DE PERE — Ask Chad Michalkiewicz about last season and he shakes his head.
The De Pere football coach rattles off a number no football coach wants to: 42 different starters were used because of injury.
After Week 1 last season his team gathered and talked about what direction it had to go in after injuries already changed the team. It was the perfect setup for a difficult season and that’s exactly what happened.
De Pere struggled to a 3-6 season, stopping its run on of consecutive postseasons reached at two.
"We had a lot of guys that lost their season due to injury,” Michalkiewicz said. “We had 42 different guys start at least one game last season, which complicates everything from practice structure to familiarity with the playbooks."
The football program is trying to reach a point where maybe people talk a little football when thinking about De Pere sports, which is led by highly successful basketball programs.
Michalkiewicz hopes that starts this season. Despite the tough 2013 he thinks his team will learn from its struggles and be better off.
“So we go from extremely inexperienced, hodgepodge football team last year throughout the season to now we have eight starters that are juniors back on the team, so we feel really good," Michalkiewicz said.
Running back Andrew Rose added: "I think we've got a lot of returning starters this year compared to last year, a lot of people that went through last season and knew that's not what we wanted to be, so a lot of fire coming back from last year's season to this season.”
“I feel like the team has a lot more intensity this season with everything we do. Even in 7-on-7 we get pumped up when we score. We're more like a team this year compared to last year which I think will help."
Most don’t expect De Pere to challenge for the top of the Fox River Classic Conference standings as defending champion Ashwaubenon and Bay Port look to be the teams to beat. De Pere’s fine with that, though, because predictions don’t mean a thing, what happens on the field does.
And the Redbirds feel ready to make a run up the FRCC ladder.
"We're looked as an underdog,” senior Jake DeMille said. “That'll be a little fire under us and that'll help us out a lot this year. Coming into the season a lot of people don't expect us; don't expect us to be bad, but don't expect us to be a conference contender. I think we have different plans for us this year."
Notes: De Pere will have new uniforms this season and has replaced its grass field with FieldTurf. ... De Pere plays four of its first six games on the road, but then finishes the season with three home games. ... De Pere's season opener is home against Bay Port.
De Pere’s 2014 Schedule
Aug. 22 Bay Port
Aug. 29 at Notre Dame
Sept. 5 at Green Bay East
Sept. 12 Sheboygan North
Sept. 19 at Pulaski
Sept. 26 at Sheboygan South
Oct. 3 Green Bay Preble
Oct. 10 Green Bay Southwest
Oct. 17 Manitowoc
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay