There will be no slipping up, no going back for the Whitefish Bay football team this fall.
Despite the loss of almost every significant role-player and starter to graduation off their North Shore Conference co-champions of a year ago (10-2 overall), coach Jim Tietjen is optimistic that the Blue Dukes will still be competitive and still continue upward on the climb to excellence.
And that's despite being picked for fifth in the North Shore by Wissports.
"We're picking up where we left off in the playoffs," Tietjen said. "The excitement, the sense of urgency, the sense of accomplishment. And the kids are picking things that up, too. We're getting out of practice earlier than ever now.
"No one wants to let anything down now."
The Blue Dukes, who open with three straight home games including Friday's tilt against West Bend West, will be strong on offense, Tietjen said. Senior Turner DeMuth is making the conversion from running back to quarterback and will get protection from veterans such as senior offensive tackle Mike Fiedler and senior center Dane Fleck (6-0, 180).
Tietjen said the Blue Dukes have abundant skill position weapons despite serious losses in that department. He's high on senior tight ends Riley Breitenbach and Luke Henricks. Meanwhile, backs will likely include junior Jaren Walker, junior Adam Strehlow and senior fullback Ben Lehrmann.
"Ben is always moving forward, we like that about him," Tietjen of Lehrmann said. "We don't have any stars or standouts so we're all working together. The attitude has been just great."
Should the offense falter, Bay has high-level kicking recruit senior Colin Downing. His hang time on punts is in the four-plus second range with lengths of 50 yards or more.
On the defensive side of the ball, all-conference and all-area senior linebacker Tyler Terveer leads the way while moving to defensive end. Tietjen is pleased with his inside linebacking crew headed up by Lehrmann.
Five or six players will be rotated in and around the defensive line this fall.
Fleck and Henricks will be at the outside linebacker positions while DeMuth and Strehlow will be in the defensive backfield as will sophomore Matt Bernstein.
Tietjen said that everyone is buying into the program which will be 40-plus strong on the varsity.
"I noticed that Ohio State started doing this as a way of instilling pride so no one can go around our field without some Blue Dukes or Bay football gear," Tietjen said. "I got caught one day and I had to duct-tape stuff to my hat and my shorts (laughs).
"Because of that, the kids are thinking about football a lot more now," Tietjen said. "The focus is much better. We're looking to play good defense and get good special teams play and hope we get the occasional funny bounce."
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