With enrollment issues and program numbers starting to become an issue, the Brown Deer football team will look to good health as one of their pathways to success this fall.
"We're around where we were last year, about 58 kids freshmen through senior," said veteran coach Rob Green. "We're hoping to pick up a few more as we get closer to the time school starts. The total number of students (enrollment) is down slightly this year but not as dramatic as it has been in recent years. The key throughout the school is to see how many kids we can get out for all sports."
The current enrollment for the Falcons has dipped below 600, the lowest in the Woodland Conference. That has translated into an 11-man freshmen class.
"And I don't think we've hit bottom yet," Green said.
But Green is going to remain optimistic as the Falcons look to improve on their 2-7 record of a year ago.
The spread-offense formation team is still deciding on a quarterback as seniors Armon Sample and Lonny Berry are having a spirited competition for the starting slot. Sample will also be a key player at defensive back. A key cog on offense will be senior returning all-conference linebacker Thomas Kelly, who will also see a fair amount of reps at running back. Green said he will look to use Kelly as much as possible this season.
Another promising running back is junior Sedric Nettles.
The wide receiver slots will be manned by the likes of Kelly and junior Tejhaun Palmer.
The two returning offensive linemen are juniors JeLani Pate and Chris Hubble. Another key lineman is senior Allen Yang.
Defensively, leading the way for the Falcons will be senior defensive end Aaron Alexander-Robinson and senior linebacker Eric Freuler. Freuler will also see some time at H-back on offense. Green said Kelly is having a great camp defensively from his cornerback position.
"He's the best open field tackler we've had in quite a while," Green said.
Nettles, who was second on the team in tackles last season, will also be a key force at linebacker. Overall size will be a problem for the Falcons, Green said, noting that every big guy is important.
Depth is also an issue, he added.
"Good health and conditioning are going to be important things for us this fall," he said.
Green said he was encouraged by the work the Falcons did in the scrimmage with St. Francis, Waukesha North and Greendale Martin Luther on Aug. 13. They will open the season at Sheboygan Falls at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19.
"The kids are competing hard," he said. "They're full of energy. I'm impressed with the young kids' energy and charisma. It's been a very good camp so far. The kids are having a good time. The key now is to play at a high level all the way through."
Triple Threat: A state track qualifier last spring, Kelly will be looked upon to do a lot this season, Green said. He'll be the Falcons' top performer in the defensive backfield and also look to run the ball and catch it out of a receiver's spot. His good health is a maximum priority for the team.
Looking Back: The Falcons' all-state quarterback from a a few years ago, Zack Baun, has gotten bigger, stronger and faster while at Wisconsin. Converted to a linebacker, Green said Baun's lateral quickness has improved markedly, and he should see a fair amount of snaps as a back-up this fall.
We Say: The Woodland East is anything if not competitive, and that should give the thin-in-number and lacking-in-depth Falcons a chance to be competitive. If they can catch a few breaks early and keep the key people healthy (particularly Kelly and the linemen), they have a chance to be better than they were last season.
First team: Thomas Kelly V (OLB)
Second team: None
Honorable mention: Allen Yang (DL)
First-team losses: Caleb Stampa (OL), Nyles Williams (RB), Jerry McDaniel (ILB)
Coach: Rob Green
Outcome: Did not make playoffs
Last year (home in bold)
Pewaukee L 21-0
Milwaukee Morse-Marshall W 41-0
Cudahy L 15-14
Whitnall L 35-8
Greenfield W 33-22
South Milwaukee L 35-14
Shorewood/Messmer L 49-0
Pius XI Catholic L 50-27
New Berlin West L 37-19
Aug. 19 at Sheboygan Falls
Aug. 26 at Dominican
Sept. 2 Whitnall
Sept. 9 at Greenfield
Sept. 16 South Milwaukee
Sept. 23 Shorewood/Messmer
Sept. 30 Cudahy
Oct. 7 Woodland Crossover
Oct. 14 Woodland Crossover