Led by 15 seniors, it was a season to remember – 11 straight wins before a crushing two-point playoff loss.
Those seniors are gone and the Eau Claire Regis football team is not looking in the rear view mirror.
A new Rambler edition is ready to show its stuff.
“We’re not comparing ourselves to last year,” said coach Bryant Brenner, who carries a remarkable 108-27 record into his 11th season. “We have the potential to be a real tough team by the end of the season. We’ve got the talent, but there is a long way to go.”
Although the loss of last year’s seniors has left gaping holes, the Ramblers do return five starters on offense and four on defense as they plunge into Cloverbelt Conference play as the defending champion.
And there’s a new group of players waiting to step in.
“We’re excited for the season,” Brenner said. “The kids have put in a lot of work and there’s been a lot of support from the parents. It’s a combination that usually is followed by success.”
There is two-way line starter Henry Theisen up front and Tristan Root to lead the way in the offensive and defensive backfields as openers.
And there is a prize transfer from Grantsburg, the team that ousted the Ramblers 31-29 in last year’s playoffs. He is 6-4, 227-pound tight end and linebacker Gabe Chenal.
“He’s really been accepted well and is a great fit for our team,” Brenner said.
Other returning starters are Hayden Reinders at running back and linemen Jackson Curtis and Riley Bauer on offense and Payton Kostka and Luke Rooney on defense.
But Brenner must find a replacement for two-year quarterback Isaac Michels, who guided the Ramblers to 21 wins and last year passed for 780 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The battle is between senior JT Koestler, who had only three pass attempts last year, and promising 6-2 junior Bennett Seelen.
“Seelen is the better passer and Koestler has the better feet,” is the comparison Brenner made.
Among the backfield alternates in the inverted double-wing attack, Reinders rushed for 589 yards and seven touchdowns at an 8.9 clip a year ago while Root scored six times on 373 yards at a 7.3 average.
They will be joined by wings Ben Rooney and Aaron Haselwander while sophomores Gus Theisen, Alex Leis and Kostka will work at fullback.
Joining Chenal at the tight end spots are Luke Rooney, David Haselwander and Jeff Ritger while teaming with Henry Theisen, Curtis and Bauer in the interior line are Matt Mauer, Kevin Byrne, Ian Burdick, Fletcher Theisen and Aiden Ritger.
“We have good size up front – a combination of size and athleticism,” Brenner said.
Henry Theisen, who had 53 tackles and five sacks last year, features the defensive line that also includes Jeremia Belden, Curtis and Bauer at tackles and Gus Theisen and Aiden Ritger at nose.
Chenal, Reinders, Jeff Ritger and Byrne are at ends with Kostka, David Haselwander and Leis at inside linebacker.
Root and Luke Rooney are at safety along with Peyton Mayer while the corners are Aaron Haselwander, Ben Mooney, Drew Goettl and Alex Nunez.
Root will handle the punting and kicking chores.
“We just want to try to become better at what we do,” Brenner said, “and make progress each week.”
Eau Claire Regis
Coach: Bryant Brenner, 11th season (108-27)
Last season: 11-1, 8-0 in Cloverbelt.
Roster: SENIORS — Luke Rooney, RB/DB; Brooks Wahl, RB/LB; Tristan Root, RB/DB; Gabe Chenal, TE/LB; Hayden Reinders, RB/DB; JT Koestler, QB/DB; Henry Theisen, RB/DL; Jackson Curtis, OL/DL; Ian Burdick, OL/DL; Fletcher Theisen, OL/DL; Riley Bauer, OL/DL.
JUNIORS — Ben Rooney, RB/DB; Aaron Haselwander, RB/DB; Drew Goetll, RB/DB; Bennett Seelen, QB/DB; Peyton Mayer, RB/DB; David Haselwander, TE/LB; Payton Kostka, RB/LB; Alex Nunez, RB/DB; Matt Mauer, OL/DL; Aiden Ritger, OL/DL; Jeremia Belden, OL/DL; Kevin Byrne, OL/LB.
SOPHOMORES — Griffin Kristo, QB/DB; Alex Picco, RB/DB; Jude Multhauf, RB/DB; Alex Leis, RB/LB; Isaac Petersilka, RB/DB; Gus Theisen, RB/DL; Kaden Jordahl, OL/LB; Mason Kostka, OL/LB; Hank Oxelrod, OL/DL; Ben Salonek, OL/LB; Hannah Reynen, OL/DL; Brandon Sommers, OL/DL; Greg Sokup, TE/LB.
FRESHMEN — Peter Albert, RB/DB; Jaren Payne, RB/DB; Cole Selvig, RB/DB; Kendon Krogman, QB/DB; Colton Mohr, RB/DB; Josh Brickner, RB/DB; Leo Krueger, RB/LB; Jagger Theisen, RB/LB; Caden Weber, RB/LB; Truman Lokken, OL/DL; Sam Knickerbocker, OL/DL; Jack Hernandez, OL/DL; Noah Knobloch, OL/DL; Grant Buesser, OL/DL; Jack Weisenberger, RB/DB; Nick Lockie, TE/LB; Jeffrey Ritger, TE/LB; Spencer Gehling, TE/LB.
Aug. 23 — at Cadott
Aug. 29 — at Fall Creek
Sept. 5 — Stanley-Boyd
Sept. 13 — at Osseo-Fairchild
Sept. 21 — Altoona, 11 a.m.
Sept. 28 — Durand 11 a.m.
Oct. 4 — at Colby
Oct. 10 — Spencer/Columbus
Oct. 17 — Neillsville/Granton
Cadott (W, 42-6)
Fall Creek (W, 42-7)
Stanley-Boyd (W, 44-7)
Osseo-Fairchild (W, 35-0)
Altoona (W. 35-0)
Durand (W, 42-6)
Colby (W, 35-7)
Spencer/Columbus (W, 23-6)
Neillsville/Granton (W, 42-8)
Division 6 Playoffs
Lake Holcombe/Cornell (W, 46-12)
Spring Valley (W, 41-14)
Grantsburg (L, 31-29)