SNC looking to rebound from .500 campaign in 2021
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – On Saturday, the St. Norbert College football team will kick off its 2022 season on the road at Ripon College for a nonconference game.
After hosting the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for another nonconference game Sept. 10 at Schneider Stadium, St. Norbert has a week off before entertaining Lakeland University Sept. 24 to begin Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) play.
“I’m excited about the season,” St. Norbert coach Dan McCarty said. “It was probably one of the better camps I’ve experienced since I’ve been here. There were days the offense won and days the defense won.”
The Green Knights were picked third in the preseason conference poll as selected by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
Defending NACC champion Aurora University (13 first-place votes) and Benedictine University (three) grabbed the top two spots, respectively, while St. Norbert nabbed one first-place vote a year after finishing 4-4 in the conference.
“I didn’t even see the preseason poll,” McCarty said. “I don’t put any stock into preseason stuff — it has to happen on the field. Last year, we were picked toward the top, and you saw the type of year we had — every year is different.”
After being longtime members of the Midwest Conference (MWC), the Green Knights were supposed to open NACC play in 2020, but that entire season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
McCarty said playing a year in the new conference will help his team in 2022.
“Overall, the conference we’re in has good balance, from top to bottom,” he said. “When we played in the MWC, there were games we knew we wouldn’t be challenged. In the NACC, you have to be ready to play every week. Everything was new last year.”
After starting the 2021 season 2-5, St. Norbert won three consecutive games to finish the year.
“I’m proud of how this team responded last season,” McCarty said. “Many teams would have folded and started pointing fingers. We all have to be better.”
Offensively, the Green Knights have to replace graduated quarterback Ben Kohl.
Kohl rushed for 703 yards and nine touchdowns and threw for more than 1,400 yards with 17 touchdowns.
McCarty said quarterback Richie Gilles is in line to start this year.
“Richie got some varsity time last season and had a good camp this year,” he said. “He was elected a captain by his teammates, so that’s a good sign from the leadership side of things.”
Gilles threw only 10 passes last season — completing four with two interceptions.
“We’d like to see a nice balance offensively,” McCarty said. “It’s cliché, but we’ll take what the defense gives us. It’ll probably be a 60/40 run/pass ratio, but I can’t say for sure right now which way that will go.”
Defensively, St. Norbert has three captains — Joe Jung, Bryan Boockmeier and Isaac Sidon.
“We had 10 guys nominate themselves as captains, and the team chose those four,” McCarty said. “We practice taking the football away every day. We preach fundamental physical football. You’ll see us playing lots of man coverage, but our scheme will depend on what team we’re seeing.”
Jung, a sixth-year safety from Neenah, said he expects improvement this year.
“We brought great intensity to camp this season,” he said. “Both sides of the ball played great — Richie Gilles looks good at quarterback.”
Because the Green Knights missed the 2020 season due to the pandemic, Jung said that hurt the team.
“The NACC got to play a few games during a spring season (in 2020), and because we were still in the Midwest Conference at the time, we didn’t get to play,” he said. “We came into last season behind, I think. We started the season slowly. We’re coming into this season with a huge chip on our shoulders. Going 5-5 is not the type of season we expect here — we’ve got lots of games circled on the calendar.”
McCarty noted there are about 25 seniors on the roster.
“Our junior class is a bit smaller, but we’re sophomore and freshmen heavy,” he said. “Some of the sophomores played last year, so some of those guys will be starting this season. We also love our freshmen class — there’s lots of talent there.”
St. Norbert College football schedule
9/3 – @ Ripon College
9/10 – UW-Stevens Point
9/24 – Lakeland University *
10/1 – @ Benedictine University * (2 p.m.)
10/8 – @ Wisconsin Lutheran *
10/15 – Concordia University Wisconsin *
10/22 – @ Aurora University * (noon)
10/29 – @ Rockford University *
11/5 – Eureka College * (noon)
11/12 – Concordia University Chicago * (noon)
Editor’s notes: An asterisk (*) equals a Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference game. All
games begin at 1 p.m. unless otherwise noted.