The high school football season kicks off Thursday and really gets going Friday, so before games get played it’s time to unveil the first FOX 11 Top 11 football poll of the season.
Last season, Kimberly opened the season No. 1 and never left the spot, en route to a Division 2 state title and a 14-0 record. Can the Papermakers repeat the feat? It’ll be tough.
A lot can change between now and the state championship games, but for now here is how the first Top 11 looks:
FOX 11 Top 11
1. Kimberly (14-0 last year): The Papermakers easily won the Division 2 state title a year ago and might have been the best team in the state, regardless of division. Kimberly, though, has to find a replacement for QB Scott Schreiber. Coach Steve Jones knows how to find replacements at QB as last year he needed to find a new QB after Ben Diedrick graduated. Kimberly will be just fine and watch for RB Blair Mulholland to be one of the state’s top rushers.
2. Ashwaubenon (10-1): The Jaguars return one of the best players in the state in QB James Morgan, who’s committed to Bowling Green. Also, Morgan will get an extra target this season as Kyle Monroe will play WR after missing last season with an injury. Monroe is a 6-4 target, who led the FRCC in scoring last basketball season. That’s all opposing defenses need to see, another weapon for Morgan.
3. Menasha (10-3): The Bluejays move from the Valley Football Association to the Bay Conference and they’ll be ready to compete. Coach Jeramie Korth has a great passing combo of Tyler Johnson to Emanuel Jenkins and the Bluejays will be poised to make an impression on their new conference foes.
4. Xavier (11-2): The Hawks have to do something no team in the state has ever been faced with — they need to find a replacement for the only QB in state history to throw 50 TD passes in a season, Matt Ferris. Don’t worry. Coach Dave Hinkens knows how to win and the Hawks will be ready to be a force once again, especially with defensive force Tom Johnson and wide receivers Matt Kinderman and Levi O’Brien.
5. West De Pere (9-2): A new era starts with Jack Batten replacing Bill Turnquist as head coach. Batten was the defensive coordinator so the players will be fine with him. Also, look for QB Beau Mommaerts to blossom in his senior season and he has help with RB Dom Conway and WR Connor Konshak. The Phantoms once again will be formidable.
6. Appleton North (10-2): The Lightning was one controversial call away from making the Division 1 semifinals last season. The Lighthing is always a factor and no matter what coach Rob Salm loses he replaces. All-conference RB Ethan Danz will be a big factor in North’s season.
7. Bay Port (9-2): The Pirates have one of the best QBs in the state in Northern Illinois commit Alec Ingold, who can hurt you with his legs and arm. Ingold also has one of the top targets in the state in Blair Van Ess and a few other targets who will give Ingold some help. Bay Port figures to be right there with Ashwaubenon in the race for the FRCC title.
8. St. Mary’s Springs (12-1): The Ledgers surprising failed to reach the Division 6 title game last season, falling in the semifinals, but with Bob Hyland on the sideline is there any doubt Springs will play deep into the postseason? No.
9. Green Bay Southwest (7-3): The Trojans have become a consistent contender in the FRCC and will feature one of the best RBs in the area in Kieran Thomas. Assuming Thomas holds his own and Southwest has its normal defense, it’ll be a factor in the FRCC again.
10. Seymour (9-3): The Thunder returns the best offensive lineman in the state in Jon Dietzen, who’s committed to play at Wisconsin. Dietzen will lead an offensive line that’s always big and physical and having that size up front will make the Thunder a tough opponent.
11. Kewaunee (12-2): The Storm came one game shy of reaching the Division 5 state football game, losing to Lancaster in Level 4. Kewaunee lost key players from last year’s team, like QB Caleb Johnson (23 TDs), but it does return RB Austin Kassner, who had 927 yards and 8 TDs last season. Kewaunee is expected to once again challenge for the Olympian-Large title and likely will be there with a strong running game.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay