Wisconsin prep football preview: Coaches unhappy with shorter schedule

Eight is enough -- at least for this season. Wisconsin football teams embark this week on an eight-game regular season -- one shy of the standard nine-game schedule that will resume in 2013 -- and coaches from the northwestern part of the state a...

Superior football
Superior quarterback Spencer Urban (18) gets a block from teammate Justin O'Connell (68) in 2011. (Jed Carlson /

Eight is enough -- at least for this season.

Wisconsin football teams embark this week on an eight-game regular season -- one shy of the standard nine-game schedule that will resume in 2013 -- and coaches from the northwestern part of the state aren't very pleased about it.

"It's not a resolution that any of the coaches that I've spoken with wanted to go with," Superior coach Bob DeMeyer said. "I think a majority of the coaches in Wisconsin don't like this -- essentially they are taking away a game from the kids."

Under a safety mandate to end the practice of playing three games in a 10-day period at the end of the season, a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association ad hoc committee came up with the compromise to prevent the season from starting too early -- practice would have begun about Aug. 1 under a nine-game slate -- or ending during the week of Thanksgiving.

Northwestern coach Dennis Scherz says the earlier start date could have harmed smaller programs.


"I think it's starting to hurt the process," he said. "We're a program that always has kids who want to play football, but I think we've lost a few of the younger kids because when you start on Aug. 6 it's still summer. I don't know how it's going to play out, but throughout the Heart O'North (Conference) numbers are unusually down, and I think this is a part of it."

DeMeyer, whose team opens at Rhinelander at 6 p.m. Friday, says an extra week of summer can make a big difference in regard to a teenager's plans.

"The kids who were on the fence

wouldn't come out, and you'd lose coaches, too," he said. "(The earlier start) last year was tough on a lot of teams that were trying to build their program and get kids to come out. It makes it that much more difficult. It's a big sacrifice to give up another week of your summer."

In addition, DeMeyer says the condensed schedule only affected a limited number of teams and those teams' coaches were smart about how they played their players in the stretch run.

"The way it was for many, many years was just fine -- the start date, the end of the regular season," he said. "I've never heard of any injuries because of those three games in 10 days, and I don't think it was a safety concern. Coaches were smart how they handled their team down the stretch."

WIAA communications director Todd Clark said a nine-game schedule will be status quo through at least the 2015 season. Due to concerns over Thanksgiving, the start of the deer hunting season and the questionable availability of Camp Randall Stadium in Madison (site of the championship games), Clark said a later ending is not an option.

"We'll never encroach on Thanksgiving; that's a non-starter," he said.


It likely wouldn't bother the players.

"We'd still play football until Christmas; we want to go all year long," Superior senior Spencer Urban said.

Superior, Northwestern

have playoff aspirations

Superior, which suffered through a winless 2010 season, started 3-0 in 2011 before dropping six straight and staying home for the playoffs.

DeMeyer says an improved work ethic and the best offseason preparation system in his coaching tenure has the Spartans on the right path.

"We've turned the corner," he said. "Last year's team got us back on track and sets the stage for this season."

Senior linebacker Ben Erickson says increased dedication to the weight room during the summer made the Spartans bigger and stronger.


"We were yelling at each other and it was an intense atmosphere," said the 6-foot-1 Erickson, who has bulked up 20 pounds to 185. "You got outside your comfort zone, almost to the point where you were (throwing up) because it was that intense. You can't just go through the motions in the offseason and be content and complacent."

That intensity has since shifted over to the practice field, Erickson says.

"The bottom line is we are making each other better every day," he said. "Maybe you hate the guy across from you because he is beating you down every day, but he is making you better. Those little battles are what's going to make us better on Friday nights."

Urban, a three-year starting quarterback who stands 6-3 and weighs 210 (25 more than a year ago), is excited about the offensive game plan and can't wait to throw downfield to his wide receivers, especially senior Kyle Turkowski.

"He's going to have a big year; he's going to be catching a lot of touchdowns this year," Urban said.

Northwestern was down nine injured players early last season, contributing to the end of a 19-game regular-season win streak and eventual .500 record and first-round playoff ouster.

Nine seniors will line up on each side of the ball (15 total) starting with Friday's home opener against Ashland.

"We're going to be a lot different Northwestern team than people have seen in the past," Scherz said. "We're going to have a good, solid running game, but this is one of the first years that we've had threats at receiver and a guy who can get them the ball. It's going to be interesting."


That guy is senior quarterback Peter Lindsey (6-1, 200), who previously hasn't been charged with leading an aerial attack.

"In high school football, especially in the Heart O'North, you play juniors, but it's a tough game for them," Scherz said. "Then they become seniors and everything fits. And that's the way it is with Peter -- he's just a different kid. I know he's going to come in under the radar for a lot of (opposing) teams because they have no idea what we have."

Fullback-defensive tackle Mark Pooler, offensive tackles Luke Schultz (6-5, 240) and Luke Johnson (6-2, 220), guard Duncan Magerl, tight end Micah Olson and defensive end Johnny Parkins are other mainstays for the Tigers.

-- The WIAA is experimenting with eight-man football this season. A total of 16 teams are using the format, with the top eight teams having an end-of-the-season jamboree. Northwood/Solon Springs is among the teams playing with eight-man starting lineups.

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