Homestead grid team closes out another NSC title season
Highlanders take 11th crown in a row even as enrollment declines
Mequon - The enrollment for Homestead High School is projected for 1,308 students next fall, down significantly from the 1,600-plus the institution had just a few years ago.
But Highlanders coach Dave Keel said he has seen no commensurate drop-off in terms of program numbers.
"We had more players than ever this last year," he said. "I was really pleased with the numbers from freshmen on up."
But he did note that there has been a ripple effect in the program as the district has had to lay off teachers in recent years because of the declining enrollment.
Tough to keep assistants
"The hardest thing we've had to do is trying to replace (assistant) coaches and then keep them," he said. "It's very hard to bring someone in and try to find them a (teaching) position, because there aren't a lot of them available (here)."
Whether that has anything to do with the slight, incremental decline of the Highlanders over the last three years (out in the second round of the WIAA playoffs in as many years in a row), it is impossible to say, and Keel won't comment on the subject.
The Highlanders did reach their number one goal of winning a share of their 11th straight North Shore Conference title this fall, going 6-1 in league play as Germantown broke a 67-game league winning streak for Homestead in the last game of the regular season. That defeat allowed Cedarburg to pull into a tie for the NSC crown.
"I'm very proud of what we accomplished this season," Keel said. "We did some really good things. We had a lot of kids really grow up this season and they really took some serious steps forward."
The eight-win season marked the first time the Highlanders have not reached double digits in victories since 2000.
But the season is still viewed as a success.
The Highlanders had a lot of rebuilding going into this season but they found a way and overcame some injuries to some key performers (fleet halfback Jay Schneider). They got good leadership from veteran quarterback Cody Berger and several others, too.
O-line leads the way
Keel highlighted the play of the largely rebuilt offensive line, including its leader, senior all-conference guard Mensah Amuzu. Other top performers in that group included tight end Matt Popp and junior center Ben Binversie
Other players of note for Keel included defensive linemen like junior Ryan Stendler and senior Benji Wichman; senior linebackers Xavier Crumpton and Brett Gemas and junior defensive back Riley Pelisek.
The offensive backfield had a good year highlighted by lead back senior Antoine Easterling and junior Shaquille Cole.
For Keel, the year was a bit different as this was the first season after he had formally retired from teaching.
"Not much really changed," he said. "I came in (and) watched film twice a day (with the players) and got ready for practice."
He'll now get ready for another chase next fall in what should be a very competitive North Shore as Germantown, Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg all had promising seasons with lots of talent waiting in the wings.
The Homestead junior varsity was 6-3 and the freshmen 5-2.
"It was just another nice season," Keel said.
Seniors on the team included the following: Zach Rechcygl, Bryon Gray, Sam Enea (all-conference punter), Berger, Demitri Starks, Tim Wiencek, Adam Outcelt, Quinn Johnson-Harris, DeAngelo Dantzler, Brent Anderson, Joe Stadler, Colton Poellinger, Easterling, Sam Raimann, Mike Blaser, Evan Sadowski, Gemas, Crumpton, Will Bomchill, Bill Carpenter, Henry Read, Chris Hahn, Amuzu, Brian Schears, Hunter Poindexter, Andrew Collins, Stephen Sheperd, Popp, Javon Johnson and Wichman (all-conference DL).
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