Friday Night Lights.
In every small town and big city throughout Wisconsin, that unmistakable glow will be back this Friday night, when fields around the state will be lit up again for the start of the 2022 high school football season.
And that Friday night glow will certainly be prevalent in Kenosha County, as all eight county programs begin their seasons with non-conference games.
There will be a pair of intra-county matchups already this Friday night in Week 1, as Wilmot hosts Bradford at 6 p.m. at Frank Bucci Field, 11112 308th Ave. in Wilmot, and Shoreland Lutheran hosts St. Joseph at 7 p.m. at Shoreland Stadium, 9026 12th St. in Somers.
Here’s a glance at each of the Kenosha County teams and some of the key players and storylines as the 2022 season gets underway:
Last season: 5-5, 5-2 Southeast Conference (3rd place); lost in first round of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 playoffs.
Head coach: Gaz Osmani (2nd season).
Players to watch: Senior running back Keany Parks is one of the most explosive players in the state. Now listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Parks was ranked No. 9 overall and No. 2 at running back by WisSports.net in its latest Class of 2023 player rankings. He was also on the preseason watch list for WisSports.net’s Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch Award, which will be given at the end of the season to the top senior running back in the state. Last season, Parks rushed for 810 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 360 yards and five more scores in being named first-team All-SEC and the conference’s Back of the Year. He’s verbally committed to play collegiately next season at the University of Wyoming, an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program.
Outlook: The Red Devils will have a ton of talent to replace after graduating 25 seniors from last year’s team, which reached the playoffs for the sixth straight season in Osmani’s first year leading the program. One of those needing to be replaced is the quarterback, as Nate Olson, the team’s starting signal-caller the last three seasons and a first-team All-SEC performer in 2021, graduated. The Red Devils were picked to finish fourth in the SEC by WisSports.net.
Schedule (home games at Bradford Stadium, 3700 Washington Rd.): Aug. 19—at Wilmot, 6 p.m.; Aug. 26—vs. Zion-Benton (Ill.), 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 2—at Oak Creek, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—vs. Racine Case, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 16—vs. Racine Horlick, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 23—at Racine Park (Pritchard Park), 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—vs. Indian Trail, 7 p.m.; Oct. 2—at Tremper, 5:30 p.m.; Oct. 14—vs. Franklin, 7 p.m.
Last season: 3-6, 2-5 Southeast Conference (T6th place).
Head coach: Colin Zalokar (3rd season).
Players to watch: Senior wide receiver Deszmund White is in his third season as a varsity starter for the Trojans. The 5-10, 165-pounder is a speedy multi-purpose threat who last season caught 15 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 33 times for 346 yards and two more scores in being named honorable mention All-SEC. He was also the team’s main punter and averaged an impressive 30.3 yards on 19 boots. … Junior Mason Prozanski will take over the starting quarterback duties after last year’s starter, Cash Raethke, graduated. … Seniors Brogan Wright and Jeff Hines form a strong duo at linebacker that combined for 111 tackles and five sacks last season. Wright was named honorable mention All-SEC.
Outlook: The Trojans are seeking their first WIAA Division 1 playoff berth since 2010 and almost broke through last year in Zalokar’s second season leading the program. Tremper needed two wins in its final three games to secure automatic playoff eligibility, but a tough loss to Racine Park and losses to conference leaders Franklin — which went on to win the WIAA Division 1 state title — and Oak Creek to close the season left the Trojans out of the playoff field for the 11th season in a row. WisSports.net picked Tremper to finish seventh in the SEC this season.
Schedule (home games at Ameche Field, 8701 26th Ave.): Aug. 19—vs. Madison Memorial, 5:30 p.m.; Aug. 26—at Union Grove, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—vs. Racine Horlick, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 9—at Indian Trail, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 16—vs. Franklin, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 23—at Racine Case (Hammes Field), 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—vs. Racine Park, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—vs. Bradford, 5:30 p.m.; Oct. 14—at Oak Creek, 7 p.m.
Last season: 3-7, 2-5 Southeast Conference (T6th place).
Head coach: Paul Hoffman (6th season).
