De Pere to ride Herman, strong linebackers
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The 2020 alternate fall season was special for the De Pere football team.
It went a perfect 7-0 and displayed plenty of talented players on the roster, but the Redbirds lost several solid players off that squad, including wide receiver Maddax Shinners.
However, this year’s team is returning a strong nucleus.
“On the defensive line, we’re going to be young, but I think we have probably the best overall linebacking corps maybe in the state, certainly in the area,” De Pere coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. “We have one of the best quarterbacks in the state. We had four sophomores get all-conference. We’re a veteran but young team – it’s a weird mix.”
Exciting things are in store for De Pere this season as it looks to capture the Fox River Classic Conference title.
De Pere’s offense was dynamic last year, averaging 29.4 points per game.
Junior quarterback Gabe Herman, a unanimous first-team all-conference selection, showed he’s one of the top quarterbacks with his dual-threat ability.
Through the air, Herman was 62-for-101 for 1,044 yards, 16 touchdowns and had only two interceptions.
Herman also rushed for 338 yards and three scores, which were both second on the team.
“His functionality in our offense is dynamic,” Michalkiewicz said. “You don’t see lots of high school teams go exclusively with zone, and what that forces a defense to do is sit one or two defenders on the quarterback. When he’s a true run-pass option threat like (Herman) is, that gives us the numbers advantage in the box. Unless they choose to man-to-man to load the box up, but I don’t know if anybody wants backs of defenders turned to him. He stresses a defense out.”
De Pere will have a new look at running back this season after workhorse Adam Timbrook (734 yards rushing and six touchdowns) graduated.
Michalkiewicz will look to junior Devin Koskey to step up.
He’s fast in the open field and holds his own in the weight room.
“He’s a kid that’s probably going to carry the load, but we’ve got to find some depth,” Michalkiewicz said. “We’ve got to find another kid or two who is reliable to give the ball to.”
After graduating Herman’s top two receivers in Shinners (512 yards and nine touchdowns) and Bennett Spaeth (224 yards and three scores), there will be a changing of the guard.
Herman will look to throw to all-conference tight end Noah Gehin (nine catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns), who could be a big factor this season.
“I think he’s one of the finest tight ends in the state,” Michalkiewicz said.
Jack May earned some time at wide receiver last season, but he got hurt.
A speedster, May finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the WIAA Division 1 state track and field meet this past spring.
Jack Jorgensen, who will be in his third season starting at defensive back, could get some time at wide receiver, as could Anders Davidson.
De Pere has a solid offensive line led by center Ross Rowland, a first-team all-conference selection last season as a sophomore.
Left tackle Miles Salines was also all-conference, and Cam Norder started in five games.
Michalkiewicz said he’s excited about newcomer Jackson Bromberek, who will start at left guard.
“We kept him on junior varsity last year because we didn’t necessarily need him in our lineup, so we wanted him to get those JV reps,” he said. “He’s a kid that’s an exciting name. He’s coming in as a junior, first-year starter and is potentially an all-conference-caliber kid.”
Junior Milo Upton will also be competing for a starting job on the offensive line.
Defensively, De Pere has back five starters at key positions after allowing only 5.9 points per game.
Inside linebackers Caleb Rinard (63 tackles and two forced fumbles) and Michael Alexander (67 tackles, four for loss) were both first-team all-conference selections and staples on the defense.
“You can watch (Rinard), but you hear him play football,” Michalkiewicz said. “He’s always around the football. He talks with his pads. He’s as good of a defensive football player as I’ve coached in my 11 years.”
Add in inside linebacker Luke Brosig and De Pere is in great shape at the middle level of its defense.
Jorgensen will lead the defensive backs.
He was a first-team all-conference selection as a junior.
Also earning valuable minutes last season was cornerback Mathew Ahrenholtz and safety Mason Stecker.
Tanner Newton, who opted to play hockey last winter season and not go out for football, is back on the squad.
The safety will battle with Kobe Cullen for a starting spot.
The Redbirds have some uncertainty on the defensive line, but guys like Garrett Sullivan and Coltin Blahnik will vie for playing time.
“Our biggest task in training camp is getting that unit ready to go,” Michalkiewicz said.
Sports editor’s notes: De Pere is the third team to be featured in The Press Times.
De Pere 2021 regular season schedule
8/20 – @ Wausau West
8/26 – Manitowoc Lincoln
9/3 – @ Green Bay Southwest
9/10 – Ashwaubenon
9/17 – @ Bay Port
9/24 – West De Pere
10/1 – Notre Dame Academy
10/8 – @ Pulaski
10/15 – Green Bay Preble
• All games begin at 7 p.m.
CLICK HERE to read the preview for Ashwaubenon.
CLICK HERE to read the preview for Bay Port.