With music playing in the background, Wisconsin Dells head football coach Scott Flood led the 2019 Chiefs onto the practice field Tuesday afternoon for the first official practice of the season. Starting his second year as the head coach of the Wisconsin Dells program, Flood was plenty excited to finally get things rolling.
“Since the end of last year, getting into the offseason with strength and conditioning all offseason up to now, we’re looking forward to this,” Flood said.
Flood has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season, which officially opens in just over two weeks when the Chiefs play at Richland Center on Friday, Aug. 23. One of those reasons was a busy offseason that allowed the team to hit the ground running at Tuesday’s practice. Some of the summer football opportunities players from Wisconsin Dells took part in included a trio of passing leagues, as well as summer contact days held at the end of July, along with weight room participation.
Another encouraging sign for the program are increased numbers. Flood said he had 55 players at practice on Tuesday, a number that was up from 47 a year ago.
And perhaps the biggest reason for Flood’s excitement with the new season was the addition of John Stellmacher to the coaching staff. Stellmacher, who will work as the team’s defensive coordinator, was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018 after a long stint as an assistant coach at Jefferson High School.
Stellmacher’s time in Jefferson included the 1991 season, when the Eagles went a perfect 13-0 en route to winning the Division 3 state championship.
“He retired a couple years ago from Jefferson and with retiring, he actually lives here,” Flood said of Stellmacher. “So we reached out to him in the offseason, have been talking to him, me and (assistant) coach (Aaron) Mack, and he decided to come on board for us.”
On the field, the Chiefs will be trying to improve on last year’s 3-6 campaign. The season saw Wisconsin Dells finish 2-3 and in fourth place in the South Central Conference.
The Chiefs do have some valuable pieces to replace, including Hunter Stenson, who was a first team All-South Central Conference defensive lineman, and Kayleb Galloway, who was a first team All-SCC guard and second team inside linebacker.
The good news is that there are also some talented athletes returning. That list includes senior Brett Hirst, who was a first team pick at defensive back; along with senior Gavin Kingsley, a first team pick at wide receiver, and junior Jacob Hunkins, who was a second team All-SCC pick at running back a year ago.
Flood said the Chiefs will need to focus on finding players to fill out the offensive and defensive lines, both positions that were hit the hardest by graduation.
“Our o-line and d-line play getting better, finding who our replacements are going to be in those positions,” Flood said was an early focus in practice. “Offensively, we got a lot of skill guys coming back, so we’re trying to figure out who the next guys are.”
One thing fans will notice about the schedule is the addition of two new teams. For this season, Black River Falls and Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau have joined the South Central Conference for football, giving the league eight teams. Now with seven conference games on the schedule, the Chiefs will likely need to win four of those games to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.