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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Area Teams Begin 2017 Training Camp

New-Look Bulldogs Prepare for New Conference

Moving up from the M&O Conference to the newly formed M&O/Northern Lakes/Packerland Large Division will be a challenge for the Peshtigo football team, but Head Coach Eric Seyler still expects a top-three finish from the Bulldogs.

Seyler expects Southern Door, Coleman and Peshtigo among others to contend for the conference title with the latter two being conference newcomers after leaving the smaller M&O Conference after last season. If this Peshtigo Bulldogs team is going to compete for a conference title, however, they're going to need their best players to excel on both sides of the ball.

The Bulldogs return six players who earned at least an honorable mention in the 2016 M&O all-conference teams, though none of them earned honors on both offense and defense. That will have to change this year.

Sophomores Nick Nielsen and Riley Reif, who earned first and second team defensive back honors last season, respectively, will have to move inside to play linebacker, while contributing offensively.

Nielsen will be getting snaps at wide receiver this season, while Reif enters practice as the team's starting quarterback.

Seyler said he's not worried that his starting quarterback will pick up an injury playing one of the most physical positions on the field, however, despite not listing a backup quarterback on the team's roster.

"While technically he has the linebacker label, we're not looking for him to be a Ray-Lewis-type linebacker," Seyler said, alluding to the former Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, known for his hard-hitting style. "He's not going to take as big of a pounding as if he was playing a true middle-linebacker-type position, so I'm not too worried about that."

Reif got some time at the quarterback position last season as well, stepping in on multiple occasions for 2016 M&O first-team quarterback Justin Thill, who graduated in May. Seyler said he expects a continued high level of quarterback play from Reif.

"He knows the offense" we'll be good to go there," Seyler said. "It's just a new name this year."

Who's protecting Reif and 2016 M&O first team running back Jerod Jandt could be one of the biggest questions for the team going into next season.

Seyler and his coaching staff will be tasked with replacing four of the five starters on last year's offensive line.

Gone is first-teamer Josh Biegler, as are second teamers Cam Lepkowski and Aaron Ehlert, all graduating in May.

Gavin Forsberg is returning for his senior season, though he's undersized for the offensive line, standing 5'7" and weighing 185. Seniors Gavin Brissette and Seth Kuhn are likely starters on the offensive line as well.

Forsberg isn't the only undersized player on the team, however. The team's going to be small, but will hopefully make up for a lack of size in other areas, Seyler hopes.

"We're going to be small," the four-year head coach said. "We don't have a lot of size, but we make up for it with athleticism, so that's what we're going to kind of depend on" we're going to be more athletic."

That team only has 29 players, so a small offensive line inevitably means a small defensive line, which includes Forsberg, a first team defensive lineman last year in the M&O.

"We've had a lot of success with people like Gavin Forsberg, last year with Reece Demarce, being smaller, being able to get into the gaps and cause problems," Seyler said. "That's what we're hoping we can continue to do."

"We're not in the 250s or 260s," Defensive Coordinator Pat Robbins said. "We don't have anybody starting that'll be in there."

Robbins also gets back second team defensive back Mitchell VanVooren, who will likely be the team's top player in the defensive secondary with Reif and Nielsen moving to linebacker.

Beyond that, a lot of young players will need to step up, and Seyler said he's seen some promise from some of his young players.

"There's a couple freshmen that have shown a little promise in our contact days and our practices," Seyler said. "They may not start, but hopefully they can get in and give some guys some breaks, and we'll see what kind of happens there. I think with some of the changes we're making, we may not have the one superstar player that we've had in the past that have kind of carried us, so if we can get four or five guys to step up, we'll be OK."

Robbins expects a lot of tough opponents this year in the new conference, with bordering Oconto, Kewaunee, Algoma, Southern Door and Sturgeon Bay all waiting for Peshtigo and Coleman in the conference. It could be even tougher if the team has to rely on freshman to carry some weight at times.

"You don't have a soft team really in the whole conference but we'll see what happens," Robbins said. "It's going to be week in and week out: a battle every week."

As for being small, Seyler said he hopes the team can compete in the new conference, saying, "Hopefully with the new conference there aren't as many power-type teams, so we're hoping that it works out well."

And if that doesn't work? "We'll have to figure something else out on the fly," he said.



Marines Look to Mix Experience and Youth

For all area high school teams, the 2017 football season is underway and for the Marinette Marines, the brand-new year also means nearly a brand-new team. Last season, the Marines were led by seniors on both sides of the ball, including the entire line and a first team all-conference running back in the NEC. This season, coach Andy Walters knows he will have to look to his youth on the field.

"There are a lot of question marks right now and we only have six seniors. We have a lot of juniors and younger kids that are going to have to step up and step up real fast. Our mentality is "One day at a time' and we have to focus on getting better each day," said Coach Walters.

A great way to get younger players acclimated quickly is to have an experienced coaching staff to guide them. Marinette has done just that by adding Sam Komp to a coaching staff Coach Walters is already excited to have back.

"There's a great coaching staff here that works their rear ends off and are very knowledgeable, but whenever you can get a Hall of Fame guy like Coach Komp who has been there, done that, and he's willing to help, that's great for us and our program." Coach Walters added, "It's not just about the players getting better, it's about the coaches getting better too. Bringing him on the staff has made me a better head coach as well."

Marinette's six seniors include Walker Stroming, Matt Eldredge, Dalton Weissgerber, Adam Wahl, Cody Kienitz, and John Grun. The Marines' junior class is comprised of 16 people: Rylie Nelson, Jeremy Wendt, Matt Wagner, Jouquim Hardiman, Dalton Smith, Trey Bretl, Darius Jennings, Sean Holk, Dillon Hill, Anthony Jardeen, Steven Dixon, Vinnie Rodriguez, Logan Ryan, Cory Siebers, Reese Holder, and Jake Poetzl. Three sophomores are also listed on the varsity roster: Dylan Poquette, Joe Bezio and Sam Drees.

The Marines will host Oconto and Bonduel for a scrimmage on Friday before opening their season at home on August 18th against Wrightstown.

"That will be a good test for us. They're traditionally a tough program and physical team. Traditionally they've had a lot of success so it will be a good test for us," said Coach Walters of their opening week matchup.


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