Big Foot missed the playoffs in 2017, but a large group of incoming seniors and a solid returning core along the lines and on defense should get the Chiefs back on the path towards the postseason in 2018.
The rebound season has to start somewhere, and head coach Greg Enz is a fan of getting to work up front.
"We have to hang our hat on our offensive and defensive lines," said Enz. "We've got five seniors back on our lines this year."
In addition to the five seniors, another half-dozen or so players coming back have experience playing up front. That includes senior Jack Hereley, who was second-team all-conference as a defensive end in 2017.
The lines won't be the only spots bringing back plenty for 2018. Leading tackler Jack Gillingham is back, a season after racking up 90 tackles, two interceptions (including a pick-six), two fumble recoveries, and four tackles for a loss. While he didn't make the all-conference team, he was the team leader in all but one of those categories, except TFLs, where he finished one behind Hereley.
Along with Hereley and Gillingham, Konor Gerhardt, Eduardo Cruz, Carlos Pichardo, Cole Vance, and Kolin Leidberg all were in the top dozen in tackles last year for the Chiefs, although the defense will miss players like Jackson Enz, Tucker Milligan, and Pedro Sierra deep and Danny Carpenter and Sam Ritchey closer to the line of scrimmage.
Offense should be interesting this fall camp, where Logan Eischeid steps in as a more accomplished thrower than runner; filling in for the injured Enz last season, he threw for 820 yards and six touchdowns, completing nearly 60% of his throws. However, whereas Enz was a weapon on the ground (leading the team in rushing by a wide margin, with more rushing touchdowns than the rest of the team combined), Eischeid wasn't quite to that level statistically, although he did score twice running the football in 2017.
In fact, Eischeid, Robinson, Vance, and Hereley are the only returning rushers for the team, combining for 377 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
At receiver, Aiden Greco is back, after pulling in 47 passes (the team leader in that category) for 614 yards and four touchdowns (both second to Pedro Sierra) last season. So is A.J. Courier, who put up a 22-202-2 stat line in 2017. There'll be opportunities in fall camp for all sorts of roles at the skill positions.
On special teams, Enz is out, leaving a big hole at punter and as a returner. Greco handled plenty of returns as a season ago, though, and should see his role increase there. The Chiefs will need a new kicker, but at punter, Logan Eischeid took over midway through the season, and after averaging 32.3 yards per boot in 2017, will be counted upon again to handle that role as well as quarterback. Hereley had one punt in 2017 as well.
Big Foot's schedule in the Rock Valley kicks off with Jefferson on the road, before returning home to play Turner on August 24. A key date looms August 31 at East Troy, before another home game against Whitewater.
The Chiefs play Clinton and McFarland in back-to-back road games in Weeks 5 and 6, then have Homecoming against Evansville/Albany on September 28. The regular season wraps up with a trip to Brodhead/Juda on October 5 and a home game against Edgerton in Week 9.
Here is The Big 1070's interview with Big Foot Chiefs head coach Greg Enz:
Big Foot Chiefs - Rock Valley
Head Coach: Greg Enz (5th Season), 21-19; (18th Overall, 95-81) (4-11 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 3-6 (3-6), 6th in the Rock Valley
Three-Year Record: 14-16 (1-2 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 3 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 3 Honorable Mention (8 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 12 First-Team, 12 Second-Team, 9 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (2): DE/RB/P Jack Hereley (2nd Team-DE), Sr.; WR/DB/ST Aiden Greco (HM-WR), Sr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/P/DB Logan Eischeid, Sr.; RB/DB Dylan Robinson, Sr.; TE/DE A.J. Courier, Sr.; DB/WR Konor Gerhardt, Sr.; LB/RB Eduardo Cruz, Sr.; OL/DL Carlos Pichardo, Sr.; OL/DL Kolin Leidberg, Sr.; OL/DL Mason Klade, Sr.; DB/RB Dylan Robinson, Sr.; DB/WR Brock Schoenbek, Sr.; LB/WR Ryan Davenport, Sr.; DB/WR Christian Flores, Sr.; OL/DL Nathaniell Frederick, Sr.; OL/DL Nick Freymiller, Sr.; DB/WR Jack Gillingham, Jr.; RB/LB Cole Vance, Jr.; WR/DB Owen Martin, Jr.; OL/DE Isaiah Swanson, Jr.; LB/RB Danny Hereley, Jr.; OL/DL Sam Dickerson, Jr.