The Franklin football team reached Camp Randall last year and went undefeated in the Southeast Conference for the second year in a row (and third time in four years, with league titles all four years. Don't expect a huge change in 2017.
Last year: 12-2 (7-0 in conference)
Outcome: Lost in Division 1 championship game to Kimberly, 29-14.
Coach: Louis Brown
First team: Peter Narrai, OL; Max Alba, QB; Alec Baudry, OLB*; Brad Tobin, DB; Jack Takerian, P*
Second team: Trevor Shohoney, OL; Jacob Baumgardt, DE
Honorable mention: Jake Gannon, OL*; Murphy McCutheon, LB
First-team losses: Kyle Lewis, WR; Ethan Wittenburg, WR; Hawk Wimmer, IL; Latron Kirk-Sprewer, DE
*Junior in 2017-18 (rest seniors)
Outlook: The reigning Southeast Conference champion will be heavily favored to repeat, bringing back a quarterback who could very well be the state’s best offensive player in Max Alba. Alba threw for 2,544 yards and 29 touchdowns last year despite missing three games with injury, though he loses his top two receiving weapons in Kyle Lewis and Ethan Wittenburg. But for as much credit as the program has gotten for its passing offense, the Sabers have also produced more scholarship offensive linemen than any other program in the state in recent years, according to Travis Wilson of Wissports.net. That will continue with South Dakota recruit Trevor Shohoney this year. It would surprise nobody to see the Sabers still alive in Level 3 and 4 of the playoffs, if not back at Camp Randall. The Sabers did lose two outstanding defensive players to graduation in Hawk Wimmer and Latron Kirk-Sprewer.
Last year: 7-4 (4-3 in conference)
Outcome: Lost in Level 2 of Division 1 playoffs, 31-28
Coach: Mike Bartholomew
First team: Owen Rozumalski, OL
Second team: Ryan Harvey-Turner, WR; Elijah Robinson, RB; Jenna Dankert, PK
First-team losses: Nick Dulaney, OLB
This should be a strong year in the top half of the Southeast, with Franklin, Racine Horlick, Kenosha Bradford and Oak Creek all among the top teams to watch. That should theoretically leave a small margin of error for the Knights, who won a thriller over Kenosha Indian Trail in the final week of the season (electing to go for a winning two-point conversion with 42 seconds left for a 29-28 win) to earn a playoff spot and then topped Bradford before giving Franklin scare in the postseason. Rozumalski is ranked 44th on the list of 50 top seniors in the state by Wissports.net and ninth among offensive linemen from the center position. He was honorable-mention All State last year.
Rest of the league
Schools outside the Now coverage zone
Racine Horlick – As good as Alba was last year, it was Horlick’s Joe Garcia that was named Offensive Player of the Year in the Southeast, thanks to his 1,580 rushing yards, 186 receiving yards and even 267 passing yards. Garcia and a number of skill position players are back for a team that won a playoff game for the second straight year last year, so this is probably the safe bet for No. 2 in the conference behind Franklin. Stephon Chapman was second-team All Conference as a sophomore last year at outside linebacker, and running back George Sims also returns.
Kenosha Bradford – The Devils finished 4-6 last year but lost five of those games by 10 points or fewer, and first-team All Conference running back Erick Doke III is back, as is quarterback Tony Martin and two top receivers. The Red Devils also have a Division I prospect on the line in Andrew Lyons and a first-team All Conference returnee at inside linebacker in Trey Glass. Oak Creek downed Bradford in a spirited Level 1 game last year, and those two teams should be in for a great battle again Sept. 8, one week before the Knights' annual showdown with Franklin. Lyons and Doke are among the state’s Top 50 seniors, according to Wissports.
Kenosha Indian Trail – One of the conference’s top programs the last several years fizzled with four straight losses to end the 2016 season (facing an admittedly backloaded schedule). Quarterback Jared Wenberg was second-team All Conference last year, but the majority of the Hawks’ top players have graduated.
Racine Case, Racine Park, Kenosha Tremper – These three programs have struggled against the other five; Tremper last made the playoffs in 2010, Park in 2009 and Case in 1997. None have any first-team All Conference returnees, though Tremper’s Jakobi Witt was a second-team choice at offensive lineman as a sophomore last year, and Park running back Meshawn Byles also returns after earning second team in 2016.