By Rich Palzewic
SEYMOUR – The Seymour High School football team isn’t used to losing seasons under head coach Matt Molle.
Despite a changed year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thunder will look to improve on its 3-6 overall record in 2019.
“We’d be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed in last year,” said Molle, who grew up in Niagara, Wisconsin. “Since our staff has been together in 2005, it was only the second time we’ve sat home during the playoffs – we didn’t care for that. I don’t want to make excuses, but we got bit by the injury bug to some key players at the wrong time. We lost some crucial seniors, and that took some steam out of us.”
Molle said it’s been an interesting start to the season.
“We are excited to be playing and for the year to be here,” he said. “We don’t take it for granted we’re one of the few area teams playing now. I’m happy for our seniors. Hopefully, we can get some games in and compete. Things are different because they have to be.”
Molle said he stresses to his team daily how lucky they are to be playing.
“We control what we can control,” he said. “I understand it was a tough decision for many school districts to decide whether to play fall sports now or move them to the spring. I feel bad for other athletes, and I hope they get the chance to compete next spring.”
Asked if his roster of 26 was young or veteran, Molle said it depends on the position.
“Many of our skilled players in the offensive and defensive backfield are returning,” he said. “We’ll have to replace many of the guys on the offensive and defensive lines. We are green up front. We’ll have to figure out our identity on offense and gear it to the personnel we have.”
One of those players back is senior quarterback Peyton VanDeHei.
“We always like to start by running the football, but we may have to be more creative this year using Peyton to get the ball to the skilled guys,” said Molle. “Who knows – maybe our offensive line will gel quicker than I expect. Peyton has lots of experience, even seeing time as a sophomore. He’ll be a big part of what we do this season.”
VanDeHei, a two-way starter and an all-conference performer in 2019, also led the team in tackles from his safety position.
“You don’t necessarily want your safety leading your team in tackles, but that’s how it went last year,” Molle said.
He said his defense has morphed over the years because opposing offenses are changing, too.
“As more and more teams spread things out, we’ve transitioned from a five-man front to a three-man,” said Molle. “This year, we’ll have to see – we have a few less inside linebackers. We’ll start with a 3-5-3 base, but we might need to change because of our personnel.”
Another senior returnee is Carson Molle, a running back, who happens to be coach’s son.
“Not many coaches get the opportunity to coach their son, so I’m excited for him,” said Molle. “He’s put lots of work into the offseason and has overcome a significant injury back in the eighth grade.”
The Thunder will have to replace all-conference performers Kaleb Shufelt (offensive line), Paul Treml (OL), Owen Geurts (defensive line) and Aaron Geurts (inside linebacker).
2020 Seymour football schedule
Sept. 25 – Shawano
Oct. 2 – @ Waupaca
Oct. 9 – Menasha
Oct. 16 – @ West De Pere
Oct. 23 – @ Luxemburg-Casco
Oct. 30 – New London
Nov. 6 – @ Xavier
Editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m.