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Strong football team appears ready for the challenges ahead
SWS football team_2020-2021 preview
The 2020-21 SENECA-WAUZEKA-STEUBEN foot-ball team includes, front row from left, Car-son Redman, Ethan Karnopp, Brett O’Kane, Jordan Konichek, Noah Lalande, Jaden Berger and Ben Bird; and in the second row from left, Joey, Op-priecht, Anthony Hall, Brandon Nickels, Ryan Fralick, Nicholas Walz, Gabe Kapinus, Cohen Red-man, Evan Payne and Lavern Atkinson; and in the third row from left, Michael Zinkle, Damian Hall, Jonah Klema, Chase Dahl, Ethan Klema, Jaden Starkey, Lucious Cooley, Paul Krachey, Brennan Wallin, Matt Dahl; and in the back row from left, coaches Brad Gillitzer, Cody Mullikin, Derrick Joy and Justin Goodrich. Not present for this photo were Joseph Mezera, Kain Salmon and Zack Salmon.

SENECA-WAUZEKA-STEUBEN - Like many teams this season, the Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben football team will have a very interesting and unusual season.

The Blue-Golds have been on a tear for the last three seasons-winning three straight Ridge and Valley Conference Championships. The three-peat includes last season, when they tied Ithaca for the conference championship with a 6-1 record.

The co-op Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben football team had an overall record of 6-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to their conference rival Ithaca.

Like many teams, the Blue-Golds  lost some players to graduation and they will certainly be missed.

Players who graduated last season included Carter Lomas (quarterback and linebacker), Hunter Aspenson (running back and cornerback), Matt Hall (running back and safety), Riley Hooker (offensive line and linebacker), Wyatt Boudreau (offensive line and linebacker), Tyler Heinz (offensive and defensive line), Jorge DeHoyos (wide receiver and cornerback) and Nate Klema (offensive and defensive line).

Six of those players lost to graduation received Ridge and Valley All-Conference Honors.

Those who made All-Conference included:

• Hunter Aspenson - 1st Team Kick Returner, 1st Team Punt Returner, 1st Team Running Back 

• Tyler Heinz - 1st Team Center

• Carter Lomas - 1st Team Quarterback, 1st Team Linebacker, 1st Team Kicker, 1st Team Punter

• Riley Hooker - 1st Team Defensive End

• Wyatt Boudreau - Honorable Mention Offensive Line

• Nate Klema - Sportsmanship Team

Of course, there are lots of players returning on the large co-op team. Among the returning players, there are two who were on the Ridge All-Conference Team last season. They are: 

• Joey Oppriecht - 2nd Team Offensive Line

• Ryan Fralick - 2nd Team Defensive Interior Lineman

And, it wasn’t just Blue-Gold players gaining all-conference honors. Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben Coach Justin Goodrich was named Ridge and Valley Coach of the Year.

Additional returning letter winners include three lineman paying both offense and defense, Kain Salmon, Joseph Mezera and Lavern Atkinson, as well as Michael Zinkle, who plays offensive line and defensive end. Other returning lettermen include running backs Brennan Wallin and Ethan Karnopp. Wallin also plays cornerback on defense and Karnopp plays linebacker.

Of course, on a team with this kind of depth, they are counting on other key players to step up. Some of those players include Jaden Berger (wide receiver and cornerback). Evan Payne (quarterback and safety), Noah Lalande (offensive and defensive line), Brandon Nickels (running back and linebacker) and Zack Salmon (offensive and defensive line).

Well, the Blue-Golds’ Coach of the Year Justin Goodrich will have his work cut out for him this season. However, Goodrich seems ready for the task.

The coach sees a lot of strength in the team’s lines.

“We have good size, versatility and a depth on the line,” Goodrich noted.

The biggest challenge for the team in the coach’s opinion is one facing all of the teams in the condensed spring season and that’s the downtime getting here.

“It's been almost a year-and-a-half since the last time the players suited up in pads, so we need to get them in the football hitting mindset,” Goodrich explained.

The Blue-Golds intend to run a Wing-T offense and a 5-3 defense.

Goodrich has a tough, but realistic goal, for the team in this unusual season.

“A couple goals are to play every game scheduled this spring and win four of five games,” the coach said.

This unusual season presents a few interesting questions. Where are we now and how did we get here? And what happens next?

“Our conference in the fall was supposed to be Boscobel, DeSoto, Ithaca, Highland, Hillsboro, Riverdale, and us,” Goodrich said. “Riverdale and Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben are playing in the spring, the other conference teams played last fall. 

“Our conference for this spring season will be Bangor, Necedah, New Lisbon, Brookwood, Cashton, Royall, Riverdale, and Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben,” Good rich noted. “We are only playing the first five games of the season. The week of our final game, baseball, track, and football will all be going on at the same time. 

“We are scheduled to play Bangor at Mauston, Brookwood at Wauzeka, Cashton at Seneca, Necedah at Necedah, and New Lisbon at New Lisbon,” the coach explained. 

Goodrich thinks the teams to watch this season are Bangor, Brookwood and Cashton.

“One of the biggest challenges with the shortened season is that we want to keep the kids as safe and healthy as possible. So, it's difficult to participate in a lot of full-contact drills in practice,” Goodrich said. “The weather can be very challenging in the spring, so it's hard to have a consistent practice schedule to follow each week.”

Well strange as the season might be, you can count on the Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben Blue Golds to give their usual 110-percent effort. Go Blue-Golds!