APPLETON — Year after year Appleton North is one of the better football teams in the area and a big reason is its home dominance.
The Lightning has won 42 straight home games which doesn’t bode well for Fond du Lac, which is visiting Friday in the GameTime Game of the Week.
Why the run by North, which hasn’t lost at home since 2006?
“There’s some homefield advantage when you’ve had good teams just because when you have a game that’s close and playing a tough opponent a lot of times things seem to go your way,” North coach Rob Salm said. “Don’t know if it’s because of the home crowd behind you and the kids have some more confidence.”
“It’s our home turf,” senior linebacker Will Dickenson said. “We’re always just real excited to play out here. We always have a good football team; we’re ready to defend our home turf.”
North enters Friday’s season opener with the same expectations as always. Compete with Kimberly for the Valley Football Association North Division title and then make a postseason run.
“I’m really excited about where we’re going to be at the end of the year,” Salm said. “How fast we get up to that speed we expect here at Appleton North I’m not really sure of, but I’m excited about the potential. By the end of the year we could be as good as any team around.”
Salm said he’s been encouraged by his team’s depth. Usually entering Week 1 he knows how every position looks, but said even this week there has been competition for starting spots.
One spot that is certainly locked in is running back where Ethan Danz returns. Danz rushed for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs last season.
Defensively, North’s linebacking corps looks good with Zac Abitz, Tyce Wheeler and Dickenson.
Nonetheless, Dickenson said you never know what you have in a new season until the ball is finally kicked off.
“You don’t really know until you step on the field and see what the guys are made of, but I think we’re very comparable to last year,” he said. “We have a lot of talent coming back and will have a lot of juniors stepping up again this year and a lot of returning seniors that will helps us out this year.”
Salm can’t wait to see what he has and hopes the offseason works has paid off.
“It’s such a long offseason, it really is,” Salm said. “You put so much time in and see these kids grow and work; you really want them through all that hard work pay off and the dividends to come out on Friday night.
“So when you get to this point there’s just a lot of excitement and you’re excited for the kids. This is their time, let’s see what they can do.”
Notes: North’s last home loss came to Neenah, 14-6, on Oct. 13, 2006. … North’s closest home game last season was a 14-7 win over Stevens Point in a Level 1 playoff game. … The Lightning plays at Oshkosh West in Week 2.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay