High school football teams shined across all divisions in the WiscNews coverage area.
Columbus captured its first WIAA Division 4 state championship in 26 years, while Cambria-Friesland and Lodi both made runs to the state quarterfinals. The Cardinals, Hilltoppers and Wisconsin Dells all won their respective conference titles and a litany of area players garnered all-conference accolades.
Here is our area team of the year.
Player of the Year
Colton Brunell, Jr., Columbus — Brunell had a season to remember as he helped lead the Cardinals to their first WIAA Division 4 state championship since 1996. Brunell rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns to lead Columbus to its third state championship with a 23-21 victory over two-time reigning champion and heavily favored Waukesha Catholic Memorial.
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He rushed for 2,897 yards and 43 touchdowns, setting a single-season school record and the school’s all-time rushing record. Brunell, who led the state in rushing according to WisSports.net, put up 335 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ 42-14 win over Capitol Conference rival Lodi on Sept. 30, setting a single-game rushing record. He had a career-high five touchdowns and 191 rushing yards in a 55-24 victory over Baldwin-Woodville in the second round of the playoffs.
For his efforts, Brunell garnered first-team Small School All-State honors from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. He was also named the Capitol Conference Offensive Player of the Year and earned first-team all-league honors at inside linebacker.
Coach of the Year
Jim Bylsma, Cambria-Friesland — Bylsma has talked countless times about finding the pieces to the puzzle in his four-decade career leading the Hilltoppers. The 2022 season might’ve been one of the best puzzles he’s put together.
Last season, with most of the same players, the Hilltoppers finished 5-5 with a first-round exit in the WIAA Division 7 playoffs. The WFCA Hall of Fame inductee moved a couple players around this season and found the right combination to go undefeated in the regular season, capturing Cambria-Friesland’s first Trailways Conference title since 2016. The Hilltoppers, who won nine games by six points or less, finished the year 11-1 and reached the state quarterfinals for the first time in six years, falling 32-14 to eventual state runner-up Shiocton.
Cambria-Friesland junior Trevor Krueger earned Offensive Player of the Year and senior Carlos Salgado earned Offensive Lineman of the Year, while a dozen other Hilltoppers earned All-Trailways Conference recognition.
Quarterback — Nathan Cotter, sr., Columbus.
Running backs — Colton Brunell, jr., Columbus; John Scott, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Wide receivers — Brock Massey, jr., Mauston; Degan Jensen, jr., Wisconsin Dells.
Tight end — Connor Breunig, jr., Sauk Prairie.
Offensive linemen — Carlos Salgado, sr., Cambria-Friesland; Collin Selk, sr., Columbus; Carsen Brandt, sr., Reedsburg; Lennon Stroede, sr., Wisconsin Dells; Dylan Warren, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
All-purpose — Isaac DeYoung, jr., Cambria-Friesland.
Defensive tackles — Carlos Salgado, sr., Cambria-Friesland; Nolan Vils, sr., Sauk Prairie.
Defensive ends — Collin Selk, sr., Columbus; Hunter Isaacson, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Inside linebackers — Malani Aragon, sr., Columbus; Trey Schinker, sr., Reedsburg.
Outside linebackers — Alex Hollander, sr., Randolph; Devin Judd, sr., Reedsburg.
Defensive backs — Luke Vittengl, jr., Baraboo; Braxton Nachreiner, sr., Columbus; Patrick Metz-Procknow, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Specialist — Mikolaj Amaya-Owerczuk, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Quarterback — Braden Buss, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Running backs — Trevor Krueger, jr., Cambria-Friesland; Devin Judd, sr., Reedsburg.
Wide receivers — Brady Link, jr., Columbus; Boden Frosch, so., Sauk Prairie.
Tight end — Jayce Kolinski, jr., Lodi.
Offensive linemen — Kyle Felt, jr., Baraboo; Jaymeson Sullivan, sr., Columbus; Austin Peplinski, so., Horicon/Hustisford; Henry Koeppen, jr., Lodi; Kelby Crotty, sr., Pardeeville.
All-purpose player — Patrick Metz, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Defensive tackles — Lennon Stroede, sr., Wisconsin Dells; Dylan Warren, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Defensive ends — Ross Liegel, jr., Baraboo; Bryce Rataczak, sr., Randolph.
Inside linebackers — Colton Brunell, jr., Columbus; Connor Sukup, sr., Reedsburg.
Outside linebackers — Ben Burgess, sr., Baraboo; Braxton Druckrey, jr., Portage.
Defensive backs — Aren Ekern, sr., Columbus; Matthew Miller, sr., Fall River/Rio; Dietrich Meyer, sr., Randolph.
Specialist — Corbin Hynes, sr., Columbus.
Quarterback — Mason Lane, jr., Lodi.
Running backs — Camron Mendoza, jr., Beaver Dam; Brady Baldwin, jr., Mauston; Ashton Whitehorse, so., Pardeeville.
Wide receiver — Ashton Krasovec, sr., Portage.
Tight end — Colin Vieth, sr., Fall River/Rio.
Offensive linemen — Haeden Bowar, sr., Baraboo; Hayden DeZarn, sr., Beaver Dam; Devon McCormick, jr., Columbus; Nolan Vils, sr., Sauk Prairie.
All-purpose player — Nathan Johnson, jr., Dodgeland.
Defensive tackles — Manny Kingston, sr., Fall River/Rio; Jackson Geitner, jr., Poynette.
Inside linebackers — Carter Drews, so., Cambria-Friesland; Casey Grudzinski, jr., Horicon/Hustisford; Dalton Hoehn, sr., Mauston.
Outside linebacker — Brady Puls, jr., Lodi.
Defensive backs — Avery Priewe, jr., Beaver Dam; Drake Burmania, sr., Cambria-Friesland; Keegan Fleischman, sr., Lodi; Avery O’Dea, jr., Poynette.
Specialist — Nick Katsma, jr., Randolph.
Editor’s note: Schools in the WiscNews coverage area are: Beaver Dam, Waupun, Columbus, Dodgeland, Horicon, Hustisford, Fall River, Rio, Randolph, Cambria-Friesland, Wayland Academy, Central Wisconsin Christian, Portage, Poynette, Pardeeville, Lodi, Sauk Prairie, Reedsburg, Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells, Mauston and Wonewoc-Union Center.