Last season was a memorable one for the Manitowoc Lutheran football team.
The Lancers made it to the second round of the postseason, finished 7-4 overall and had a 6-1 record in the Olympian Packerland Small Conference — good for a tie with Algoma and Hilbert for the top spot in the standings.
So how does Lutheran plan on following up one of the best seasons in school history? By aiming to repeat as conference champions.
“We expect to compete at a high level every game that we play. We are looking to repeat as conference champions again. It is going to take some work,” Lutheran co-head coach Jim Carolfi said. “We have a lot of youngsters. We are replacing quite a few guys. We will have to go down to some of our sophomores to help us quite a bit so that will take some time, but I think they are up for it.”
Repeating last year’s success will be no easy task for a squad that returns only six seniors. Gone is OPSC offensive player of the year running back Jacob Luebke, as well as Chris Brey (first team defensive and offensive lineman), Paul Habermann (first team linebacker and offensive lineman) and Zac Gast (honorable mention defensive back).
However, the Lancers are still with several top OPSC players — senior David Menk (second team defensive end and first team tight end), senior Devan Chase (second team linebacker and offensive lineman), senior Peter Menges (honorable mention defensive end and second team running back), senior Eric Habermann (honorable mention quarterback and defensive back), junior John Jung (honorable mention defensive lineman) and sophomore Kyle Staudt (honorable mention offensive lineman).
“I think we are looking alright. We bring back a lot from last year. … Devan Chase and the defense is looking alright. We should be headed for conference, that’s what we are aiming for this year,” Menk said. “Our expectations are to win (conference) outright, try to run the table. Obviously the goal every year is win every football game and go as far as you can in the playoffs.”
If the Lancers return to the postseason it will have to be without a considerable amount of depth. The squad lacks the numbers it had last season, with the offensive side of the ball seeing the most changeover. The Lancers are set at running back, but overall the offensive line looks like it will have to make significant strides this season. Additionally, Lutheran is a much younger team than last year, with several underclassman being called upon to step up and contribute early.
“(We have) good enthusiasm. We have some really good football players out here, I just wish we had a few more,” Carolfi said at a recent practice. “To get (last year’s) success we really have to come together as a group.”
Menk, now a veteran leader of the Lancers who has taken huge strides in training camp and showed up looking as fast and strong as ever, couldn’t have agreed more with his coach.
“I think last year we had a lot of experience, a lot of guys that had started two or three years. This year we have some younger players that we will need to break in right away. Last season we had a lot of chemistry already, this year we are going to have to figure it out quick,” Menk said. “I think we need to continue to work hard, condition hard. we are not going to be the biggest team out there but we can be the most hard working and if we do that we will take care of business.”