When’s the last time the Waupaca Comet football team didn’t make the state playoffs?
That was 1990, way before any players on this season’s team were born.
Whether that streak – currently the second-longest in Wisconsin behind Menomomie – is broken this year remains to be seen, but the Comets are coming off an Eastern Valley Conference co-championship with Appleton Xavier and an 8-3 overall record.
As is the case every season, coach John Koronkiewicz have a number of holes to fill, including all-conference players Bjorn Asher (kicker, punter, wide receiver); Casey Kienert (offensive lineman); Seth Deuman (defensive end); Aaron Gooch and Justin Johnson (defensive back); Josh Timm and Ajay Johnson (linebacker); and Logan Feldt (defensive lineman).
On the other hand, returning players include senior quarterback Sam Menzies and senior running back Beau Ash.
“We have Sam and Beau on offense and Alex Hoffman is our returner at tight end,” Koronkiewicz said after the team’s recent scrimmage with Hortonville, Ashwaubenon and Wrightstown. “Caleb Kiesow is really our only offensive lineman with any experience, so we’ll be new up there. Every bit of play time that we can get is going to benefit those guys up front.
“You go to the defensive side of the ball and we’re pretty green,” he said. “We have Josh Houtman back in the secondary, Sawyer Olson at inside linebacker and Mitch Grorich at defensive tackle. Those are the guys that had experience and played a year ago, but everybody else is new.”
The Comet defense was tested at the scrimmage with a number of different offenses.
“We saw a spread wing-T look, a complete spread offense and a power offense,” Koronkiewicz said. “Once you get into the season, you still have to adjust to what’s new from the opposition. You never really know what you’re going to see.”
The scrimmage is a big change from first two weeks of practice, according to Koronkiewicz.
“You get tired of hitting and playing against each other,” he said. “Our guys have done a pretty good job trying to get better and more physical, but at some point, it gets old. Your legs get tired, the practices are long and you need to play against somebody else. That’s what’s nice about this scrimmage. I think we got a lot of things done.”
The Comets went into Friday’s season opener at Winneconne short-handed.
“We have a couple guys that are nursing injuries,” Koronkiewicz said. “(Receiver) Nate Jenson’s going to be out for a while with a strain in his foot, so we’ll miss him. We’ll see what happens there, but that’s why there are other people on the team. You need everybody to step up and make plays. It’s a new season with new players and it’s time for new players to play the game.”
The Comets went into the scrimmage with plenty of question marks.
“I think we started to answer some of these questions,” Koronkiewicz said. “We only have who we have. We have to take the guys we have and make them better. They have to have more confidence in their own ability to make plays and that goes a long way. They have to be sure of who their assignments are.
“In the first two weeks, we kind of work our offense against our defense,” he added. “It’s only been in the last couple of days that we’ve taken a look at different looks. It takes awhile to adjust to that. As the season progresses, you get used to seeing different things and that’s when that playing time experience comes in and becomes more valuable.”
Waupaca competes in the EVC with Berlin, Clintonville, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Little Chute, Ripon, Xavier and Winneconne. Since the usual nine-game regular season has been cut to eight games this year, EVC teams will not play every other conference team. Waupaca will not face Freedom this year.
“I think it affects the way you should look at the season,” Koronkiewicz said. “You should look at it as a short season. Eight weeks will go by pretty fast, especially when you’re playing two games even before school starts. Once school starts, things happens pretty fast. You play the Homecoming game before you even realize it and all of a sudden, you’re looking at a couple of weeks left in the season. It goes by fast and you have to try to remind the guys to take advantage of every moment you possibly can to enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, we don’t get to play everybody in our league and I think that’s a disappointment. If you’re going to play for something, you should play everybody.”
Still, Koronkiewicz expects the EVC to be a strong conference again.
“If you take a look at the last couple years, the conference has been pretty balanced,” he said. “It was last year and I think you’re going to see the same kind of thing. Xavier will be in a position to be a pretty good football team, so will FVL and so will Freedom. You can’t count out Clintonville or Little Chute because they always have talent.
“From top to bottom, the league’ll be pretty good,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’re going to be able to compete with anybody we face and see what happens Friday night when we step out on the field. That’s always the goal.”
2012 Waupaca Comets Football Schedules
Friday, Aug. 24 – at Winneconne, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 30 – vs. Shawano, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7 – vs. Berlin, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14 – at Clintonville, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 21 – vs. Little Chute (Homecoming), 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28 – at Appleton Xavier, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 5 – vs. Fox Valley Lutheran (Parents’ Night), 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 12 – at Ripon, 7 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 27 – vs. Winneconne, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4 – at Shawano, 5 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 10 – at Berlin, 5 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 17 – vs. Clintonville, 5 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 24 – at Little Chute, 5 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 1 – vs. Appleton Xavier, 5 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 8 – at Fox Valley Lutheran, 5 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 15 – at Freedom, 4 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 23 – vs. Wautoma, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 30 – at Shawano, 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 6 – at Berlin, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13 – vs. Clintonville, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 20 – at Little Chute, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 27 – vs. Appleton Xavier, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 4 – at Fox Valley Lutheran, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 11 – vs. Freedom, 5 p.m.