Kiel is on the verge of a program milestone, but it’s going to take success from a new crop of performers to accomplish the mission.
Same as last year.
The Raiders qualified for the postseason in 2011, led by the area’s top pass-catch combo. Geddy Nordby was the area’s second-best quarterback (1,484 yards, 14 touchdowns) and David Esswein was the top receiver and one of the top playmakers (47-988-10). Both are gone.
But fourth-year coach Chris Bennin said the situation is nothing new. Standout athletes have come and gone, but the team is hopeful the results remain the same.
“Every year we lose a lot, and there’s always kids who seem to step up,” said Bennin. “We lost some key guys, but a lot of kids at camp are showing some skill.”
Senior wideout Jake Groth, a top candidate to fill Esswein’s shoes this fall, said the team’s goal is to go 4-3 and get back to the WIAA postseason for the third-straight season.
The Raiders have never, in their history, qualified for the playoffs three consecutive seasons.
“We have speed. We have a lot of potential,” added senior Jordan Meyer, a returning two-way starter on the line. “We’ll definitely compete.”
Qualifying for a third time is the goal, and Bennin understands it won’t be easy. But on the Raiders’ side is a level of speed and quickness that rates above other teams in the program’s recent history.
“This is the fastest I’ve ever seen us,” said Bennin. “We’re fast, from center to safety. I’m excited about that.”
Jack Meunier, who started as a cornerback as a freshman last season, will be the starting quarterback this year as a sophomore. He led the junior varsity team at QB last fall.
Bennin is excited to use Meunier, who runs a 4.6 40-yard-dash, as a multi-threat leader.
“He understands the game, but he’s only a sophomore,” said Bennin. “Jack’s really picking up on it quick.”
Speed will be the key at the skill positions, with Aaron and Austin Field expected to get touches.
“They’re extremely fast and agile,” Bennin said of the Fields, accomplished gymnasts with the YMCA program. “We’re excited to have their speed on the field.”
On defense, Kiel should be anchored by Meyer, a returning all-EWC lineman — “great shape, extremely quick, physically strong,” said Bennin — and Groth, a returning All-EWC corner who is returning from a broken collarbone suffered midway through last season.
Good things are also expected from Brock Schneider (6-4, 230), a junior lineman with speed (5.0 in the 40).
In fact, good things are expected for Kiel in general. And if the Raiders can win some of those big conference games — Sheboygan Falls and Two Rivers, in particular — the goal of becoming a perennial playoff team may be here.
“I know this is a playoff team,” said Bennin. “It’s going to come down to our experience, and how they cope with adversity. It should be a good season. Should be a solid season.”