2006 Football Preview
Athletics - posted on 8/25/2006
College head football coach Jim Zebrowski always sets the same three goals for his team: win the Cheese Bowl, win the Illini-Badger Football Conference title and earn a trip to the NCAA Division III Playoffs. In the 2005, the Muskies accomplished all three goals.
They captured the Cheese Bowl Trophy with a win over rival
Concordia, Wis. , for the first time in six years. They won their second straight IBFC championship, and with that title earned advancement to the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
The 2006 Muskies are poised to continue this winning tradition while creating a legacy of their own.
Lakeland will be tested early on as they compete against some of the top teams in the nation. After a season opener at UW-Whitewater, the No. 2 team in most national polls and last year's national runner-up in Division III, the Muskies will open a four-game home stretch with non-conference dates against traditional powers Carthage and UW-Oshkosh.
"The key is getting off to the best start we can, although we're playing some terrific teams," said Zebrowski. "I'll be a great opportunity for us to see where we're at and measure ourselves against some of the better teams in the country."
Despite the loss of 10 starters, the Muskies are expected to contend for the IBFC title -
Lakeland was picked as the co-IBFC favorite in the preseason league coaches poll and the Muskies were picked by D3football.com to win the league title.
"We're young, but we have experience and a lot of freshman (now sophomores) played last year," said Zebrowski. "We have had some great recruiting classes which will hopefully keep us rolling. We have the ability to compete and contend for a conference championship again."
The Muskies have a new starting quarterback as junior Brad Wilk (Roselle, Ill./
Park ) takes over for graduated Ryan Maiuri, last season's IBFC Player of the Year. Wilk, who holds most of his high school's passing records, got a taste of high pressure college football last season when he started
Lakeland 's first-ever playoff game at Augustana in place of Maiuri, who broke his leg late in the season.
"Brad is more of a pocket passer, so he's not going to run for as many yards as Ryan did," said Zebrowski. "He moves well, but Ryan just ran exceptionally fast. Brad will potentially get more involved in the passing game and get the receivers more involved."
The receiving core is solid. Junior MacArthur White (Zion, Ill./Zion Benton) and senior Eric Royal (Oak Park, Mich./
Ferndale ), last year's top two receivers are back and ready. Junior Eric Bayerl (Wallace, Mich./Stephenson), senior Matt Martin (Schaumburg, Ill./Conant) and senior Ricardo Brown (
Detroit, Mich. /Cooley) are also expected to compete for playing time.
"MacArthur is a kid that really has a chance to do something," said Zebrowski of White, a transfer from
University who had 41 catches for
Lakeland last fall. "He'll be a big time player for us."
The offensive line loses graduated All-Region honoree Bryon Vandlen, but the mix of returnees is also solid. Junior Tom Kelly (Oak Lawn, Ill./Harold L Richards) will take over the center position, while senior Ryan Holm (Gladstone, Mich./Gladstone) and junior Joe Puhl (
Ontonagon, Mich. /Ontonagon) are returning starters. Senior James Washington (
Detroit, Mich. /Cooley) will also join the offensive line after playing defensive line last year.
"With Vandlen, you can't replace him, you just have to find enough players to fill the void," Zebrowski said. "Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last few years so I expect them to make an impact."
The defense is led this season by defensive coordinator Paul Kinsella, who served as offensive coordinator last fall and is entering his fifth season on
Lakeland 's staff.
"We'll still have a 4-4 defense with an eight-man front," said Zebrowski. "There won't be too many changes other than schematics in passing situations. Paul knows the defense really well. He coached defensive line a year before he got here at
University . I'm excited about the change with him coaching defensive line as defensive coordinator. It's something he is very comfortable with and I'm sure he'll do a very great job."
That defensive line, which loses All-American end David Benton, will be led by junior Josh Labelle (
Negaunee, Mich. /Negaunee) and senior Shane Schrimpf (Two Rivers/Washington). Sophomore Matt Stuebs (Two Rivers/Two Rivers), a transfer from UW-Stout, is also expected to make an impact on the defensive line.
The linebackers will overcome the loss of All-American Ryan Van De Loo with a group of good young talent led by sophomores Brent Miller (Menasha/Menasha) and John Wagner (Kewaunee/Kewaunee).
Josh Schramm (Cuba City/Cuba City) and Tyrece Warner (St. Louis, Ill./
Marquette ) will head up the secondary.
The incoming class of recruits and newcomers is full of potential impact players, including Jim Forner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South) and Jake Schnetzer (Menasha/Menasha) at defensive back, Dominique Collins (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) at running back and Nick Horstmeier (Random Lake/Random Lake) at kicker.
"Phil Sims (
Kansas City , Kan./Sumner Academy of Art and Science) is a newcomer, not a freshman, and I am counting on him to start at linebacker for us," Zebrowski said. "Jake Heinemeyer (Shiocton/Shiocton) could become a second or third string quarterback. Dan Weber (Sheboygan Falls/Sheboygan Falls) stuck out in camp on the offensive line, while wide receive Isiah Calhoun (
Pontiac, Mich. /Pontiac Central) has also stood out. We really have a solid group of freshman."
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