Many high school football standouts in Wisconsin go on to big things at the college level and in the pros, and this is our spot to recognize those athletes each week and help you keep up with what is going down on some of your favorite players from the past. If you have alumni news, please send it to Colton Wilson
Janesville Craig grad and UW-Madison standout Keeanu Benton
It's a new year, but T.J. Watt continues to do what he's done since he entered the NFL; terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the San Francisco 49ers 30-7, the Pewaukee native was unstoppable in week 1. Watt had five tackles, three sacks, and one fumble recovery while also recording five quarterback hits and one pass deflection. Fellow Badger alum and Janesville Craig grad Keeanu Benton saw his first action in the NFL in this, his rookie season. Benton recorded three tackles in his NFL debut.
Leo Chenal got a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season last year with the Kansas City Chiefs. This year the Grantsburg alum aims to have a bigger role on the Chiefs defense. In the 21-20 opening week loss to the Detroit Lions, Chenal recorded six tackles.
Cumberland grad Jack Martens
Tejhaun Palmer had over 400 yards receiving on 30 catches last season at UAB and earned Honorable Mention All-Conference USA honors. The Brown Deer grad is off to a hotter start in 2023 for the Dragons in his senior year. Saturday in a 35-9 win over Georgia Southern, Palmer had six catches for 102 yards. This is after recording four catches for 35 yards and a score in Week 1.
Western Michigan has a handful of former in-state standouts on its roster this season and two are making plays on the Broncos defensive line. Despite a 48-7 loss to Syracuse, this duo recorded their first Division 1 tackles. Logan Wilson of Kimberly and Marcel Tyler of Racine St. Catherine's are the aforementioned defensive linemen. Both are in their sophomore year and Tyler is a transfer form Iowa Western Community College.
Cumberland's Jack Martens has enjoyed a breakout to his sophomore year at South Dakota. After posting eight catches for 89 yards last week, Martens once again was a playmaker at the wide receive position in a 24-0 win over St. Thomas Minnesota. Martens hauled in five catches for 73 yards and a score. Teammate and DeForest grad Tyler Ebel handles the punt duties for the Coyotes and averaged 40.4 yards on five punts, pinning three inside the 20 yard line.
On the other sideline, Waukesha South grad Tak Tateoka got his first start under center for the Tommies. The true freshman saw action last week, but took the reigns at quarterback in week 2. Despite the loss, Tateoka went 15 of 22 for 133 yards.
Valparaiso has had five to six players on the basketball team from the Badger State the past few seasons, and this year the Beacons have four on the football roster. Sam Haffner was a Second Team All-Pioneer League defensive lineman last year and led the defense this past week in a 24-22 loss to Indiana Wesleyan. The De Pere grad led the team with eight tackles, adding two for loss and a sack, flying all over the field.
North Dakota State once again dominated its opposition in a 44-7 win over Maine. Sparta grad Cole Wisniewski once again caused problems from his safety position. After leading the team with 11 tackles and adding an interception last week, Wisniewski was equally impressive this week. On back-to-back plays, Cole intercepted a pair of passes, bringing his season total to three through two games.
Sun Prairie grad Griffin Wiegel
Three players earned Player of the Week honors this past week in Division 2 that hail from Wisconsin.
The first was Julius Wilkerson who has been a tackling machine in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). The Homestead grad was a two-time All-GLIAC nominee at Wayne State before transferring to Davenport this season. Last week in a 24-19 win over Bowie State, Wilkerson was all over the field. He had a game high 17 tackles, one for loss, and a fumble recovery as he earned GLIAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The GLIAC is similar to the Northern Sun conference in the sense that many former alumni are littered throughout the football rosters.
Michigan Tech is one of those schools. In a 45-20 win over Hillsdale, the Huskies had many contributions from alumni. Hunter Buechel of Lake Mills and Marc Sippel of Wausau West combined for 18 tackles to lead the defense. Josh Cribben (Notre Dame), Chase Koch (Edgewood) and James Daanen (West De Pere) all recorded a sack or tackle for loss. Offensively, Edgewood grad Joe Hartlieb threw and completed two passes, including a 28-yard touchdown.
In other GLIAC action, Jax Hertel did all he could to will Northern Michigan to victory, though the Wildcats fell short 24-21 to Lake Erie. The Big Foot grad tallied four tackles and returned an interception for a score in the game.
Kyle Wallsjasper is a scoring machine. The Fond du Lac grad and former running mate of Braelon Allen has been electric for Duluth through two games. Walljasper went 8 of 12 for 120 yards and four scores in a 41-21 win over Northern State. He added 110 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for the Bulldogs. For that, Walljasper was named the Northern Sun Offensive Player of the Week.
Winona State took home a 33-8 conference win over Concordia-St. Paul as Griffin Wiegel was a playmaker for the Warriors' defense. The Kimberly grad recorded four tackles and had two interceptions, including an interception return for a touchdown. Wiegel was named the Northern Sun Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
Westby grad Ryan Daines
The WIAC will be featured heavily this week as three former alumni took home Player of the Week honors and a plethora of others stood out.
Perennial powerhouse UW-Whitewater knocked off fourth-ranked St. Johns 56-28 this past weekend. Menomonee Falls grad Tamir Thomas averaged over ten yards per carry en route to 179 yards and three scores on the ground. Thomas added a 15-yard touchdown reception as he was named the WIAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Thomas wasn't the only playmaker for the Warhawks however. Jason Ceniti of Madison Memorial is the starting quarterback and went 11 of 16 for 175 yards and four total touchdowns under center. Alijah Maher-Parr of Arrowhead had 83 yards and a score on the ground while Drake Martin of Rhinelander had 93 yards and a score receiving. Defensviely Grafton's Hawk Heffner led the swarm with nine tackles and a sack.
UW-La Crosse came up just short to sixth-ranked Hardin-Simmons 28-21 in week 2. Quarterback Keyser Helterbrand made play after play from under center. The Hudson grad went 15 of 19 for 196 and two touchdowns and added 107 yards and a score on the ground. Defensively, Westby's Ryan Daines had a team high 10 tackles, including two for loss.
UW-River Falls moved up to seventh in the Division 3 football rankings after beating Ohio Wesleyan 37-10 this past weekend. The defense was led by Prescott grad Jack Olson. The former Cardinal had a team high eight tackles and added two and a half sacks.
UW-Stevens Point squared off with St. Norbert College and came away with a 31-28 squeaker of a win. Colby grad Gavino Lopez played a huge role in the Pointer's win. Lopez tallied three tackles and added a fourth quarter interception that set up the game-winning field goal. He also picked up a punt and returned it 54 yards for a score. Lopez was named the WIAC Defensive Player of the week.
Lopez's teammate Aleks Sauer-Milli also took home WIAC honors as he kicked through the game-winning field goal late in the game. The Whitefish Bay grad booted through a 40-yard field goal with 4:34 left to break the tie, accounting for his first ever made field goal in college. Sauer-Milli was named the WIAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Despite the loss, St. Norbert quarterback and Oshkosh North grad Peyton Lyon was impressive. He finished with 372 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Mitch Van Vooren of Peshtigo hauled in four catches for 106 yards and two scores and Kewaunee grad Owen Kudick had a touchdown reception.