Wrightstown aiming for repeat, but has holes to fill

Wrightstown won the North Eastern Conference last season with a 7-1 record. (WLUK)

WRIGHTSTOWN (WLUK) -- Since 1995, Wrightstown has been a fixture in the playoffs, including winning state titles in 1998, 2006 and 2011.

For the Tigers are to keep their playoff streak alive this season they will need some inexperienced players to step up as Wrightstown has lost 18 starters to graduation.

For most teams that would be a steep hill to climb, but knowing Wrightstown's history it seems like it can handle the situation. Coach Steve Klister, nonetheless, isn't looking ahead.

"It is a concern but I do feel good about the kids we have," Klister said. "We have a good group of seniors that have been working real hard in the weight room and the junior class has come real good athletes."

Wrightstown has a chance this season to be the first two-time winner of the North Eastern Conference in the conference's fourth year. Freedom and Luxemburg-Casco have also won the NEC, but no team has won the league twice and the Tigers know it will not be easy.

Especially without Braydon Smith, who last season led Wrightstown in rushing (901 yards) and receiving yards (580) and 14 total touchdowns. Also, quarterback James Hansen has graduated after passing for more than 1,100 yards.

"You have probably eight really good teams in the conference, seven real good teams in the conference and the two that kind have been in the bottom, they're solid teams, too," Klister said. "They can really surprise some teams.

"You look at a team like Little Chute that hasn't won a conference championship. Fox Valley Lutheran, two really solid programs. You have some real solid programs that have not won conference championships that very easily could."

Last year, Wrightstown won the NEC title with one loss (Freedom) and five teams had at least a 5-3 record. Wrightstown knows repeating won't be easy, but the players aren't shying away from going after a second straight title.

"I think that's always goal," senior center Sam Karner said. "The goal is to get conference, make it to the playoffs , eventually get down to state. I think that's every team's goal."

"I definitely do think we're capable of winning this thing for a second straight time," senior center Evan Guns said. "Like you said, it's hard to do with all those good teams but I think this year where we're developed to I think as we keep progressing we can find a way to beat those really good teams in the conference."

The Tigers know how to do that, they did it last year.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay