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New Nicolet football coach Al Moroder knows that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the state prep football empire that is his alma mater Homestead.

With that in mind, he's going to take a realistic approach as he begins the process of building the success-starved Knights' program into something respectable and competitive.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's been very positive up to now. We know we're talking about a culture change and creating traditions. Once we we do that, we can start making Nicolet the program we want it to be."

The Knights were 0-9 last season and did not field a varsity team in 2014. Moroder, a 2004 Homestead grad, was the head coach at New Berlin West the last four seasons, where he led the Vikings to the state playoffs in 2012 and 2013.

He is encouraged by the turnout, with about 60 in the sophomore and junior classes combined. He said the contact days in late July went extremely well, too.

"The kids seem to understand the effort that is needed to be successful," Moroder said, "and the transition is going pretty well. They've made it easy for me here with good support (from the administration) and a fantastic group of assistants. They've really made life easier."

As far as personnel goes, Moroder is happy to have a player the caliber of senior back Dakari Williams, who was second-team All-North Shore Conference last season. "He's just special," said Moroder.

The quarterback of the spread formation offense will be senior Jack Hansen, who is switching over from defensive back. Moroder said that Hansen has "fantastic" leadership skills.

Others who will be counted on offensively include senior running back Keno Scott and senior transfer receiver TJ Miller.

As usual for Nicolet, the offensive line will be a work in progress, said Moroder. The group will be largely sophomores and juniors, but they have been in the weight room a lot in the offseason. Moroder also noted that many of them are wrestlers and the technique they've learned under wrestling coach Gus Kaufmann will serve them well on the football field.

The defense will be a "bend not break" affair. Leaders on that four-man front unit include junior defensive back/linebacker JaRon Williams. Linemen include junior Jared Tillman and senior Cameron Cooper, whom Moroder labeled as an anchor upfront. Others in the mix include junior linebacker Peter Driscoll and sophomore linebacker C.J. Kobe.

Senior defensive back Jaren Yoder will be a leader in the secondary.

Moroder said he has already begun the groundwork of working with the youth programs, trying to build their numbers and create a positive attitude.

He was also pleased with how the Knights conducted themselves in the Aug. 12 scrimmage with New Berlin Eisenhower, Sheboygan Falls and Kewaskum.

"I thought the effort was fantastic against some really good, quality opponents," he said.

The season will formally get underway at 7 p.m, Friday, Aug. 19 at home against Waukesha South and another home nonconference game will be held Aug. 26 against area rival Shorewood/Messmer.

The road to respectability begins with small steps, said Moroder.

"The kids are playing hard," he said, "and they're easy to work with. They really want to be successful."

Leadership: Moroder said the senior group is not enormous (10-15 players) but he has been pleased with their attitude and leadership skills. People like Hansen, Cooper and Driscoll are really taking charge among the group, he said.

Culture change: Moroder comes from a  successful high school background at Homestead where winning was an expectation. He's going to try to transfer that attitude to the Knights, who haven't had a winning record or state playoff berth since 1989. He said he learned much from Highlanders coaching legend Dave Keel, including how to handle adversity.

We say: There have been many -- too many -- coaches at Nicolet in the last decade, and mostly the results have been mostly discouraging. We like the choice of Moroder, who is young and enthusiastic but also pragmatic and disciplined. Results will likely not come immediately, but a better competitive spirit will likely be seen this fall and that will help build success in the future.

All-conference returnees

First team: None
Second team: Dakari Williams (RB)
Honorable mention: John Quam (OL), JaRon Williams (ILB), Dakari Williams (DB)
First-team losses: None
Coach: Al Moroder

Glance back

Overall: 0-9
Conference: 0-7
Outcome: Did not make playoffs

Last year (home in bold)

Waukesha South L 43-14
Shorewood/Messmer L 34-13
Germantown L 36-0
Grafton L 35-0
Whitefish Bay L 44-14
Cedarburg L 42-6
Homestead L 35-0
Milwaukee Lutheran L 43-14
Port Washington L 48-21

Schedule

Aug. 19 Waukesha South
Aug. 26 Shorewood/Messmer
Sept. 2 at Germantown
Sept. 9 Grafton
Sept. 16 at Whitefish Bay
Sept. 23 Cedarburg
Sept. 30 at Homestead
Oct. 7 Milwaukee Lutheran
Oct. 14 at Port Washington

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