Players to watch: Junior quarterback LJ Dagen burst onto the scene as a sophomore last season, torching defenses on the ground for 1,122 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and passing for 537 yards and six scores. He was named second-team All-SEC, a rare accomplishment for a sophomore quarterback in a conference often loaded with talented quarterbacks. As a junior, Dagen is now listed at 6-1, 160 pounds, and the Hawks will look to keep developing his passing skills in addition to using his electrifying rushing potential. … Dagen will be complemented again in the backfield by senior running back Justice Lovelace, a 6-3, 180-pound dual threat who ran for 744 yards and four touchdowns and caught 14 passes for 159 yards and two scores last season in being named second-team All-SEC. Lovelace was on the preseason watch list for WisSports.net’s Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch Award, given to the top senior running back in the state. … Linebacker Luke Hogan was also on the preseason watch list for his senior positional honor, the John Anderson Award. The 6-0, 165-pound Hogan was named second-team All-SEC last season after racking up 85 tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. … Also on the preseason watch list for his senior positional award for the Hawks was offensive lineman Messiah Barron for the Joe Thomas Award. Listed at 6-0, 220 pounds, Barron was named second-team All-SEC in 2021.
Outlook: Indian Trail had a remarkably young team last season and experienced predictable growing pains, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Hawks allowed 207.1 rushing yards per game. But there were also lots of encouraging signs, as the offense averaged 208.8 rushing yards per game and flashed a penchant for making explosive plays on a frequent basis. The Hawks, picked to finish fifth in the SEC by WisSports.net, are looking to make it back to the WIAA Division 1 playoffs after last season broke a string of three consecutive berths and seven in eight seasons going back to 2013.
Schedule (home games at Jaskwhich Stadium, 6800 60th St.): Aug. 19—vs. Madison La Follette, 5:30 p.m.; Aug. 26—at Evanston (Ill.), 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—at Racine Park (Pritchard Park), 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—vs. Tremper, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 16—at Oak Creek, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23—vs. Racine Horlick, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 30—at Bradford, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—at Franklin, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—vs. Racine Case, 7 p.m.
Last season: 4-5, 2-5 Southern Lakes Conference (T5th place).
Head coach: Jared Franz (3rd season).
Players to watch: The Falcons have a rock in the middle of their offensive and defensive lines in 6-2, 290-pound senior Mason McNeill, a second-team All-SLC pick on offense last season who’s on WisSports.net’s preseason watch list for the Joe Thomas Award as the top senior offensive lineman in the state. McNeill has received numerous offers to play in college at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision and Division II levels. … Also back for the Falcons on offense are senior Nick Argersinger and junior Brock Koeppel at quarterback. Those two split time last season and combined for 1,292 passing yards, 318 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. … Junior wide receiver Colin Meininger, listed at 6-3, 195 pounds, earned first-team All-SLC honors after a fantastic sophomore season in which he caught 38 passes for 529 yards and seven scores.
Outlook: Central was picked to finish sixth in the SLC by WisSports.net, as the Falcons seek to reach the WIAA Division 2 playoff field for the first time since 2010. With 23 letterwinners returning from last season, including five starters on offense and eight on defense, Central is poised to keep growing in the system of Franz, who enters his third season leading the Falcons after a lengthy and successful tenure as an assistant coach at county rival Wilmot.
Schedule (homes games at Central High School, 24617 75th St. in Salem): Aug. 19—vs. Waukesha North, 7 p.m.; Aug. 26—vs. Oregon, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—vs. Union Grove, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—vs. Burlington, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16—at Beloit Memorial, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23—vs. Waterford, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—at Lake Geneva Badger, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—at Elkhorn, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—vs. Wilmot, 7 p.m.
Last season: 1-7, 1-6 Southern Lakes Conference (T7th place).
Head coach: Keiya Square (6th season).
Players to watch: The Panthers feature one of the best players in the state in 6-1, 195-pound senior defensive back Anthony Corona, ranked as the top defensive back and No. 18 overall in the state in the WisSports.net Class of 2023 player rankings. A first-team All-SLC pick last season, Corona racked up 115 tackles, including four for loss, a sack and an interception as a junior. He also added 133 rushing yards, 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns on offense. Corona has committed to play in college at NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision program Illinois State, where he’s expected to play linebacker, according to WisSports.net. … Wilmot also features another explosive senior in 6-0, 195-pound running back Anthony Hall, ranked No. 8 at his position and No. 48 overall in WisSports.net’s Class of 2023 player rankings. As a junior, Hall ran for 400 yards and two touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 341 yards and six scores in being second-team All-SLC as a utility player. … Another senior returning is talented 6-4, 195-pound quarterback Cooper Zimmerman, who passed for 908 yards and eight touchdowns last season and was named honorable mention All-SLC. … Corona (Jim Leonhard Award), Hall (Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch Award) and Zimmerman (Dave Krieg Award) were all on the preseason watch list for WisSports.net’s senior positional honors.
