Let’s go out with a bang. That’s one of the goals for the Waupaca football team in the Comets’ final season of Eastern Valley Conference competition.
Waupaca, along with current EVC football team Appleton Xavier, will join the Bay Conference for football only starting in 2015. The revamped Bay will also include Green Bay East, Green Bay West, Menasha, New London, Seymour, Shawano and West De Pere.
The Comets won the EVC in 2103 with a 7-0 mark and a 9-0 regular season, but the season ended with a loss to Seymour in the second round of the WIAA playoffs.
Whether the Comets can win another conference championship remains to be seen, but coach John Koronkiewicz is up for the challenge.
“You always like to go out with a bang,” he said Aug. 15 after watching his team face Wrightstown, Ashwaubenon and Hortonville, three playoff teams from last year.
“We just want to be competitive from day one and see how it goes,” he said. “The Eastern Valley is a very good league from top to bottom and there’ll be some good teams again. It’ll be some competitive football from week one to week nine.”
The Comets have several holes to fill from last year’s 10-1 team, including defensive player of the year Zander Neuville; three-time all-conference first-teamer Nate Nelson; and first-team all-conference players Bryce Neidert and Levi Petroske.
“We have a lot of people to replace from last year’s team, which was pretty much senior-dominated,” Koronkiewicz said. “There was a lot of learning that went on in the first couple of weeks and (the scrimmage) was a great experience to just come out and play against someone else, see different offenses, see different players with different skill levels. This was invaluable for us.
“It’s a great scrimmage,” he said. “Wrightstown, Ashwaubenon and Hortonville are playoff teams. A year ago, we were all 7-0, that’s 28-0. This was a very good scrimmage a year ago. Hopefully, it was a good scrimmage as far as the level of talent this year.”
Waupaca found the end zone at least once against each team, but also gave up a handful of big plays.
“In a scrimmage situation, there are always some good things and bad things,” Koronkiewicz said. “We generated a little bit of offense moving the ball and ran the option quite well on occasion, but our passing game has to improve. Defensively, I think we got a little soft on the inside and gave up a couple of perimeter passes that we’ll have to defend better, but those are things that are correctable. As the season goes on, we work to get a little better every day.”
Waupaca will open the season with a different quarterback for the third year in a row, as Joe Ogden follows Nate Jenson in 2013 and Sam Menzies in 2012.
New quarterback for the third year in a row.
“Joe has done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Koronkiewicz said. “He’s latched on to the offense and we put a lot of responsibility on our quarterbacks from a mental and physical standpoint. I think he’s done everything we’ve asked of him to do. He has to be a guy that can come in and do the job for us.
“Joe’s latched on to a leadership role,” he added. “Caleb Hobson is a two-year letterwinner for us, so he’s going to be able to step up and give us something. Brady Deuman is a pretty good leader and Noah Martin is a three-year starter, so we expect some things from him. Those are the guys that we’re going to lean on early and hopefully.”
Winneconne turned out to be the biggest surprise in the conference last year, as the Wolves overcame an 0-3 start and a 4-5 regular season to win the Division 4 state championship. Xavier came up one game away from state, as the Hawks fell to Greendale in the Division 3 state semifinals.
“Winneconne’s a defending state champ and Xavier was one game away from going to the title game,” Koronkiewicz said. “They have tremendous talent coming back. Freedom has a tremendous group coming back and Little Chute has some guys as well. From top to bottom, there are some pretty good athletes in the league this year, so everybody’s dangerous.”
The Comets do not have any standout individuals on this season’s roster, like Neuville, now a preferred walk-on at Wisconsin.
“I told the guys earlier in the year that this is more of a ‘we’ team,” Koronkiewicz said. “We have to all be pretty good together if we’re going to have some success. Hopefully, they’re buying into that and we’ll be that we team as the season progresses.”