Success has been a tradition with the Monona Grove High School football team.The Silver Eagles under fifth year head coach Brandon Beckwith have not lost a regular season game since 2016. The team has won 11 games in each of its last three seasons and is normally at the top of the Badger South Conference standings.
As each new season begins with a roster decimated by senior graduations, the question always remains: Can this team continue to win?
The Silver Eagles will be without quarterback Jordan Bishop, last season’s offense conference player of the year, and wide receivers Sam Hepp and PJ Spalding. MG lost 11 starters on defense including Trenton Herber and Sam Gronski, both top-flight linebackers.
Beckwith said this season’s seniors, juniors and sophomores will have a significant role, although many have limited varsity experience. But he is ready for the challenge.
“On paper, we have a lot of work to do,” Beckwith said. “We have holes to fill. We have to really coach hard and earn our paychecks. That’s what makes it fun. We will be working with a group of kids that want to work hard to get better and want to compete for a conference championship.”
Beckwith said communication might be the team’s biggest weakness, but as the players grow more confident, they will become more self-assured on how to talk with each other on the field and make the team better.
One of the team’s blue-chip players on offense will be Brady Killerlain, who rushed for a team-leading 836 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
“He’s a quiet leader type of guy who goes very hard in practice,” Beckwith said. “Our expectations are very high, and we expect Brady to excel over last year.”
Two quarterbacks will compete for first string including junior Cameron Behnke and sophomore Casey Marron. Behnke saw some playing time last season. As a freshman, Marron suited up as a backup quarterback during the postseason. At wide receiver, Kameron Reuter will return after 17 receptions for 361 yards and five touchdowns in 2018. Junior Henry Walsh is also expected to be a significant part of the passing game.
The offensive line will depend on 6-foot-2, 330-pound senior Nathan Wilcox to keep opposing defenders away. Beckwith will also depend on 230-pound senior Garrett Hanson and 280-pound junior Kristian Schlicht.
Last year’s kicking specialist Oliver Huston is in the mix to be a starter on offense at tight end.
“We expect him to make big strides in the kicking game,” Beckwith said. “He has good hands and good speed.”
On defense, the team’s key returnees include senior defensive back Tucker Merrill, who had 25 total tackles and a fumble recovery last season.
Senior linebacker Sam Wood and senior defensive back Dylan Matuszak also have some varsity experience. Wilcox, Hanson, Schlicht and Presley Mackesey will also compete for playing time at defensive line.
Beckwith believes Oregon, Milton and Watertown might be the Silver Eagles toughest competitors in the conference, but as usual, he expects the Badger South to be even with all games having a close outcome.
MG opens at state-ranked Waunakee on Friday, a tough way to begin any football season. But with the Silver Eagles inexperience, Beckwith said the team’s toughest battle might be itself.
“We need these young guys to believe that they can play at the level we expect. We have 28 conference championships to our name,” Beckwith said. “We have to take of our house and win the battles every day.”