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Phantoms look for next step

By Murray Gleffe


DE PERE – Unfinished business.

One half away.

Stay together as a team.

Those were some of the sentiments heard on the first day of football practice at West De Pere High School.

Most teams would be thrilled to get to a state championship game and walk away with a silver ball.

However, the Phantoms aren’t like most teams.

“We got better from week to week in 2018,” said West De Pere head coach Jack Batten. “Once we got into the playoffs, the kids seemed to kick it into an even higher gear. We played 27 really good halves of football.”

The Phantoms held a 24-0 third-quarter lead in the 2018 WIAA Division 3 state championship game against Catholic Memorial but watched it all disappear in a 37-24 loss.

If West De Pere is to make a return trip to Camp Randall Stadium, they will have to replace arguably one of the better trios to ever step foot on the West De Pere campus: Evan Frisque, Alex Spitzer and Jake Karchinski.

The three combined for over 200 tackles, 14 sacks and forced eight turnovers.

“We have five or six guys with experience coming back on defense,” Batten said. “They didn’t all start, but we have two non-negotiables with the group: They have to tackle and run to the football. We will find 11 players on that side of the ball that will do that.”

The Phantoms’ offense averaged more than 40 points a game last season and had close to 5,000 yards of total offense.

Leading the way is junior quarterback Josh Blount.

Blount ran for 1,500 yards and developed a passing game in his second season finding favorite targets Aaron Wagner (wide receiver) and Billy Wyatt (tight end) downfield when needed.

With any run-first attack, comes a plethora of running options.

This year will be no different.

West De Pere returns David Vanderlogt, Sam Mommaerts, Cody Cavil and Kaden Kosobucki in the backfield.

All four missed several games to injury last year but still accounted for 2,000 combined yards rushing.

“Josh and our backs won’t get yardage without our o-line guys,” Batten said. “We have a nice core of linemen back, including Kerry Kodanko, Gabe Somerville and Bryce Graef. Many other guys are fighting for positions. If they can hold their blocks, I would like to average more than 40 points per game.”

With so many coaching changes in the past decade, Batten has been a mainstay in and around the Green Bay area for over two decades.

“You have to be honest with your kids,” said Batten. “You can’t fake it when you’re coaching. You have to have a detailed practice plan, and in my opinion, be very organized to run a good program.”

With the Phantoms playing their final season in the Bay Conference, they would like to go out on top.

A few teams could stand in West De Pere’s way.

“I feel Menasha always brings an elite team to the table every year,” Batten added about the 2019 contenders. “Seymour and New London are always tough outs – very scrappy. Green Bay East should also be much improved.

                                                                   Coach Spotlight

Name: Jack Batten

School: West De Pere

Years coaching at West De Pere: 14 (6 as head coach)

Other football coaching gigs: Green Bay Preble, Green Bay East

Hometown: De Pere

Jack Batten

Most memorable coaching moment: “After we won our first state championship in 2010. My daughter Claire was a water girl, and she was waiting nearby after the game with tears in her eyes. We had a big hug at midfield – it was very special.”

Coaching mentor: “John Kolstad – I worked with him at East. He was phenomenal in terms of x’s and o’s and knows more about football than anyone I’ve ever been around. His ability to motivate was second to none. On the opposite end of that, I also coached with Pat Prochnow at Preble – he was very happy and jovial and the kids loved playing for him. He wasn’t quite the disciplinarian John was but very fun to be around.”

Best high school player you’ve coached against: “The one that jumps into my mind is Shane Rockweiler from Reedsburg. He was a load at fullback and played linebacker. If I would have heard ‘tackle by Rotweiller’ one more time, my head would have exploded. We couldn’t block him – he was a really good football player.”

Goals for 2019: “First and foremost, we want to be a team. Nothing happens without having everyone buy into a common goal. It’s my job to make sure everyone is pulling the oars in the right direction. Lastly, we want to win every football game this year. If you do that, you end up in a pretty good position in November.”

My style of coaching is: “I am an old-school coach. I believe in physical football. I coach with demand, but I am not a yeller or screamer. I want kids to be able to perform to the best of their ability. It’s very gratifying to be able to see a kid execute a drill or make a play that maybe he didn’t think he could without a little push. When it happens, there’s a strong and life-long bond that is formed.”

West De Pere 2019 regular season schedule

8/23 – @ Shawano Community

8/30 – New London

9/6 – @ Green Bay West

9/13 – @ Green Bay East

9/20 – @ Xavier

9/27 – Menasha

10/4 – Seymour

10/11 – @ Wrightstown

10/18 – Waupaca

  • All games begin at 7 p.m.


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