Belleville Wildcats - Capitol South
Coach: Chase Ritter (2nd season); 5-4 Overall
2016 Result: 5-4, 4th in the Capitol South (missed playoffs)
Three-Year Record: 10-18
2016 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (13 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 10 First-Team, 16 Second-Team, 7 Honorable Mention (33 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (4): WR/DB/P Dalton Fahey (First Team-P, Second Team-DB), Sr.; WR/DB/K Cody McMillan (First Team-K), Sr.; TE/LB Drew Shrader, (Second Team-LB, Honorable Mention-TE), Sr.; RB/LB/ST Luke Kelly (Second Team-ST), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Nate Mabis, Jr.; OL/DL Danny Enloe, Jr.
BIG Games: vs Boscobel August 25 (45th Anniversary of the State Line League Football Championship), September 8 at Lake Mills, September 15 at New Glarus/Monticello, October 13 at Marshall (Senior Night)
For the first time in a decade, the Belleville Wildcats finished with a winning record, going 5-4 in 2016.
The natural next step for the football program: A trip to the playoffs. After winning just 19 games in nine seasons prior to their last campaign, Belleville picked up five victories on the way to missing the playoffs by just one game, losing to Marshall in what amounted to a play-in contest in Week 9.
"We have a very promising outlook with a lot of young, athletic players. We are expecting another winning season." - Head Coach Chase Ritter
The Capitol South itself boasts some talented young players, with a good percentage of the returning all-conference players in the 2019 class, and for Belleville's Chase Ritter, now in his second year as head coach, he knows that this year won't be easy week-to-week.
"There was a lot of quality young players last year in our conference.," said Coach Ritter, who took over last year as head coach a week before two-a-days began after being the offensive coordinator for two seasons. "It's great to see the conference building so that we can earn the respect when it comes to seeding in the playoffs."
None of the three Capitol South teams advanced in last year's playoffs, but nearly every team brings back multiple two-way standouts. For Belleville, they can chalk up a trio of players who not only excel on offense and defense, but also on special teams.
Three of the Capitol South's six first- and second-team all-conference special teams slots went to the Wildcats, including first-team performers punter Dalton Fahey (who also was a second-team all-conference defensive back last year, and was honorable mention as a punter in 2015) and kicker Cody McMillan (who was honorable mention as a freshman in 2014). Fahey also plays receiver, while McMillan plays receiver and defensive back.
On the second team, Luke Kelly made all-conference as a special teamer in his sophomore year last season. Kelly also plays running back and linebacker.
In addition to Fahey and McMillan, the senior class has two-way all-conference linebacker/tight end Drew Shrader returning. Shrader made second-team all-conference as a linebacker and honorable mention as a tight end. The senior class will have just five players in 2018.
The junior class is large, however, and includes, along with Kelly, a third-year starter in Danny Enloe along the lines, and their starting quarterback for 2018, Nate Mabis.
"Mabis will be our quarterback this year, and after being out with an ACL tear last year, he looks to have a great year commanding our offense," said Coach Ritter. "Enloe is a two-year starter on our offensive line, and will be a crucial part of our success."
With nearly a dozen juniors and nearly a half-dozen incoming sophomores that saw action on varsity last year, Ritter is excited for the future.
"We have a very promising outlook with a lot of young, athletic players," said Coach Ritter. "We are expecting another winning season."
On the schedule, the Wildcats will open with three straight home games. Belleville opens on a Thursday night hosting Elcho/White Lake, a school that went 1-8 last season. In Week 2, Belleville will play Boscobel in the 45th anniversary of the 1972 State Line Football League Championship. The Wildcats beat the Bulldogs 24-6 last season, and Boscobel went 1-8 in 2016.
After a home date with Wisconsin Dells on a Thursday night in Week 3 (the Chiefs went 0-9 last year), the schedule ramps up with back-to-back road games against two of the more difficult teams that the Wildcats will see all year. First, they will travel to Lake Mills, who lost in the state quarterfinals last year. The L-Cats are expected to contend in the tough Capitol North this year. Then, they will head to defending Capitol South champion New Glarus/Monticello for a big showdown in Belleville's conference opener.
Belleville returns home to play Waterloo for homecoming. Waterloo was second in the Capitol South last season, and beat Belleville 20-14. Then, it's a road trip to Cambridge for their third conference game in a row and third road game in four weeks.
The road swing continues at Cuba City, another opponent from the SWAL (along with Boscobel) for a non-conference clash in Week 8. Cuba City made it to the playoffs last year, going 4-6 overall. Belleville wraps up the season against Marshall for senior night, a game that Marshall won 40-19 last season.
The Capitol South remains a five-team conference for 2017 for the second straight year, meaning teams only need to win two games in conference play to become playoff-eligible and three games to clinch a playoff spot. The drop to five teams occurred prior to the 2016 season, when Wisconsin Heights opted to play 8-man football rather than continue in the Capitol South.
In the Capitol South, New Glarus/Monticello is considered the favorite, but the remaining four teams in the conference, including Belleville, will not make it easy on the Glarner Knights. Almost every team brings back key performers from 2016.