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Green Knights picked second in preseason coaches poll

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St. Norbert College quarterback Peyton Lyon prepares to hand the ball off at a recent practice. The Green Knights finished 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference last season. Rich Palzewic Photo

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

DE PERE – If the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Preseason Poll is any indication, the St. Norbert College football team should have another banner year.

But don’t tell that to head coach Dan McCarty

“I haven’t even seen the poll,” McCarty said. “We don’t put too much stock into that.”

The Green Knights’ 134 points were second only behind defending NACC champion Aurora University’s 158 points.

Aurora received 15 of the possible 18 first-place votes, while St. Norbert, Benedictine and Rockford all received one vote from the league’s coaches and sports information directors.

St. Norbert opens its season at 1 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Schneider Stadium against Ripon College.

The Green Knights open NACC play at 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Schneider Stadium against Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The Green Knights host Aurora for Homecoming on Oct. 14.

Last season

The 2022 Green Knights finished 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the NACC.

After starting 3-0 in the conference, St. Norbert dropped a 28-21 overtime home game against Concordia University Wisconsin and then a 28-6 road contest at Aurora the next week.

“Last season, we did some good things, but we didn’t achieve our goal,” McCarty said. “We have some work to do — we need to get back to where we’re used to.”

The defense surrendered 12.8 points per game while allowing 2.8 yards per carry and 276 yards of total offense per game in 2022.

The 12.8 points allowed were the lowest since the 2017 season.

“That’s a credit to (defensive coordinator) Coach (Charlie) Drewek,” McCarty said. “We were understaffed a bit, so the fact we could accomplish what we did was an unbelievable job by him.”

The biggest losses on the defensive side of the ball are safety Joe Jung (74 tackles, five interceptions), Michael Creighton (59 tackles, four sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss) and Parker Violette (39 tackles, six TFL).

Jung was named an All-American by D3football.com.

St. Norbert also lost quarterback Richie Gilles (57.2% completion rate, 2,041 yards passing, 16 TDs), running back John Trinh (624 yards, eight TDs) and wide receiver Cameron Krueger (24 receptions, 338 yards).

Last season’s leading receiver, Parker Lawrence (48 receptions, 935 yards, nine TDs), transferred out of the program.

New year, new team

McCarty said this year’s team has a good veteran mix.

“Our senior class is about 20-22 strong, which is pretty typical,” he said. “Overall, we’re young and have to mature. We are stressing communication and listening.”

Quarterback Peyton Lyon, an Oshkosh North High School graduate, will be behind center this season.

“Peyton brings great energy and has a great arm,” tight end/h-back Tommy Hoeft said. “He slings the ball around and makes good decisions.”

McCarty said his team has three guys battling for the backup quarterback spot.

“That will be a fluid situation, maybe changing week to week based on things,” he said.

Running backs Delton Zuleger (488, three TDs), Owen Kudick (285 yards, three TDs) and Chris McCartney all return.

“Owen also played some in the slot last year and then busted out with a 200-yard game to end the season (against Concordia University Chicago),” McCarty said. “McCartney was out with an injury last season.”

McCarty also had high praise for his offensive line.

“I love our o-lineman,” he said. “I think it’s the best o-line we’ve had as far as a collective group. We’ve got Nathan Krizan at left tackle, Hunter Hucek at center and Max Larson at right guard all returning as starters.”

Austin Miller (23 receptions, 334 yards, 5 TDs) is the team’s top wide receiver returning.

Defensively, McCarty said the Green Knights return plenty of veterans as well.

“I like our defensive backfield,” he said. “Drew Jurack, Marc Thomas, Alex Campbell and Logan Dorner all return. Our two inside linebackers are back, our outside guy is back — we have a lot of returners.”

Cambell corralled six interceptions a season ago, while Sam Barnett (69 tackles, five TFL), Tyler McCabe (44 tackles, six TFL), Kyle Santos (40 tackles, 10 TFL) and Jax Carroll (34 tackles, eight TFL, 4.5 sacks) add veteran leadership.

Though he’s on the offensive side of the ball, Hoeft had strong praise for the St. Norbert defense.

“I don’t they repeat last season, I think they do better,” he said. “We have a really good defense and lots of experience. We have a super-good front seven and a good secondary.”

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