COLUMBUS – It was an unbelievable season for the Columbus prep football team this past year.
The Cardinals finished 11-1 overall and 5-0 in the Capitol North Conference – defeating heated rival Lodi 21-17 for the first time since 2004 – to be conference champs.
It was the first time beating the Blue Devils for head coach Scott Hilber in his four years at the helm. He would later lead the Cardinals to a WIAA Division 5 Level 3 playoff game against Cedar Grove Belgium, but lost 35-28.
Hilber had a lot of success with the 2016 Cardinals, so it was surprising he resigned following the season.
But the Cardinals are getting a fine replacement in Calvin Zenz who has been the offensive coordinator the last four seasons as well.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to be a head football coach,” Zenz said. “One of my goals was to be a head football coach when I’m 30 and I just turned 30. That was one of my goals before Scott talked to me was to be a head football coach in the very near future. It just worked out that it gets to be here.
“(Hilber and I) had a conversation before (he resigned), he kind of let me know ahead of time. He very much wanted me to be the head coach, to take his spot.”
It makes sense Hilber would want Zenz to be his replacement. The offensive coordinator – now head coach – is a teacher at Columbus High School and has had players in his class, so he knows a lot of them. He’s also had a pretty good success running the option-styled offense.
Quarterback Peyton Henry threw for 1,477 passing yards on 89 of 150 passing with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He then rushed for 1,190 yards and 18 touchdowns while running back Jake Smith carried the ball for 1,329 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Tanner Perry (592) and Noah Coughlin (587) combined for almost 1,200 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
But those guys aren’t going to be on the team next year as they’re graduating from Columbus this year.
“A lot of people look at it and they look at what we lost,” Zenz said. “We lose a great senior class. They’re a great group. They work hard. They’re great kids to be around. But a lot of people are sleeping on our juniors. There’s some really talented guys in that class that nobody really knows about.
“I know they’re excited and they’re ready to show everyone what they got. Even the sophomores are pretty good. There’s not a lot of sophomores, but they’re coming along nicely as well.”
Guys like Connor Manthey, Randon Dauman, Ben Waldo and Cole Maxwell are all juniors that will return and have Zenz excited about the team next season.
Even sophomores like Trent Casper or Jamal Hill also have Zenz excited about the future of Columbus football, especially on offense.
“We’ll look something similar to what we’ve been doing,” Zenz said. “I would say our offense has been clicking pretty good the last few years. It takes a little while to get it in, but I thought last year the guys did a really nice job with it.”
But Zenz does know with being the head coach there will be added duties.
“I’ve already been running the strength and conditions stuff for the last four years,” Zenz said. “Basically since Scott and I got here, I’ve been doing that. It’s a little bit more work. I will get a lot more phone calls and making the schedules. I would say it’s pretty much business as usual as far as how we go about doing things. Scott and I, we worked hand and hand. It wasn’t just him telling us what to do. He let us do our thing.”