1. Thrice as nice for Golden Beavers
The 2018-2019 prep girls basketball season was something special for the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers (27-1), who won their third straight WIAA Division 2 state title — something that only Milwaukee Washington (1994-96), Cuba City (2005-07), Flambeau (2006-08) and Milwaukee Vincent (2007-09) had done before. The expectations were set extremely high for the top-ranked team in Division 2 for both the Associated Press and WisSports.net Coaches Polls because of the amount of talent coach Tim Chase had to work with. The Golden Beavers weren’t just one of the best in Wisconsin but started out the season ranked 14th nationally by Maxpreps.com and ended 10th. There were six players (Paige Schumann, Jada Donaldson, Paige Hodgson, Maty Wilke, Tara Stauffacher and Aly Van Loo) who had Division 1 scholarship offers. The Golden Beavers swept through the Badger North Conference, going 14-0, for their 10th straight conference title. Chase also added in a tough non-conference schedule fit for champions. First up was a 51-41 victory over Benet Academy (IL), ranked 15th nationally at the time, at the Chicagoland Invitational Showcase on Dec. 3. A couple weeks later, the Golden Beavers defeated Tamp Plant (Fla.) and Fort Myers (Fla.) before losing to Miami Country Day, ranked third nationally, in the championship game of the Naples (Fla.) Holiday Shootout from Dec. 27 to Dec. 29.
2. Coming up just short
The Waupun prep boys basketball had quite the journey during the 2018-2019 season. The Warriors finished 26-2 overall and went 14-0 as the undefeated East Central Conference champions under coach Dan Domask and his youngest son Marcus. Both Domask men led the Warriors to a trip to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament, where they lost to Greendale Martin Luther, 58-49, in the state championship game. The Warriors had previously lost to the Spartans near the start of the season. During the state tournament, Marcus also learned he was selected as Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball. The season also saw Marcus make his college commitment to Northern Kentucky and coach John Brannen, but he decommitted in April when Brannen left to take over at the University of Cincinnati. Marcus ended up choosing instead to play for first-year coach Bryan Mullins at Southern Illinois University. Marcus is currently averaging 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game as a starter for the Salukis.
3. Marshladies win back-to-back state softball titles
Coach Roger Schliewe knew teams were going to have a tough challenge when they faced his Horicon prep softball team. Barely any girl could hit off his star-pitcher Allison Tillema, who recently signed her letter of intent to play college softball at Illinois State University. Tillema led the Marshladies to a 25-1 overall record and a Trailways East Conference title at 10-0. The Marshladies crushed Mishicot 13-4 to win back-to-back WIAA Division 4 state titles. Tillema finished the year with a 1.19 ERA with 222 strikeouts against 42 walks in 118 innings of work. She also batted .597 with seven homers, 13 doubles and 41 RBIs. She was named Trailways East Conference Player of the Year and the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association named her the D4 Player of the Year. It was just Tillema being terrific in the circle, she also had offense from her teammates to back her up. The Marshladies had a combined .417 batting average with 75 doubles, eight triples and 20 home runs on the season. The Marshladies had 247 RBIs as a team. Their most dangerous batter was Jadin Justman who had a .615 batting average with a team-high 48 RBIs off of 26 singles, 12 doubles, three triples and seven home runs. Justman was among eight Marshladies to earn All-Trailways East Conference honors.
4. What a year for Fall River athletics
The Fall River athletic program had things going in the right direction all year long in 2019. The Pirates opened their new Prairie Street Athletic Complex with the completion of a new football stadium this past fall. The entire complex cost $5.8 million, which includes an eight-lane track, a baseball diamond, three softball diamonds and four youth soccer fields. The volleyball team didn’t lose a set during Trailways West Conference play and was its league champion for the first time since it won the Trailways South title in 2015. Fall River would later defeat Randolph in the championship to win the Trailways Conference Tournament. Many of those volleyball players also played on the girls basketball team that made it back to the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon for the WIAA Division 5 state tournament back in March. The Pirates girls basketball team finished with a 24-4 overall, losing to Black Hawk in the semifinals.
5. A season to remember in Randolph
Randolph boys basketball head coach Tyler Fischer has had some success in recent years, but his best season was the 2018-19 campaign, when the Rockets returned plenty of talent and experience on their way to finishing 24-1. Randolph was a perfect 14-0 in the Trailways West Conference. The one blemish on the season came at the hands of Rio in the WIAA Division 5 sectional semifinal, where the Vikings won 46-43. Jake Roberts and Peyton Moldenhauer earned first-team all-conference honors, while Sawyer Westra and Brayden Haffele were honorable mention. Fischer and the Rockets had many in Randolph reminiscing the old days when the Rockets dominated teams and won 10 state titles under legendary coach Bob Haffele.
