Former Bay Port quarterback Alec Ingold was probably the most exciting area high school football player to watch the last two years.
Jon Deprey wasn’t far behind, though.
The Denmark quarterback looked like Harry Houdini at times as an underclassman, escaping defenders with dazzling runs to lead the Vikings to back-to-back WIAA Division 4 playoff appearances.
Deprey is hoping to continue to work his magic in a more controlled fashion as a junior this season.
“I’m expected to do a lot more right than I have in the past,” Deprey said about making reads in the option offense.
“This year it feels like if I make a mistake, I know what to do with it instead of freshman year when I was running around looking like a chicken with its head cut off.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder averaged 8.6 yards per carry in totaling 1,380 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns last season, including 694 rushing yards and eight scores in two playoff games.
“He’s obviously a great player,” Denmark coach Chris Haese said. “He’s a guy that if we wanted to feed him the ball 30 to 40 times a game, he would have 2,000 yards (in a season). I know he would. But I don’t necessarily want to do that because we don’t want him getting banged up or anything. I don’t believe in one guy winning games. But when the time comes to make a play, we ask Jon to make a play.”
Deprey is expected to make a few more plays with his arm this season after attempting only 72 passes his first two years.
“Each year we’ve added things to give him more on his plate offensively to use his abilities more,” Haese said. “I’m not stupid. I know that everybody knows how we did last year and they’re going to be gunning for him. We have come up with some things to counter the things we’ve done in the past to use his talents to the best of our ability.”
The Vikings have to replace a few of the mainstays in front of Deprey, including a pair of first-team all-Bay Conference offensive linemen in Isaac Mears (Winona State) and Jacob Diny (Ripon College).
However, senior tackle Dimas Rodriguez is entering his fourth year as a starter and senior Jesse Krueger is a returning starter at the other tackle spot.
Haese said he likes the size and competition among sophomore Josh Frerk, senior Logan Warpinski, senior Adam Skaletski, junior Pete Mears and senior Chad Kropp for the remaining spots.
“We feel pretty good about our O-line right now,” said Haese, whose team ranked third in the Bay last season by averaging 263 rushing yards per game. “We just have to get them moving.”
Opponents should have a tough time move the ball against Denmark, which returns eight starters on defense, including senior twin linebackers Matt and Jake Vanden Heuvel.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez and Skaletski are back on the defensive line after earning second-team all-conference honors.
“Skaletski is a horse,” Haese said about the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder. “He’s our nose guard. He’s an anchor for us. He’s a huge guy.”
In switching from the Bay to the newly formed North Eastern Conference, Denmark no longer finds itself as the smallest school in the conference.
But it will need Deprey to continue to come up with huge plays if it hopes to compete for the conference title.
“He’s one of those guys that everybody hates (to play) because he just goes out there and does it,” Haese said. “He is a very confident individual. You have to rein him in every once in a while. That’s why we keep challenging him all the time.”
Denmark at a glance
Coach: Chris Haese, fifth year.
2014 record: 6-5.
Aug. 21 — Freedom
Aug. 28 — at Wrightstown
Sept. 4 — Fox Valley Lutheran
Sept. 11 — at Luxemburg-Casco
Sept. 18 — Clintonville
Sept. 25 — at Little Chute
Oct. 2 — Marinette
Oct. 9 — Green Bay East
Oct. 16 — at Oconto Falls