Horseshoes, handgrenades, nuclear warfare and something about deodorant.
Waupun High School football coach Jeff Tavs said jokingly that those are the things that close counts for, but close games that turned into losses were too common last year as Waupun went 1-8.
“That was kind of the theme of last season: close.” Tavs said as he recounted three games that were within one score, a game against Two Rivers where late penalties came into play, and a Kiel game in which the Warriors failed to score on four trips into the red zone.
But that is last year. What have the Warriors done to turn those close games in their favor in 2012?
“We’re just working hard in practice and conditioning drills,” said Waupun senior running back Jordan Daane. “And we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Daane is a good place to start when talking about the ’12 Warriors: he’s a returning all-conference running back who averaged more than 100 yards in league games last season.
“I expect better out of him.” Tavs said. “His speed’s better; I think he’s at 4.9. He took a tenth off his 40. And he just looks better, one year older and more mature. He’s got that senior confidence about him.”
And why not? Daane’s got four returning linemen in front of him. Ashten Alexander was an honorable-mention guard last season. Brady Huenink, a senior tackle, is a team captain along with Daane, Alexander and quarterback Keegan Pinch. Huenink is a three-year starter who placed fifth in the state in wrestling. Senior Brennen DeBoer started at center about half of last season, and Ryan Borgardt is the right tackle, which gives the Warriors four seniors along the line with vast varsity experience.
Pinch didn’t throw all that much as a back up last season, but he’s ready as a senior, according to Daane.
“Keegan worked hard in the offseason to get his arm strength up. He throws a crisp ball, and he’s pretty accurate, too,” Daane said.
Jordan Moul will be the main target for Pinch as Moul returns after breaking a foot last season.
Huenink should be the star of the defense at middle linebacker.
“He’s fast; he’s our fastest lineman and that carries over to defense,” Tavs said about Huenink, who started at outside backer as a sophomore. “He’s very strong, too.”
Huenink won’t be the only Warrior flying around, though. Look for Avery Armga to be stout as an outside backer, and Moul should be the leader in the defensive backfield at corner.
“Our defensive line will be good,” Daane said. “We’ve got some size at defensive line and we got a couple new kids to come out. Our linebackers will be pretty good, too.”
What’s it all translate into? Who knows, but the Warriors are hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“I expect playoffs,” Tavs said. “I know I ate crow two years ago when I said the same thing. With what we have coming back, on the offensive line, and with Jordan back there … barring any setbacks with injuries, we have a chance.”
Daane said the key is defense. If the Warriors play good defense they’ll have a good chance in any game.
“If everyone stays healthy we could have a good run into the playoffs,” he said. “There looks like there are four winnable games in our conference this year.”