6. Baseball still big in Waupun
The Warriors varsity baseball team didn’t make it back to the state tournament for the third year in a row, ultimately coming up short in the WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinals against eventual state runner-up West De Pere, but coach Derrick Standke and Co. made amends in the summer by becoming the first American Legion Class A program with five state titles. Waupun Post 210 did so by pounding out an 8-3 victory over Neenah St. Mary Central in the championship game. Post 210 then did the same thing a week later in its final game at the Division II Central Plains Regional Tournament, mashing St. Mary Central again, this time winning 13-0, to take second place. Waupun played host to the regional tournament for the first time since 2015, ringing out the 2019 baseball season in style.
7. Dominance and revival on Trailways Conference gridiron
Horicon/Hustisford continued its stranglehold on the Large division, going undefeated in conferennce play for the second year in a row thanks in large part to Dylan Schmitt, who had 2,614 combined yards of offense (1,470 passing, 1,144 rushing) and 31 total touchdowns (15 passing, 16 rushing) en route to being picked as the Trailways Large Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and earning honorable mention all-state accolades from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. Horicon/Husty’s toughest test in conference came in a 24-22 win over Markesan, which finished third at 4-2. The MarshFalcons beat runner-up Palmyra-Eagle 27-13. Meantime in the Trailways Small Conference, it was Randolph that had the best showing in the area, as the Rockets under new coach Tom Chase — the longtime head coach at Weyauwega-Fremont and most recently an assistant at Ripon College — went 7-2 in the regular season for the program’s best year since making the WIAA Division 7 state quarterfinals in 2012. Randolph eked out a 16-12 win over Deerfield and a 24-22 win over Cambria-Friesland in the final two weeks of the regular season in order to finish above .500 in conference and clinch a playoff berth. The Rockets, who finished third in the Trailways Small Conference at 3-2, and Horicon/Husty, both lost in the first round of the postseason, but it was still a year to remember for both.
8. Columbus football program gets up off mat
With their season on the brink after blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Lakeside Lutheran in Week 5, and then getting blown out by Lake Mills in Week 6 to drop to 0-2 in Capitol North Conference play and 3-3 overall, the Cardinals circled the wagons. Columbus kept its playoff hopes alive with a 14-10 upset win over Lodi, who at the time was the fourth-ranked team in the medium schools division of the Associated Press poll. The win sparked a three-game winning streak to finish the regular season, sending the Cardinals back to the playoffs for the first time since a run to the Division 5 state quarterfinals in 2016. The Cardinals would end up losing 24-21 to Arcadia in the opening round of the playoffs to end 2019 at 6-4, but not before a memorable surge to the finish line that helped propel Teagan Herschleb to Capitol North Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Austin Rennhack to Defensive Lineman of the Year honors in the league. Herschleb also was picked as honorable mention all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
9. Beaver Dam bowlers strike gold
The Golden Beavers girls bowling team had been to the state tournament both of the previous two years, only to come away with third place both times. That didn’t sit very well with the Golden Beavers, as they wanted more, and more they got in 2019. Beaver Dam erased a 46-pin deficit through the first five of 20 frames and defeated Monona Grove 411-390 in a Baker-format match to take first place at the Wisconsin Bowling Club’s 21st annual state championships on March 3 in Ashwaubenon.
10. Hornets come so close
Dean Slark took over the Markesan prep baseball team this past spring and he proceeded to lead the Hornets to a No. 6 ranking by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association by the end of the regular season. Markesan finished with a 21-5 overall record and swept the Trailways West Conference with a 14-0 record and a league title. The Hornets got hot in the playoffs and made it back to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament in Grand Chute for the first time since 2016. In the state semifinals, Markesan pitcher Shane Ryan, a Central Michigan University walk-on, threw a no-hitter in five innings in a game that also included a six-hour rain delay that pushed the game well into the night. The next day the Hornets didn’t have the same luck, as they gave up six runs to break a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning of the championship game and lost to Stratford, 9-4.
The Columbus boys basketball team took fifth in the six-team Capitol North Conference, but come postseason time, the Cardinals defeated third-seeded Lomira and second-seeded Omro for their first WIAA Division 3 regional championship since 1991. ... Columbus 2017 graduate Josh Seltzner takes a turn as a starting offensive lineman for the University of Wisconsin football team before moving back to back-up right guard behind Jason Erdmann. … Beaver Dam football coach Steve Kuenzi resigns after six years, leaving with a mark of 16-41 and a playoff appearance in 2017. … Markesan baseball team advances to state finals and finishes as WIAA Division 3 runner-up after 9-4 loss to Stratford. … Beaver Dam senior Tara Stauffacher wins the Badger North Conference shot put championship just a week after trying the event for the very first time. … Wayland senior Gracien Jules wins the WIAA Division 3 boys shot put state championship and Dodgeland freshman Miranda Firari wins the D3 girls pole vault championship on the same day at the state track and field meet. … Beaver Dam boys basketball team finishes regular season 8-1, including 5-1 in Badger North Conference play to take third at 9-5, following a near-upset of state-ranked Kimberly. … Dodgeland girls basketball team defeats Kenosha Christian Life 41-14 for first postseason victory in six years.
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