Football recap: Interest, success both grew for 2011 Hustlin' Hawks
Whitnall, Central, Hale all wrestled with injuries
Greenfield - In the 2011 season, both interest in and commitment to the Greenfield football program were up - and so was the Hustlin' Hawks' season record.
Greenfield finished 5-4 in the regular season and 5-3 in the Woodland Conference to clinch the school's first WIAA playoff berth since 2002. The Hawks lost their playoff game, 42-7, to a streaking Waterford team that will play in the Division 2 state semifinals this weekend.
Those records were far above what the Hawks had done for most of the past few seasons, and second-year coach Scott Otto named two main reasons for the resurgence.
"The process is consistent in all successful programs," Otto said. "There are no shortcuts; you have to take the stairs. It takes hard work from both the kids and the coaches.
"First, you have to get the kids interested in the program. You can coach up kids all you want, but you have to have talent. If you go from 50 to 150 kids, you increase your odds.
"Secondly, you need the off-season commitment, whether it be camps or the weight room. We had about 100 kids in the weight room every day."
Starting this season with those edges, the Hawks posted significant victories over playoff teams Pewaukee (9-7) and South Milwaukee (24-7) and rival Whitnall (39-34). Just as importantly, they did not stumble against the teams they should have beaten, as they had in 2010.
The biggest challenge facing Greenfield this season was replacing the graduated Jason Katrichis, who accounted for more than 1,200 rushing yards in 2010.
Otto went with a more balanced attack featuring seniors Andy Lucas (983 yards and nine touchdowns), Bathong Pham (688 yards and six scores) and Zach Truss (337 yards and three scores). In addition, senior quarterback Tyler Laverdure added 684 yards and nine touchdowns.
They all ran behind senior tackle Josh Ruka, who collected eight NCAA Division I offers before committing to Northern Illinois.
The defense was led by junior back Reggie Blakely (10 pass knockdowns, four interceptions) and senior inside linebacker Yazan Rizeq (42 solo tackles, 35 assists and five sacks).
Coach Rob LeBoeuf knows just where his team's season began to head south, as the Falcons got out to a 3-1 start but lost their final five games to finish 3-6 overall and 3-5 in the Woodland.
"We lost a lot of offensive linemen (to injury)," LeBoeuf said. "We don't have a lot of linemen anyway at the school, so we were not deep there. We had linebackers doubling as tackles."
Sophomore Matt Bublitz was the lone lineman to not have any injury problems.
The uncertainty on the line meant that senior running back Travis Karweik was not able to show all that he can do, even though he still finished with more than 800 yards, and that the Falcons often struggled in the red zone because they could not run effectively.
They were able to move the ball through the air, however, as senior quarterback Luke Mentkowski passed for 2,107 yards (fifth in the state) and 12 touchdowns.
Senior Stephen Pelkofer collected 59 catches for 756 yards and averaged 12.8 yards per reception, while junior Sam Mentkowski had 45 catches for 690 yards (15.3 average). Pelkofer was third in the state in receptions and Mentkowski 13th.
West Allis Central
Luck was not with the Bulldogs in 2011, especially at the quarterback position.
Central lost three QBs to injury during the season - senior Brandon Danowski, junior Dakota Behrs and senior Brian Hoppe, who had to be moved from split end to fill in at quarterback but was also injured in the seventh game.
"Had Danowski not come back, we would have started another receiver at quarterback against Marquette (in the season finale)," coach Dax Rodriguez said.
Still, the Bulldogs remained at least competitive against the rugged Greater Metro Conference, taking a 3-3 record into the seventh week. They lost their last three to finish 3-6 overall and 2-5 in the GMC.
Hoppe put together some impressive statistics in his seven games. He tallied 453 yards receiving and 120 yards rushing with a total of 10 touchdowns as well as returning an interception for a score.
Senior running back Troy Brown totaled 1,043 yards to become the first 1,000-yard rusher at Central in seven years and scored six touchdowns of more than 50 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Eric Vis posted 49 solo tackles and 24 assisted tackles.
West Allis Hale
The Huskies, too, had major injury problems at quarterback.
Their first-string QB, senior Steve Kopet, sustained a knee injury in the preseason scrimmage.
Junior Nick Sotiros, who would have been the backup, underwent Tommy John surgery during baseball season.
That meant senior Dan Sotiros moved from wide receiver to quarterback for the season opener.
Sotiros did lead the Huskies to an upset victory over Cedarburg, but Hale did not win again until the season finale to finish 2-7 overall and 1-6 in the GMC.
"The kids did a great job against Cedarburg, but that game actually gave other teams a blueprint on how to attack us," coach Sean Hegarty said. "Our first five games were all against conference champions. The kids battled hard, but it was tough."
The Huskies did finish on a strong note with a 44-27 victory over Wauwatosa East, and they will have Nick Sotiros and one of their leading rushers, junior Zach Smith, back next season.
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