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Homestead football team can go far behind its O-line, leaders

Highlanders have many pieces in place

Aug. 19, 2014

There will be no sneaking up on anyone like the Homestead football team did last fall.

Nope, the Highlanders, even with some key graduation losses on both sides of the ball, will not be able to claim underdog status like they did last year in upsetting powerful Arrowhead and winning their 13th consecutive North Shore Conference title.

But savvy, veteran coach Dave Keel, who was named NOW Newspapers coach of the year last season, will give it a try.

"Outstanding," he said. "The weather for the first two weeks of practice has been outstanding (laughs)."

Then he got serious.

"We have some great senior leaders this season and we've been getting some good work in," he said. "We had a good scrimmage where we did some things positive and slipped up on others. No doubt, we will have our work cut out for us in some areas."

The Highlanders, who finished 12-1 last season, and fell only to eventual state D2 champion Kimberly in Level 3 of the playoffs, will build around their lines, particularly the offensive line.

That's because Homestead looks like it will one of its traditional "road-grader" offensive lines that it has used to dominate the area for almost this entire still new century.

Multi-year senior letterwinners including tackle Elijan Perine (6-3, 285); center Michael Nelson (6-0, 260) and guard John Marita (6-3, 275) will form the basis of the group. Senior Jack Warschauer (6-0, 245) also saw a lot of action in 2013. They will get help from juniors Chris Malicky (6-3, 285) and Josh Schneider (6-0, 250).

Senior quarterback Nick Allen emerged as a leader last season and is back for more this season.

"He's taken charge of the entire offense and is doing a great job helping the younger kids," said Keel.

Allen will also have his favorite target back in junior, two-year letterwinning end Jack Popp.

The rest of the backfield will be new and will include fullbacks senior Cole Murphy and Sam Konrath and the halfbacks, senior Luke Neusen, and juniors Matt Winters, Patrick Minkin and Matt Wade. Wade is the younger brother of now graduated leading rusher from 2013, Eric Wade.

"We're going to find out which ones are the best," said Keel.

The defense will be led by towering all-state defensive tackle and now Wisconsin recruit David Pfaff (6-3, 250). "He's looking better and more capable (than last year)," said Keel.

He will get help up front from fellow returning letterwinner senior Gage Zupke (6-1, 210). The rest of the line will be "by committee," according to Keel, and will include junior Josh Mueller (6-6, 245); senior Lawrence Martin (5-11. 230); senior David Hathaway (6-4, 220).

Senior Ben Gust is a returning linebacker and returning defensive backs include seniors Cameron Marotta, Matt Swenson and Andy Kruck.

Overall, Keel likes the atmosphere, but with a powerful Germantown squad and Cedarburg and Whitefish Bay lurking out there, another North Shore title is not a given.

"The kids' attitude and work ethic has been really good, we have a lot of guys who like to compete," he said. "We have good experience and we'll try to keep them healthy, but we've got to get better in a lot of areas. We'll go as far as our leaders will take us."

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