The second season of the Paul Donart era at Green Bay Preble has a chance to be better than the first.
Considering his first year went as well as can be expected after leading the Hornets to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and finishing in a three-way tie for second in the Fox River Classic Conference, the encore might end up being pretty special.
Donart didn’t have much time to get acclimated last season. He was hired about a month before camp started, leaving him scrambling in many ways. That’s not the case this time around.
“I tell you, it’s a lot nicer having the time to get organized,” Donart said. “It’s been nice to be able to plan. I think we are ahead of where we were offensively and defensively last year. We have a lot of guys who have put in a lot of effort.”
There is no reason why Preble shouldn’t have one of the top defenses in the 12-team FRCC. The Hornets have solid playmakers all over the field and eight starters back.
The list includes 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior linebacker Connor Gullstrand, who was a second-team all-conference choice as a junior and is a team captain. Senior defensive end Zach Wallenfang, senior linebacker Jake Wallenfang and senior defensive lineman Austin McDermid also return, giving the Hornets three more reasons for optimism after allowing the third-fewest points and giving up the fourth- fewest total yards in league play last season.
“I think we are going to be pretty strong on defense,” Gullstrand said. “We have a lot of guys that are playing that played last year. We have a couple guys who have stepped up that are going to be pretty big on the defensive line that played junior varsity last year.”
Some of the defensive players also will be asked to contribute on offense, a unit that is a bit more difficult to break down. It has potential, but there are questions that need to be answered. It’s not, after all, easy to replace the 1,199 yards and 16 touchdowns that Brad Boockmeier brought to the running game last season.
The Hornets should be helped by the return of junior quarterback Will Daniels, who also could see time at defensive back. There is competition at the quarterback spot with senior Jacob Casper and junior Josh Sinclair, but it would be an upset if Daniels doesn’t earn the job.
He has been the best early in camp, and he started two games last season while filling in for an injured Cody Kirchman.
“We are going to try to get our best 11 athletes on the field no matter what side of the ball,” Donart said. “Now with Will, because of all his responsibilities at quarterback, there may have to be times where we are going to have to spell him. If he ends up the starter. I hate talking ahead.
“Will is just a natural leader based on the things he does. He is a work ethic type of guy. I’m excited. I hope it’s a good season for him and the rest of our guys.”
There is no reason for Donart or the Hornets to look too far ahead. But if they play up to their potential and stay healthy, there’s no reason they wouldn’t make the postseason and perhaps do some damage once they get there.
“I definitely think we will make the playoffs this year,” Gullstrand said. “We have a very strong team. As strong as last year, if not stronger.”