Season Overall, 20-35 (0-1 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 4-6 (4-5), 5th in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 1 of the Division 1 playoffs to Sun Prairie, 35-0)
Three-Year Record: 15-15 (1-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 0 First-Team, 1 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (6 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 5 First-Team, 8 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (28 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (3): LB/RB Jeremiah Jordan [🏈 WSN] (2nd Team-LB in 2017 and 2016), JS.; OL/LB Sam Jessup (2nd Team-OL in 2017 and 2016), Sr.; TE/LB/P Mike Cerniglia (HM-TE), Sr.;
Other Players To Watch: C/DL Cam Bott, Sr.; RB/CB/ST Arindis Vasser, Sr.; WR/S Cade Ellingson, Sr.; WR/CB Tra'Vaughn Harper, Sr.; WR/LB Will Sprout, Sr.; K/P Mateo Mora, Sr.; DL/OL C.J. Brown, Sr.; OL/DL Mason Lahm, Sr.; QB/DB/H Jason Ceniti, Jr.; RB/DB/ST Kam Marshall, Jr.; T/DL/LS Roary Jones, Jr.; G/DL Tyson Nash, Jr.; RB/LB Monte Meeks, Jr.; LB/WR/ST Chauncey Cannon, Jr.; K/DB/WR Kole Kerkhoff, Jr.; G/DL Nick Carl, Jr.; DB/WR Devin Friedrich, Jr.; OL/DL Rick McGuire, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Sun Prairie, August 17 (🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week); vs Madison La Follette, August 24; vs Madison West, September 14 (Mansfield Cup) (🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week); vs Beloit Memorial, September 28 (Homecoming)