Homestead football team did not let down in fine 11-1 campaign
Three All-State players lead way
This year was supposed to be different for the Homestead football team.
The ranks of graduates off the miraculous, out-of-nowhere WIAA State Division 2 championship of a year ago, had wreaked havoc for any realistic hopes for this team.
Veteran coach Dave Keel and his smart, savvy staff knew they had a lot of work to do as they were essentially working with three offensive lineman, one receiver and one linebacker with experience.
"Our top five running backs and entire secondary were gone," Keel said before the start of the season.
But it never pays to underestimate the likes of Keel, assistants like Fritz Rauch, Tom Fugate, Matt Wolf and company, because, as always, the Highlanders found a way. With a lot of spit, bailing wire, hard work and determination, Homestead pulled off one of the great upsets of the season in the second week against Arrowhead and used that momentum to reel off 11 straight wins, including their 13th straight outright or shared North Shore title.
Only eventual state D2 champion Kimberly rained on Homestead's parade in Level 3 of the WIAA playoffs ending a spectacular campaign at 11-1.
"We were really proud of what we accomplished," Keel said. "Our senior leadership took us a long ways."
Because they wouldn't let the Highlanders tradition down. The co-captains included all-state offensive lineman Jordan Lewinsky, All-State defensive back Bryce Juedes, running back Eric Wade and defensive lineman Conor Quick.
They were among the players who fueled the great 13-7 upset of Arrowhead.
"That game gave us the confidence," Keel said. "That we had good players and that we could play with anybody when we were right."
That victory led to key conference victories over Cedarburg (35-31) and Germantown (28-20) en route to the league title.
Leaders emerged on the offensive line as veterans Mike Nelson, John Marita and Elijah Perine joined with the fast-rising Lewinsky to form the basis of what was an impressive offense that averaged 34 points a game and would lead the way for more than 3,000 rushing yards this fall.
"The line just jelled right from the beginning," Keel said.
Wade was the top back at 1,103 yards and 17 TDs including a 200-plus yard effort in the big victory over Cedarburg. Nick Allen won the quarterback battle and though not the most accurate of passers (43 percent), he had a knack for the big play and could do things with his feet (410 yards rushing and 10 TDs, including a huge one against Arrowhead).
On the defensive side, the one returning first-team all-North Shore selection Juedes moved to safety from linebacker and earned All-State honors. The development of linemen like David Pfaff (North Shore defensive player of the year and WFCA All-State) and Brandon Hines (also first-team All-NSC) along with ends Quick and Gage Zupke led a defense that would allow only 15 points a game and would post three shutouts.
Linebacker Jakab Mirgai also had a very good season.
Keel said it was good to get back to the point where everyone was giving the Highlanders their 'A' game.
"We expect that. It was fun to play so well in big games like Cedarburg and Germantown because those are such well-coached teams," Keel said. "Victories like that made the season enjoyable."
Graduation losses will be steep again (again, all the top running backs will be gone), but Allen will be back to lead the offense for a second season and Pfaff will be back to be a terror on defense again.
The junior varsity and freshmen teams were competitive.
"There are young kids coming up. We'll be all right," Keel said.
Seniors for the Highlanders include the following: Wade, Jon Weyker, Juedes, Jack Wegmann, Vincent Wilkerson, Anton Ragozin, Luke Lebesch, Quinten Ziegler, Max Woody, Nolan Short, Nick Pierret, Mirgai, Cody Catena, Anthony Leonardelli, Chris Sosnowski, Keegan Jacobus, Phil Novakovski, Alec Felton, Zac Schaum, Lucas White, Lewinsky, Sasha Novak, Quick and Hines.
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