Homestead's decade of dominance
Homestead ends season short of state title, but continues tradition of excellence
Mequon — Expectations are so high year-to-year with the Homestead football program that in some circles, the ninth straight North Shore Conference championship and 10-plus win season in a row the Highlanders achieved this fall could be viewed in something of a lesser light than past campaigns.
But not in the eyes of veteran Highlanders coach Dave Keel.
"I think it was a highly successful season," said Keel of the 10-1 mark Homestead posted in 2009. "You can't focus on just one game (the 27-7 second round playoff loss to eventual state Division I runner-up Menomonee Falls). We had very good wins over Cedarburg, Whitefish Bay and Germantown to clinch the North Shore and that's hard to do every year when you know people are gearing up to beat you."
Rebuilding the defense
The key to success this fall for the winter, according to Keel, was the development of the rapidly rebuilt defense. The 2008 unit was the key to the Highlanders state championship last season but returned only three starters, two-time all-state and NOW All-Suburban linebacker Lucas Speaker, All-Suburban defensive back Brad Pelisek and linebacker Jason Willms.
With the development of a wholly new defensive line led by all-state defensive end John Laihinen, the unit came together quickly, allowing an average of only 8.1 points per game and posting four shutouts in the final six games.
In one key game it did not post a shutout, the 21-17 come-from-behind win against Germantown in the regular season finale, the defense came up huge again, stopping the Warhawks again and again after three Highlanders turnovers deep on the Homestead side of the field and coming up with the game-winning touchdown on Kurt Kaufmann's fumble recovery.
The unit also dealt with injuries to key starters like Willms and defensive back Doug Mueller and still stayed resilient.
"I can't say enough about the effort of (defensive coordinator) Fritz Rauch (and defensive assistants) Tom Fugate and Steve Manor," said Keel. Rauch was recently named assistant coach of the year by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
The offense held up its end behind a veteran offensive line led by two-time All-Suburban guard Justin Barber and All-Suburban receiver Mike Collins (decisive touchdown catches against both Bay and Germantown). The unit, despite some ups and downs, still averaged 30.5 points per game despite working with a sophomore quarterback in Cody Berger and having its running game slowed considerably in the late September-October rains.
Veteran running back Bryan Bronaugh still had a fine season and got help from fellow seniors Shawn Brown and Steve Brookman. Senior receiver Coy Smith was another major asset in the passing game.
Senior class achieved greatness
Keel said this senior group has much to be proud of, having continued the streak of conference championships and also having been part of two state championships (2006 and 2008) and a state runner-up effort (2007).
"It's been a pretty special run," Keel said.
Graduation losses will be steep as usual but the Highlanders will still build around the likes of Berger, quarterback/kicker Matt Stern, running back Zach Enea, Mueller, linebacker Andrew Debbink, offensive linemen Kyle Schober and Max Vielmetti and defensive lineman Donté Phillips.
Even though the junior varsity was 6-3 and the freshmen team was 4-3 opponents are confident the Highlanders can assemble another formidable unit in 2010.
"They have such a great staff, they'll put something together," said Arrowhead offensive coordinator Jim Hessler.
A decade to remember
For the Homestead Highlanders, the 2000s produced two state titles and a total record of 112-13 (.896 winning percentage with only one North Shore Conference loss since 2001).
2000: 5-4 (only year without NSC title)
2001: 12-1 (state semifinals)
2002: 11-2 (state semifinals)
2003: 12-1 (state semifinals)
2004: 10-12005: 12-1 (state semifinals)
2006: 14-0 (state champions)
2007: 12-2 (state runner-up)
2008: 14-0 (state champions)
Lucas Speaker, Brad Hanson, John Laihinen, Kurt Kaufmann, Ryan Greve, Mike Collins, Coy Smith, Brad Pelisek, Darral Rucker, Jason Willms, Spenser Levine, Bryan Bronaugh, Shawn Brown, James Nickols, Steve Brookman, David Urintsev, Mark Charlesworth, Mike Meer, Brandon Stross, Mike Bolens, Justin Barber, Brodie Brown, Colt Leitner-Thompson and Andy McClellan.
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