The following article was originally published in NOW Newspapers under the "State of Play" feature, a series of bi-weekly feature columns penned by WSN General Manager Travis Wilson.
Back in early January, I put together a list of fearless (and some not-so-fearless) predictions for the 2016 high school sports year. For the most part, I did pretty well. Let’s take a stroll through memory lane and review just which ones I hit on.
Prediction: The Arrowhead football job will go to an established, well-known coach from Wisconsin.
Yea or nay? I’m taking a win on this one. I thought it may be someone with more head coaching experience, but after many years as a top assistant at Homestead, where he was part of four state titles and named the WFCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2009, and a season as the head man at Grafton, Fritz Rauch was hired to replace Greg Malling, who left abruptly after a fourth straight D1 title game appearance in 2015. Rauch got started in a big way with a 25-18 win over his former team Homestead, but the Warhawks lost a number of close games (their five defeats were by an average of less than five points), finishing third in the Classic Eight, losing to Verona in Level 1 of the playoffs, and going just 5-5 overall on the season. There is still a lot going for the Arrowhead program, and Rauch is too good of a coach to let things stay down for long. The Warhawks could be a strong bounce-back candidate in 2017.
Prediction: Kimberly will break the record for most consecutive wins...but won't win a third straight state football title.
Yea or nay? I whiffed on the second part of this one. After eclipsing the all-time consecutive wins mark against Appleton West in Week 7, the Papermakers raced to a fourth straight state championship, sitting at 56 consecutive wins, the longest active streak in the nation, heading into 2017. After not being challenged the first 11 games of the year, Kimberly had to rally in the fourth quarter to top Fond du Lac 32-29 in Level 3, then found themselves down 14-0 at halftime to Franklin in the championship game before scoring the final 29 points of the game in a 29-14 victory. Just how long the streak continues into next season will once again be one of the big storylines of the season.
Prediction: Brookfield East's Sam Santiago-Lloyd will be the state's Football Player of the Year.
Yea or nay? It didn’t look good on this one, as Santiago-Lloyd was slowed by an ankle injury that caused him to miss Week 4 and total just 507 yards through the first seven weeks of the year. While perhaps still not 100%, he got healthier at the end, rushing for 1,354 yards and 20 touchdowns in the final seven weeks, including 37 carries for 197 yards and 5 touchdowns in the 42-36 win over Monona Grove in the Division 2 state championship game. A WFCA First Team All-State choice, he was recently named the state’s Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
Prediction: At least two, and perhaps three, members of the state's talented boys basketball Class of 2018 will commit to Wisconsin. Stevens Point's Joey Hauser and Whitnall's Tyler Herro already have offers from the Badgers, and Kaukauna's Jordan McCabe likely will very shortly as well.
Yea or nay? McCabe never did get the offer from Wisconsin, committing instead to West Virginia in mid-August. Tyler Herro started to attract big-time attention from the likes of Arizona, Duke, and others, but the pull of the top-level in-state school was too much, as he gave a verbal commitment to Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard in September. The only one of the three that remains uncommitted is Hauser, who starred on the football field in the fall and continues to entertain offers from a number of elite programs. Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Virginia are in his top group, but whispers continue to suggest he may wind up at Marquette with older brother Sam, who is doing very well in his freshman season for the Golden Eagles.
Prediction: The large-scale realignment in southeast Wisconsin will get passed.
Yea or nay? It got passed, but as expected, it was a contentious one. In fact, it leads into my next prediction.
Prediction: Speaking of the WIAA, they'll get sued.
Yea or nay? Litigation has been no stranger to the WIAA in recent years, though the history of legal challenges against the association date back decades. The latest courtroom drama centered around the controversial conference realignment plan for southeast Wisconsin. The Wauwatosa School District, which saw high schools East and West both placed in a revised Greater Metro Conference instead of the Woodland as they preferred, filed suit against the WIAA on July 25th. Just two months later, Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge Dennis Moroney dismissed the lawsuit, saying the association was within its power to align schools as it sees fit. It was in line with a 1997 lawsuit between the WIAA and the Slinger School District, as well as a 400-26 vote by the WIAA membership at its Annual Meeting in 2014.
Prediction: Rain will cause schedule problems at a spring state tournament.
Yea or nay? Sure enough, rain caused a 2:11 rain delay in a Division 1 softball state quarterfinal game between Stevens Point and Kenosha Tremper, plus another D1 quarterfinal and both D2 semi-finals had to be moved from Thursday to Friday. The final day of the state track and field meet in La Crosse saw a 1:45 minute weather day as well.
Prediction: People will complain about the team they have to play in playoffs, that they were better than a team at state, that their grouping wasn't fair, that the refs cheated them, that they had to drive too far, that the lights were too bright, and on and on.
Yea or nay? This was a layup, and proven over and over once again this year.