Five wins and a first-round playoff loss might not sound like the greatest season for a high school football team, but considering where Lomira had been it was a cause for celebration when the WIAA announced the team would be part of the 2011 postseason.
It was a long and painful four seasons for the Lomira High School football team. From 2007-2010, the Lions won just three games and the 2008 varsity season was canceled. But those memories were pushed aside last season as they went 5-4 during the regular season and won thrillers against Laconia and Mayville.
The trick now for Lomira is building on the success, and not sliding back.
“Ever since (the end of) last year we want to get back in the playoffs, and we’re hoping to build a tradition,” senior running back Mitch Scharschmidt said.
The best news might be the excitement last season created in the community, and a foundation that might allow the team to consistently compete into the future.
The bad news is that the main contributors from last year are gone. No starters return from a formidable offensive line, linebacker Patrick Neitzel, the leader of the defense, graduated, and the heart and soul of the team, quarterback Dylan Bloch, won’t be chewing up yardage at the Lion’s Den.
And even the coaching staff saw a change when head coach Cliff Goodacre left Lomira to take a teaching job at Southern Door High School. Seth Larson, an assistant since 2007 and a former player at Minnesota-Duluth, is now running the show.
“I think Coach Goodacre did a good job of establishing a vision that we all grasped as a team and coaching staff,” Larson said. “I think there might be some leadership-style changes, but overall we want to foster discipline and commitment with the fellas, and that vision stays consistent.”
Larson replaces Goodacre and it will be junior Ethan Hackbarth who has the duty of replacing Bloch.
Hackbarth has a strong arm, and has the athleticism to succeed out of the spread formation.
“His potential is whatever he wants it to be,” Scharschmidt said. “He just can’t try to get in Dylan Bloch’s role right away.”
Scharschmidt will be counted on to take more carries as the team’s returning running back. Bryce Bananch is back at receiver after earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season, and has impressed with his speed. Mason Sterr and a couple of young players will be part of the group of receivers.
But their success will depend on the retooled offensive line. Adam Buerger is making an odd move from wide receiver to center, while Jared Weninger and transfer Justin Thill will be crucial to the group’s success.
“It’s probably what’s best for the team,” Buerger said of the move. “They’re looking for an experienced guy and I’ve got what the coaches want.
“We’re probably going to be one of the most athletic lines in the conference.”
Buerger will also join Ethan Cook as defensive ends, and he is optimistic about that group’s capabilities.
“I think we’re going to be really strong there,” he said. “Ethan Cook’s coming back and he’s an absolute beast.”
Behind them Larson has high hopes for Joe Black, a linebacker who he thinks can be the defensive engine. Larson and Buerger also singled out safety Garrett Keller as a heavy hitter who could have a standout season.
For most of the team, however, there will be some real adjustments made for the young and inexperienced players.
Getting up to speed will determine whether last year’s momentum continues.
“You just never know,” Larson said of his team’s youth. “The varsity level is just a different game — it’s harder, it’s faster. Eighty percent of the team doesn’t have the experience we would like. How they respond to that I don’t know, but that’s the biggest thing.”