Colors: Green and White
Head Coach: A.J. Burki (2nd season)
2017 record: 1-8
Returning Starters: 12 on offense 13 on defense
The Wisner-Pilger Gators return a plethora of players returning with starting experience, including seniors Jayden Raabe (6’4, 220 FB/DL), Dylan Uhing (5’10, 215 OL/DL), and Jacob Borgelt (6’2, 195 OL/DL).
2nd year Head Coach A.J. Burki says the Gators are counting on these guys this season. “All three of those guys, not a lot of seniors, but have played quite a bit since they’ve been freshmen. Bitten by the injury bug a little bit here and there. And so our big thing is just to kind of make sure we get them going, get them through a whole season, and keep them on the field as long and as much as possible.”
Burki adds the trio has done some great work in the offseason, this summer, in the weightroom, and shown a great deal of leadership characteristics thus far.
Other returning starters include juniors Justin Pieper (5’11, 155 RB/LB), Zolio Flores (5’9, 200 OL/DL), Dylan Kneifl (6’2, 155 E/LB), Colby Heller (6’3, 180 E/DE), Trevor Styskal (6’0, 155 QB/CB), Landon Beaver (5’11, 255 OL/DL), Mason Dimon (6’0, 210 OL/LB), and Gavin Lampman (5’10, 140 RB/CB). Sophomore Marqus Eddy (5’10, 210 FB/LB) returns for the Gators as well.
Burki says the team had good participation numbers in summer camps. “We went up to Wayne State and got in our first 8-man camp up there, and then we kind of had our own team camp that we held here in Wisner, and honestly they went really well. A majority of the boys that are going to go out for football this season were able to attend both of those.”
Key losses include Keegan Ruskamp and Hunter Waterman.
Burki says it’s been a challenge adapting to 8-man. “I think more than anything it’s just playing time in that realm of football. Actually getting to get the reps in an 8-man game like scenario has been probably the biggest challenge. We tried to do stuff throughout this summer with camps and different things like that that gave us the ability to give them a little bit of a taste of it. But honestly as far as challenges are concerned…it’s really no other major challenges that you wouldn’t be faced with on a year-to-year basis no matter what level. A, B, C-1, C-2, 8-man.”
Burki says those challenges include replacing experience, getting guys reps, and making sure players are doing what they need to do in the weightroom.
He adds his team is focused on Cross County right now, and is going to take things week-by-week, worrying about one game at a time.
Burki has this preseason assessment of his team. “As you can see, due to our youth from last year and coming down from 11 to 8 man, we return a number of starters on both sides of the ball. This will be great, to build our overall experience and depth, while also creating some legitimate competition at practice and for starting positions on both sides of the ball. Our big question, however, is can we transfer this returning experience to success on the field? I think we can, but it is going to take a great deal of work and sacrifice from the boys. We as a team and coaching staff are extremely excited for this upcoming season, to show what we can do and that we have greatly improved from last season.”
Wisner-Pilger starts off the season on Friday, August 24th at Cross County, who is also dropping to 8-man from the 11-man ranks.
Wisner-Pilger is in District D1-4 with GACC, Wakefield, Winnebago, Homer, and Omaha Nation.
Burki says his team has set the bar high this season. “I think we have high expectations. High expectations for our team and for the boys. And we’ve told them that since the start of fall camp that the learning curve has dramatically changed from last year to this year because we return so many guys. And we can’t wait around for things to happen, we need to make those things happen.”
Burki says his squad is looking to start the season off on the right foot. “I guess I want to start the season off, and I think we as a team want to start the season off, better than we finished last year. I think kind of a goal when you have guys that are returning you want to start your season where you finished it the year before. We don’t want to skip a beat. And we only want to go up or get better from there.”
2018 Wisner-Pilger Gators Football Schedule:
08/24/18 @ Cross County
08/31/18 East Butler
09/21/18 @ Guardian Angels Central Catholic
10/05/18 @ Homer
10/12/18 Omaha Nation
10/19/18 @ Wakefield