The old cliché is that life moves by faster every day. Here we are, at the celestial equinox, which symbolizes the changing from summer to fall.
Except that in the prep sports world, the fall season begins in late August.
Does it feel to you like the season has come and gone already? I swear I just got done putting out the previews last week, but here we are, about to enter Week 5 in the football season — basically halfway through the nine-week slate.
Volleyball, soccer, cross country and swimming are all approaching the halfway point in their seasons, and girls swimming and golf begin postseason play in just two weeks’ time.
It feels like only a month ago I was covering freshman athletes making their names in softball, baseball and track, only for them to become key cogs on their cross country, football and volleyball teams.
One of my favorite things about my job is watching the growth of area athletes from year to year, or rather, season to season. Some kids just “have it,” while others will bust their butt in order make a difference their season year.
In the last four months I’ve seen two Black Hawk girls basketball players commit to Division I college programs — Bailey Butler and Natalie Leuzinger. It’s not easy to play at the next level, and for two teammates from such a small school to have their futures at DI schools intact is a big deal. This winter should be fun to watch them continue to grow.
Monroe has its share of fine athletes, too. Sydney Hilliard has begun her career with the Badgers this fall, joining former Monroe teammate Sydney Mathiason. I remember Miss Hilliard from when she was a toddler, as one of my best friends from high school is her cousin and I would see her and her sister from time to time with their dad, Greg.
While the girls basketball team in Monroe has had its successes the past few seasons, the boys program looks like it could be in for a big turn this fall. While big man Kade King will suit up for Edgewood College this winter, Cade Meyer and JT Seagreaves will take over as leaders on the court under my former freshman coach and now-head coach Brian Bassett.
Meyer is huge, inching closer to 7-feet, while Seagreaves, at 6-6, can leap out of gymnasiums. I will be disappointed this winter if their in-game slam dunk contests don’t involve flipping, twirling and shattered backboards reminiscent of the old NBA Jam video games.
This past spring, Meyer went out for track and field for the first time and won the state title. He’s already set and reset the school’s high jump record (with Seagreaves pushing him inch-by-inch), and colleges will be crawling all over him pushing their track programs. Then again, he’s getting DI offers in basketball and has highlighted at several showcases.
Talk about a golden era of prep athletes.
While basketball is still a ways off (in reality, just two months away and about 10 issues for me), the fall season is the here and now.
Recently I watched Brodhead’s volleyball team with their strong freshman class mix well with the seniors. They could be really fun to watch.
I also watched New Glarus win its first conference volleyball match since 2015. When the Knights were rolling, they looked really good. Sitting along the baselines, watching these kids from all over grow on the court during a game or match is a blessing. As I’m trying to capture the moment with a picture and take notes for the story for everyone not at the game to read, I’m also analyzing the play, the players, the swings in momentum, mood and the growth of all of those involved. It’s quite a sensational task, and I fall in love with my job again and again, day after day.
I try not to let my emotions overcome me, and if I am breaking ethics and rooting for a team, it’s internal. But it’s really hard when a team I played for has major success.
Such was the case in Week 4 when Monroe football laid a beatdown on Watertown.
I was a part of the program on the decent of its success. Pat Martin’s players had ruled the prep landscape for 20 years by the time I came through. Our postseason appearance in 2003 was the final one for 10 seasons. A team once known for going unbeaten was finishing with winless seasons a decade later.
It was hard to watch, but I always cheered internally for the players each week. They never gave up despite some brutal beatdowns over the years.
A 2013 playoff berth broke the streak. Three years later with a new head coach and scheme, the Cheesemakers caught lightning in a bottle and went unbeaten in the regular season and lost by a yard in 2016. The past two years have seen competitive teams just not being able to stay consistent enough to close out enough games.
This fall, the team had several question marks. If everything went as planned, the Cheesemakers would be a force and be solid contenders to make the playoffs despite playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state as the smallest school in said conference.
Week 1 saw a near 3-score comeback fall just short of victory. In Week 3 against Monona Grove, routinely in the mix for the league crown, Monroe held the advantage with four minutes to play, only for a series of unfortunate events snatch away the win.
Then last week against Watertown, everything seemed to click. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, and the Goslings found an open receiver from time to time, but Monroe laid down some punishing hits. The Cheesemakers dominated the running game and the time of possession. It was obvious at the end which team wanted to win.
I told coach Toby Golembiewski that I think it was the best game I’ve seen his team play in his four years — which included the magical 2016 run. It might have been the most thorough victory the program has seen in nearly 20 years.
But it also was simply a Week 4 home game. Now the team will have to take that momentum, continue on that growth and take the next step in Week 5, then 6 and 7. Monroe still needs three more wins to make the postseason. Will it happen? If they play like they did against Watertown, the answer is a resounding yes. I guess I’ll just have to see for myself from the sidelines. I just better not blink, however, because then I’ll miss it.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and misses Cheese Days, cheese curds and cheese fritters. He accepts correspondence that give insights on sports, as well as packages of cheese and football cards from 1991. Adam can be reached at email@example.com.