GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Practice for the upcoming high school football season kicks off Tuesday and the season begins Aug, 16.
With that in mind here are 11 storylines to keep an eye on as the football season nears:
- 1. Kimberly winning streak: It’s at 70 games, in case you didn’t know. How much longer will this go? The Papermakers lost two elite players from last year’s team in RB D.J. Stewart and DL Boyd Dietzen, plus QB Alec Rosnar. Kimberly always reloads but the Papermakers may be more challenged than last year, when they won four games by seven points or less. We know the Papermakers will be good, but how good?
- 2. If not Kimberly, who? How about Fond du Lac, Neenah or Appleton North. Each plays Kimberly this season, including Fondy in Week 1. All had good seasons last year and pushed Kimberly. Don’t be surprised if one of these teams ends the streak.
- 3. Bay Port streak: The Pirates have won 18 straight Fox River Classic Conference games, but must replace some key players from last season, including QB Isaac Krause (FRCC co-offensive player of the year), WR Cordell Tinch and TE Jack Plumb. Look for junior RB Isaiah Gash to make an impact this season and remember, the Pirates reload, they don’t rebuild.
- 4. Bay Conference race: It’ll come down to Menasha and West De Pere again. They shared the league title last season at 7-1 after Menasha won it in 2016. The Phantoms could take a step up from last season with freshman QB Josh Blount now a sophomore and senior Jake Karchinski (Iowa commit), who is one of the best DL in the state.
- 5. Green Bay Preble: The Hornets have made the playoffs seven straight seasons but have just one playoff win. Now first-time head coach Dustin Gresen takes over for Tim Larsen, who stepped down. Gresen was the Hornets’ defensive coordinator so he’s familiar with the personnel that will not include RBs Henry Geil (Iowa) and Gavin Buergi, who graduated.
- 6. Who wins the NEC? Wrightstown the North Eastern Conference last year at 7-1, but five teams were at least 5-3 or better. This will be a race that includes multiple teams and likely will come down to the final week of the season. The NEC is three years old and three different teams have won the league title.
- 7. Can St. Mary’s Springs win state in D5? The Ledgers have won five of the last seven D6 state titles, but will likely be a D5 team this season when the playoffs arrive due to enrollment. Springs is not unfamiliar to the division as the last time the Ledgers played in D5 they won the title – 2009.
- 8. Derik LeCaptain/Southern Door: LeCaptain has received D1 interest in the offseason and is the MONLPC-Large’s best player as he plays RB and LB. He led Southern Door to the league title last season and despite losing some key players from last year’s team Southern Door will be a factor, mainly because of LeCaptain.
- 9. Iola-Scandinavia: The Thunderbirds lost the D6 title game last year to Springs, but Springs may be moving up and I-S is not. The Thunderbirds also return Bryce Huettner, who was second in the state in rushing last season with 2,830 yards.
- 10. Pulaski’s Hendricks: If Bay Port doesn’t win the FRCC, might Pulaski? The Red Raiders should be in the mix, mainly because RB Dylan Hendricks is a beast and runs through would-be tacklers at will. The D1 prospect shared the FRCC offensive player of the year honors with Krause last year after rushing for 2,039 yards, but with Krause gone, Hendricks could be the player to stop in the FRCC, and it won’t be easy.
- 11. Will Northeastern Wisconsin crown a state champ? Since 2000, at least one team from the area has captured a state title every year and it appears there are plenty of good teams this season that should contend.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay