In "Championship Catch-up" we will take a look at all eight state champions from the 2019 season, with a look back at last year and forward to next season. All eight teams will be featured over the next week.
2019 Season Recap: DeForest put together a dream season in what proved to the last for head coach Mike Minick. Announcing during the season that he would be retiring after 2019, Minick guided the Norskies to a perfect regular season, including a 35-13 win over rival Waunakee in the last game of the year. After dropping down to Division 3 for the first time in three decades, the team got past Reedsburg in a downpour in Level 2 before cruising past Monroe and earning a hard-fought 14-9 victory over New Berlin Eisenhower. In a state championship matchup with Menasha, DeForest trailed 7-0 early, but that remained the score into the fourth quarter. Facing some bleak prospects after fumbling with less than two minutes left on the clock, DeForest managed to get the ball back, embarking on a 64-yard touchdown drive in just 43 seconds. Minick chose to go for the two-point conversion and the potential win, as the Norskies converted and held on for an 8-7 victory and the school's second state title, the first coming in 1982.
Following is a Q&A session with WSN General Manager Travis Wilson and previous DeForest coach Mike Minick as well as new coach Aaron Mack.
WSN: What were your expectations or goals heading into the 2019 season?
Mike Minick: The teams goals were to continue and create a tight bond as a team. Brotherhood. Our Seniors had goals of being 1-0 each week, conference champs, and earning a state championship. Our goals as coaches was to do everything we could to help our team reach their goals.
WSN: Was there a turning point in your season, or moment where you felt your team had a chance to be special?
Mike Minick: We knew we had a good group of "football" players, some terrific senior leadership and we had a tremendous off season. One meeting I remember that wasn't necessarily a turning point was an evening after practice we had with our seniors. It was after game 6. We felt things were getting a little flat and as a team things were not as tight as they had been. So we had a meeting to re-asses things and see were we felt we were at and to take a look at our goals and make some adjustments if needed. Here's what our seniors discussed that evening.
2. Confident but Humble
3. Practice and Play with Energy
4. Accept your Role and Buy In
5. Team over Everything
6. Hold each Other Accountable
The seniors discussed each one of these topics in detail. I believe this got the team hungry again to want to accomplish their goals.
WSN: What player(s) showed significant improvement over the course of the year that helped make the difference for you?
Mike Minick: I would say our senior group made the biggest difference. It's hard to pick one or two guys out of that group because so many contributed in different roles. Their leadership was outstanding. They had a focus that coaches appreciate. Certainly juniors and a few sophomores filled some key roles in the success to the team.
WSN: Do you do an end of season meeting with each individual or the team where you outline where you'd like to see them improve?
Mike Minick: We do have an end of the season exit interview with our players. We discuss school, their classes, goals that they have for the team and themselves, and anything else they want to bring up.
WSN: Have your athletes been involved in off-season workouts? If so, how has participation been so far?
Aaron Mack: Our athletes are very committed to training in the off-season. Even our multi-sport kids. You have to be bought in if you want to compete. I believe our kids understand that
WSN: What are your plans for using your contact days in the summer?
Aaron Mack: I think the main thing for our contact days this summer given the current state of high school football and all athletics is to remain open minded and flexible. We are in a holding pattern in terms of not knowing exactly when and if we will be able to remain normal summer activities. But as a staff we will come up with a few different plans that keep the safety and well-being of all of our players in mind as we devise multiple summer plans for the unknown limitations that will probably exist for summer coaching contact days. Historically, we have traditionally used two days to have practices shortly after school gets out to really plant a flag that it is football season “now”. We will review basic installs in those two days offensively and defensively. The other three days we do a team camp with Sun Prairie. This has been tremendous for us and we are very thankful to Coach Kaminski for hosting us the last few years.
WSN: Who do you anticipate stepping into leadership roles during the off-season and into the 2020 campaign?
Aaron Mack: Obviously, I have not had the chance to meet our kids face to face or work with them yet. So I have been fortunate to be able to lean very heavily on our veteran assistant coaches who know the kids very well. Our assistant coaches have given me great intel and information to help me along in this process. We have a number of leaders on our team in the classroom and in the weight room on both sides of the ball but I according to some of our veteran assistant coaches they have taken notice of Brayden Harmon, Mason Kirchberg, Gabe Finley, Trace Grundahl, Bennet Girten proactively taking on leadership roles, to name a few.
Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.
For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.