"Toughness" will be the watchword of the Menomonee Falls football team this fall as the Indians look to shake off the doldrums of the injury-plagued 3-6 season of 2015 under second-year coach Dan Lutz.
"It's been awesome," Lutz said. "We've got a new weight room, which we partially funded along with the school district, and up to 80 kids at a time can use it. It's all part of being a tougher team this year. Our motto is going to be 'Toughness matters.'"
The Indians, who scrimmaged Hartford on Aug. 12, will open the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at home with a nonconference game against Southeast Conference power Oak Creek. Last year, Falls struggled against the Knights in a 26-0 loss.
Lutz will work around a mix of youth and experience on his 81-man varsity/junior varsity squad as he looks to replace the several graduated skill position players, including three-year starting quarterback Bryce McMurtry who is on a track scholarship at UWM. McMurtry battled injuries last year, and that resulted in a fair amount of playing time for junior Arick Gleissner (6-1, 160), who will inherit the position full time this fall in the shotgun formation set.
He will work behind a potentially very good offensive line headlined by Wisconsin commit senior tackle Matt Hennigsen (6-5, 265) and fellow senior returning letter winner Najhee Purdy (5-9, 200). Others looking to help on the offensive line include senior state-qualifying wrestler Brandon Schaefer (6-2, 203), junior Mason Mack (5-11, 207) and junior heavyweight wrestler Logan Fallon (6-6, 266).
"The line is going to be pretty typical for us," Lutz said. 'We'll have a couple of really big guys and then a bunch of other smaller guys who will just get in there and fight. Like I said, it's going to be about toughness for us."
The running back position is still a work in progress, Lutz said, but one who is counted on is senior state place-winning and school record track relay runner Patrick Doyle (5-10, 150). Receivers include senior Josh McMahon (6-3, 165) and senior school-record pole vaulter Cameron Jemison (6-0, 170).
Defensively, the Indians will continue to work out of their three-man front set, and that will be a strength for them, as Henningsen will spend some time at the nose and Schaefer and fellow veteran junior Josh Lamp (6-4, 217) at the ends.
Outside linebackers will include senior letter winner Konnor Leiske (6-2, 174) and juniors Danny Howard (5-11, 197) and Ryan Spalding (5-10, 202). Spalding was the starting catcher on the recently crowned state champion Indian baseball team.
Several others are battling for the other linebacker jobs, including seniors Brian O'Connell (5-10, 193) and Luke Sutton (6-0, 172). The secondary will include senior letter winners Logan Heckman (6-0, 173) and Jemison. Others in the mix are junior Michael Burgoyne (5-10, 1420 and senior Kris Walker (6-3, 173). Walker will also help out at the tight end position.
Junior Curtis Flannick (5-10, 180) had a good year at the kicking position in 2015 and is back for another go-around.
"This is a real good group; I like the chemstry," Lutz said. "They're very committed, and they're really buying into what we do. They're working very hard. The big thing for us this year is to stay healthy. We do that, and we can have a better won/lost record than we did last year."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Henningsen is the man upfront for the Indians. The preferred walk-on Wisconsin recruit will be Gleissner's prime security blanket and the road grader the Indians run behind. He will also be an occasional stopper in the middle on Falls' three-man front defense.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Lutz said things are already moving faster this summer than they had in his first year. "Having had a full off-season with the guys has really helped," he said.
WE SAY: As noted, a lot will depend on how healthy the Indians can stay. They have potential pop-on offense behind Gleissner, Doyle and Jemison and will have a bit of physicality on defense. We say the state playoffs are absolutely within reach for the indians in the deep greater Metro this fall.
First team: Matt Henningsen (OL),
Second team: None
Honorable mention: None
First-team losses: None
Coach: Dan Lutz
Outcome: Did not make playoffs
Last year (home in bold)
Oak Creek L 26-0
Superior L 37-20
Wauwatosa East W 29-7
Marquette University L 14-6
Sussex Hamilton W 13-10
West Allis Central W 37-13
Brookfield East L 38-0
West Allis Hale L 21-14
Brookfield Central L 31-3
Aug. 19 Oak Creek
Aug. 26 at Greendale
Sept. 2 Wauwatosa East
Sept. 9 at Marquette University
Sept. 16 Sussex Hamilton
Sept. 23 at West Allis Central
Sept. 30 Brookfield East
Oct. 7 at West Allis Hale
Oct. 14 Brookfield Central