Outlook: Last season was a rare down year for the Panthers, who missed the WIAA Division 2 playoffs for the second straight season after making it 10 seasons in a row from 2010-19. But with COVID-19 complications, which hit the program hard the last two seasons, hopefully in the rearview mirror, the program looks to return to form under Square, who guided the team to a 12-2 conference record and a share of the SLC title in 2019 over the two seasons before the pandemic hit. Wilmot was picked to finish fifth in the SLC by WisSports.net this season.
Schedule (home games at Frank Bucci Field, 11112 308th Ave. in Wilmot): Aug. 19—vs. Bradford, 6 p.m.; Aug. 26—at Milwaukee Lutheran, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—vs. Beloit Memorial, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—at Lake Geneva Badger, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16—vs. Waterford, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23—at Elkhorn, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—vs. Union Grove, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—vs. Burlington, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—at Westosha Central, 7 p.m.
Last season: 12-1, 7-0 Midwest Classic Conference (1st place); lost in quarterfinals of WIAA Division 6 playoffs.
Head coach: Matt Rizzo (4th season).
Players to watch: The Lancers have a lot of players who fit into this category, but perhaps the leading one is senior tight end/linebacker/defensive lineman Luke Schuler, a superior 6-4, 210-pound athlete who’s ranked as the No. 3 tight/end fullback in WisSports.net’s Class of 2023 player rankings. As a junior last season, Schuler caught 21 passes for 346 yards and eight touchdowns on offense and recorded 46 tackles, including eight for loss, an interception and a touchdown on defense in being named first-team All-Midwest Classic on both sides of the ball. Schuler was on WisSports.net’s preseason watch list for senior positional awards at both wide receiver/right end (Al Toon Award) and defensive line (Tim Krumrie Award) and recently committed to the University of St. Thomas, an NCAA Division I FCS program in St. Paul, Minn. … Senior Marco Matteucci, listed at 6-0, 215 pounds, is also a standout two-way player who earned first-team All-Midwest Classic honors on the offensive and defensive lines last season. Matteucci is also on the WisSports.net watch list for senior positional awards at offensive line (Joe Thomas Award) and defensive line (Tim Krumrie Award). … Senior linebacker Peter Stapleton, who goes 6-2, 195 pounds, was ranked No. 11 at his position in WisSports.net’s Class of 2023 player rankings and was on the preseason watch list for the John Anderson Award after finishing with a team-high 13 sacks last season in being named first-team All-Midwest Classic at defensive end, while senior offensive lineman Tyson Jones (6-3, 280 pounds) was on the preseason watch list for the Joe Thomas Award after also being named first-team All-Midwest Classic in 2021. … Also back is dynamic junior running back/linebacker Jayden Gordon (5-10, 170), who rushed for 903 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and recorded 65 tackles and was named first-team All-Midwest Classic on offense. … Starting under center this season after the departure of three-year starting quarterback Jacob Ashmus to graduation will be junior Eric Kenesie, a tremendous all-around athlete who earned honorable mention All-Midwest Classic at defensive back as a sophomore last season.
Outlook: After a historic 2021 campaign in which the Lancers rolled to the outright Midwest Classic title and were undefeated through 12 games before falling to powerhouse Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in the state quarterfinals, another conference title and a deep playoff run appears to be well within reach again for this year’s team. St. Joseph returns a number of key players from last season’s team and was picked to repeat as Midwest Classic champions by WisSports.net. However, the Lancers do have to replace some key graduated players from 2021, including Ashmus, all-around star Andrew Alia and standout receiver DeAndre Baptiste.
Schedule (all home games at Ameche Field, 8701 26th Ave.): Aug. 19—at Shoreland Lutheran, 7 p.m.; Aug. 26—vs. Wauwatosa East, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—at Brookfield Academy, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—vs. Christian Life, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16—at St. Francis, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23—vs. Milwaukee Academy of Excellence, 7 p.m.; Oct. 1—at Living Word Lutheran, 1 p.m.; Oct. 7—at Burlington Catholic Central, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—vs. Racine Lutheran, 7 p.m.
