While the Portage football team again missed out on the postseason for a 10th straight season, the Warriors took big strides during their 2017 campaign.
In their first year under head coach Robert Hepp, the Warriors went 2-7 overall and finished fifth in the Badger North Conference at 2-5, matching their best finish since 2012.
Portage had a number of players stand out in 2017, and three were rewarded for their efforts as seniors Nolan Paul and Justin Sankey and junior Clayton Kapel earned All-Badger North Conference honors.
Paul earned all-conference accolades for the third straight season, earning a spot on the second team for both offense and defense. The 6-foot-3, 183-pound wide receiver was the main target for senior quarterback Erik Isakson, hauling in a team-best 18 receptions for 338 yards and a touchdown.
“His numbers weren’t the same as they were last year, but I think coaches were equally impressed with his blocking abilities,” Hepp said.
Along with his offensive prowess, Paul was a mainstay in the Warriors defensive backfield. Paul helped limit opposing offenses to just 138.7 yards per game through the air and also helped create four interceptions.
“He’s equally as good at playing the run as he is the pass,” said Hepp, who also credited defensive backs coach Shane Haak with Paul’s success. “Shane really helped elevate his game.”
Joining Paul as a defensive honoree was Sankey, as the linebacker garnered honorable mention status. The 6-1, 195-pounder was the Warriors’ top man inside the tackles, helping Portage’s rushing defense improve from last season, keeping teams to 186.2 yards per game.
“He’s relentless and gives 110 percent all the time,” Hepp said. “He’s got great instincts, has a nose for the ball, is a great tackler and he’s a great leader.”
When he wasn’t laying the boom on the defensive side of the ball, Sankey was leveling defenders rushing the ball. Sankey picked up 354 yards and three touchdowns on the season good for second-best on the team behind only Isakson.
Helping clear the way up from for Sankey, Isakson and Co. was Kapel, who collected honorable mention laurels on offense. The 6-4, 285-pounder created plenty of holes up front to run through as the Warriors offense churned out 1,579 yards, good for an average of 175.4 yards per game, and 19 touchdowns on the season.
“I was really happy with his progress,” Hepp said. “He’s got tremendous talent, good size and strength and if he spends a good amount of time in the weight room in the offseason, I think he can be one of top three or four linemen in the league.”
ALL-BADGER NORTH CONFERENCE
CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR — Nate Carter, Sr., Waunakee, and Javian Dayne, Sr., Waunakee.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR — Spencer Nellis, Sr., Waunakee.
FIRST TEAM: Quarterback — Nate Carter*, Sr., Waunakee. Running backs — Malik Winston*, Jr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Javian Dayne*, Sr., Waunakee; LO Johnson*, Sr., Waunakee. Wide receivers — Tyler Crubaugh*, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Riley Zuhde*, Sr., Waunakee; Dillon Livingston., Jr., Beaver Dam. Tight end — Luke Laufenberg*, Sr., Waunakee. Offensive linemen — Eli Williams*, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Spencer Nellis*, Sr., Waunakee; Al Oikowski*, Sr., Waunakee; Brandon Kaminski*, Sr., Waunakee; Gabe Zander*, Jr., Waunakee. Kicker — Nate Stevens, Jr., Waunakee.
<&SPAGEm>* — unanimous selection</&SPAGEm>
SECOND TEAM: Quarterback — Luke Hagelin, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld. Running backs — Blaiz Firari, Sr., Beaver Dam; Evan Armstrong, Soph., DeForest; Kam Olsen, Sr., Waunakee. Wide receivers — Nolan Paul, Sr., Portage; Sawyer Maly, Jr., Waunakee; Jarrett Klein, Sr., DeForest. Tight end — Bryce Duffy, Sr., DeForest. Offensive linemen — Blake Flynn, Sr., DeForest; Nathan Miller, Jr., Waunakee; John Smozynski, Jr., DeForest; Preston Post, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Zach Junck, Jr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld. Kicker — Cris Pertusatti, Soph., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld.
HONORABLE MENTION: Baraboo — None. Beaver Dam — Marshall Goodrich, Sr.; Noah Cook, Sr.; Kendrick Jimenez, Jr.; Kyle Gabel, Sr. DeForest — Logan Hackl, Jr.; Casey Faust, Jr.; Zach Rau, Sr.; Trey Schroeder, Soph. Mt. Horeb/Barneveld — Gunnar Nortman, Jr.; Travis Klassy, Sr.; Caden Lee, Jr.; Jonas Ignatius, Sr.; Max Olinger, Jr.; Miles Steinhoff, Sr. Portage — Clayton Kapel, Jr. Reedsburg — Dakota Klosky, Sr.; Zach Arneson, Sr.; Michael Griffin, Sr.; Casey Campbell, Soph.; Ben Horzewski, Sr.; Mason McMillen, Sr. Sauk Prairie — Elijah Jorgenson, Sr.; Dawson Evert, Sr. Waunakee — Logan Beier, Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Lucas Statz, Sr., Waunakee.
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR — Nolan Thole, Sr., Waunakee.
FIRST TEAM: Defensive backs — Bryce Duffy, Sr., DeForest; Travis Klassy*, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Lucas Statz*, Sr., Waunakee; Jeremy Werner, Sr., Waunakee. Linebackers — Scott Hall*, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Kyle Pahnke*, Sr., Waunakee; Logan Kvalo*, Sr., Waunakee; Jackson Madonia, Sr., Waunakee. Defensive linemen — Hunter Pretti*, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Nolan Thole*, Sr., Waunakee; Jacob Frey*, Sr., Waunakee. Defensive end — Brady Gassman, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Reed Ryan*, Jr., Waunakee. Punter — Cris Pertusatti, Soph., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld.
<&SPAGEm>* — unanimous selection</&SPAGEm>
SECOND TEAM: Defensive backs — Nolan Paul, Sr., Portage; Adam Bird, Jr., Beaver Dam; Jack Frey, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Mason Steffen, Sr., Waunakee. Linebackers — Griffyn Holmes, Sr., DeForest; Bryson Girten, Sr., DeForest; Tyler Denu, Jr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Alex Statz, Sr., Baraboo. Defensive linemen — Edwyn Erickson, Soph., DeForest; Gage Schult, Sr., Mt. Horeb/Barneveld; Ben Nordloah, Sr., Waunakee. Defensive end — Mateo Ramirez, Sr., Beaver Dam; Nicky Houswerth, Sr., DeForest. Punter — Logan Beier, Sr., Waunakee.
HONORABLE MENTION: Baraboo — Gabe Larson, Jr. Beaver Dam — Matthew Pieksarski, Sr.; Joel Riehbrandt, Sr. DeForest — Cole Schmidtknecht, Jr.; Beck Mayer, Jr.; Jarrett Klein, Sr.; Colton Coates, Sr. Mt. Horeb/Barneveld — Cade Czerwonka, Sr.; Eli Williams, Sr.; Miles Steinhoff, Sr.; Caden Lee, Jr. Portage — Justin Sankey, Sr. Reedsburg — Jacob McGlynn, Sr.; John Schmitt, Soph.; Joe Lichte, Sr.; Trevor Steffen, Sr.; Kaleb Mueller, Sr.; Jon Zobel, Jr.; Mason McMillen, Sr. Sauk Prairie — Ed Schott, Sr.; Garrett Hertzfeldt, Soph.; Josh Bader, Sr.; Parker Breunig, Soph. Waunakee — Nick Robson, Jr.; Blake McCurdy, Jr.; Conner Smith, Sr.