Last season: 5-5, 3-4 Midwest Classic Conference (5th place).
Head coach: Jack Decker (4th season).
Players to watch: Like St. Joseph, CLS is pretty loaded in this category and has a number of players among the best in the Midwest Classic. That charge is led by senior quarterback Erik Decker, a three-year starter who’s listed at 6-3, 175 pounds and was on the preseason watch list for the Dave Krieg Award as the top senior quarterback in the state. Decker put up eye-popping numbers last season, passing for 1,847 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 440 yards and 11 more scores for a total of 30 touchdowns on the season. He was named first-team All-Midwest Classic at quarterback. … Also returning is senior lineman Jack Helzer, a two-way first-team All-Midwest Classic selection on both sides of the ball last season. Now listed at 6-3, 260 pounds, Helzer was on the preseason watch list for both the Joe Thomas Award (offensive line) and the Time Krumrie Award (defensive line). … Sophomore wide receiver Dequavion Pinter, already listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, will be one of the most interesting players in the state to follow for the next several seasons. As a freshman in 2021, Pinter caught 19 passes for 464 yards, an average of 24.4 per catch, and seven touchdowns. … Also back is senior receiver/defensive back/running back Jesse Bogacyzk (5-10, 165 pounds), an honorable mention All-Midwest Classic pick at linebacker last season who totaled 51 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Outlook: The Eagles have steadily improved through three seasons under Jack Decker after moving back up to the varsity level in 2019, and now they’re looking to punch their ticket to the WIAA playoffs for the first time ever, aside from the COVID-altered format in 2020 when they were in the Division 5 field. They finished just a game shy of qualifying for the playoffs last season and made all sorts of explosive plays, including defensively, where the Eagles forced 24 turnovers and scored nine touchdowns. CLS was picked to finish third in the Midwest Classic by WisSports.net, and a Week 4 showdown with St. Joseph on Sept. 9 at Ameche Field may prove to be the biggest game in the county this season. Also of note, on the CLS staff as an assistant coach this season is Andre Holmes, a receiver in the NFL for seven seasons.
Schedule (home games at various locations): Aug. 19—vs. Kingdom Prep Lutheran (Bradford Stadium), 7 p.m.; Aug. 26—at University School of Milwaukee, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—vs Living Word Lutheran (Jaskwhich Stadium), 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—at St. Joseph (Ameche Field), 7 p.m.; Sept. 17—vs. Racine Lutheran (Westosha Central HS), 1 p.m.; Sept. 23—at Brookfield Academy, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—vs. Burlington Catholic Central (Jaskwhich Stadium), 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—vs. St. Francis (Westosha Central HS), 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—at Cambria-Friesland, 7 p.m.
Last season: 1-8 overall, 1-6 Metro Classic Conference (7th place).
Head coach: Jason Hagedorn (1st season).
Players to watch: Senior Will Craig, listed at 6-0, 172 pounds, took over the starting quarterback duties early last season and finished with 369 passing yards and six touchdowns and 51 rushing yards and two scores. … Also back after playing significant roles last season are junior running back/linebacker Joseph Kayon (6-0, 175 pounds), senior running back/linebacker Lucas Rathje (6-1, 187 pounds) and senior linebacker/tight end Kamare Evans (6-1, 250 pounds).
Outlook: The Pacers will be in their first season under Hagedorn, who was the team’s defensive coordinator for the last five seasons under former head coach Paul Huebner, who departed after 11 seasons in charge at Shoreland to take the head football coaching job at NCAA Division III school Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn. … Hagedorn will try to build a program that’s undergone some growing pains with young rosters in recent seasons, as the Pacers have won just six total games over the last four seasons and haven’t reached the playoffs in a non-COVID year since making it all the way to the WIAA Division 5 semifinals back in 2015. This season, Shoreland was picked to finish seventh in the Metro Classic by WisSports.net.
Schedule (home games at Shoreland Stadium, 9026 12th St. in Somers): Aug. 19—vs. St. Joseph, 7 p.m.; Aug. 26—at Burlington Catholic Central, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2—at Greendale Martin Luther, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9—vs. Racine St. Catherine’s, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16—at Watertown Luther Prep, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23—at University School of Milwaukee, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30—vs. Brown Deer, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7—at St. Thomas More, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14—vs. Lake Country Lutheran, 7 p.m.