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WisSports.net Preseason Football Rankings: Division 2

07/08/2024, 1:15pm CDT
By Travis Wilson

Badger celebrates a 2023 Division 2 state title

The first football practices of the year are less than a month away, but it's never too early to start thinking about the new season.

Over the next several weeks, WisSports.net will be producing Preseason Football Team Rankings, featuring a Top 15 for each division as well as Others to Watch.

Our preseason football coverage is brought to you by GoRout. GoRout Digital Play Sending helps teams of all levels get the most out of their practice time. By getting rid of huddles and paper scout cards, teams are maximizing both the quality and quantity of scout team reps. To make sure your players are seeing the development they need to be their best on gameday, visit www.gorout.com/quote and get started today.

While things will certainly change prior to the start of the year (players lost to injury, grades, transfers plus players gained via transfer, returning from injury, players improving, etc.), this list will provide a general guide as we look to the 2024 campaign and of course facilitate discussion. Please note, divisions are based on last year's cutlines; divisional placement for some teams may change for the 2024 playoffs; official enrollments for the 2024 season are not available yet from the WIAA and will also impact eventual divisional placement. 

Previous WSN Preseason Football Rankings
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3 (Coming soon...)
Division 4 (Coming soon...)
Division 5 (Coming soon...)
Division 6 (Coming soon...)
Division 7 (Coming soon...)
8-Player (Coming soon...)

WISSPORTS.NET SPRING FOOTBALL RANKINGS: DIVISION 2

1. Badger

Badger dealt with tragedy and challenges over the last few weeks of the season, so a little thing like battling powerhouse Waunakee in the closing minutes of the Division 2 state title game was a task the Badgers were up for. In a championship game for the ages, Badger stopped Waunakee on a potential go-ahead two-point conversion then recovered the ensuing onside kick to secure a 34-33 victory. Badger set a new Division 2 state finals record with 451 rushing yards, as three players went for at least 100 yards: fullback Landon Nottestad had 198 and a score, Matthew O'Grady went for 131 and a touchdown, and quarterback J.P. Doyle finished with 118 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Badger did not punt, scoring on five consecutive possessions to close out the game. It capped a challenging month for the Badgers and head coach Matt Hensler, whose mother, Mary, passed away on November 1st. Later that week, in the fourth quarter of a Level 3 game against Kettle Moraine, Coach Hensler suffered a medical emergency and was taken to the hospital, where he remained for several days. Released from the hospital early in the week of the state semi-finals, he was able to coach, albeit from the press box as the Badgers defeated Sun Prairie East. Hensler returned to the sideline for the championship game against Waunakee as the Badgers capped off a perfect 14-0 season. "We return experience on the offensive line and interior defensive line," said Hensler. "We should have good speed again. Our numbers will be very good. We'll need to replace 3/4 of our backfield and 6/7 of the back half of our defense." Matt O'Grady should slide over to the quarterback spot this year.

2. Sun Prairie East

Sun Prairie East dropped a couple early games to heavyweights Mukwonago and Waunakee, but the Cardinals rebounded nicely to make a run to the state semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Badger. Once again, there are some awfully talented players departing, including prolific quarterback Drew Kavanaugh, All-State receiver Connor Stauff, and scholarship offensive linemen Logan Gross and Alton Williams. Head coach Brian Kaminski reloads every year, and the Cardinals should be in the hunt with Waunakee in the Badger-Large once again. Brady Kaufman ran for nearly 1400 yards as a sophomore last season and is ready to prove himself as one of the state's best. Cooper White is one of the state's most athletic players and is ready to step into an even bigger role at receiver this season.

3. Kaukauna

Kaukauna has put together two of the best seasons in program history, advancing to back-to-back state semi-finals. Last year, the Galloping Ghosts dropped a midseason game to Fond du Lac, but rebounded by taking down Kimberly 14-13 later in the season to claim a share of the FVA title. "I believe we can be competitive again this year in the FVA," said head coach Matt Binsfeld. "We have a lot of new faces on both sides, but the kids are working really hard this off-season. I think our defense will have a chance to be very solid and we are excited about our possibilities on offense and special teams." The Ghosts bring back five starters on offense, including explosive receiver Parker Schuh and talented offensive line prospect Braeden Jansen. There are seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, as the Ghosts figure to be in the mix in a very balanced Fox Valley Association title race that shoujld also include Fond du Lac, Kimberly, Appleton North, and Neenah.

4. River Falls

River Falls was off the pace in the Big Rivers last year, going 4-3 in the conference and 6-4 overall after a Level 1 playoff exit. "We played a lot of young players last year as a result of having a small senior class in 2023, including a number of sophomores on both sides of the ball," said head coach Ryan Scherz. "Our senior class has some very talented players. Our program numbers are the most we've had since I came to River Falls in 2017. Our success will largely depend on how this year's senior class matures. We will have to replace a lot of offense lost to graduation, but I think collectively, we can get it done." A big hole to fill is in the backfield, where 1700-yard rusher Jonah Severson departs. 

5. Homestead

Homestead went unbeaten in the North Shore Conference last year, finishing two games ahead of anyone else in the league. However, the playoffs was a different story, with the Highlanders dropping a 17-16 decision to rival Cedarburg in Level 2. "We have some experience coming back for 2024," said head coach Drake Zortman. "We really need to find a couple of offensive linemen, a tight end, and a running back/slot receiver on offense. Those are some major holes. Replacing Sean West in the special teams area will be difficult in addition to everything he did for us on offense. Six of our front seven on defense return, but we do have some holes to fill in the secondary." Not only does senior quarterback Tommy O'Hagan return for the Highlanders, so does dynamic junior running back Bentley Hickman, who went for more than 1200 yards with 11 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.

6. Rice Lake

Rice Lake opened the season with a tough 21-12 loss to old BRC rival Menomonie but rattled off 13 consecutive victories to claim the program's third WIAA state title. Along the way the Warriors won an outright Middle Border Conference title in dominating fashion, then went on to dispatch Notre Dame 30-15 in the state semi-finals before a 28-20 win against Grafton to capture the Division 3 crown. Easton Stone was named the WFCA Small School Defensive Player of the Year, and head coach Dan Hill relied on the typical tough, hard-nosed flexbone offense to grind out opponents behind a multi-faceted rushing attack. Rice Lake will move up to Division 2 this fall due to the Tournament Performance Factor points, and also makes the move back to the larger Big Rivers Conference. While WFCA Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year Easton Stone graduates, there's a really nice mix of returnees that will play both ways, including quarterback Jakob Kunz, leading rusher Lucas Peters, top receiver Zach Orr, and extremely versatile weapon Connor Durand.

7. West De Pere

West De Pere was second in the FRCC-North last year, falling to Bay Port in a de factor conference championship game in the regular season finale. After downing Menomonee Falls in Level 1, the Phantoms went out to Kaukauna for a second time on the season. "We're losing a bunch of good talent, but with a lot coming up," said head coach Chris Greisen. "Speed will definitely be a strength of our offense. The passing game will be a real strength. The defense will again be small, but aggressive." Leading rusher Evan Ott as well as receiver Ben Lemirand will be key returnees in the skill positions, and keep an eye on Patrick Greisen and Judeah Kniskern coming up from the JV ranks.

8. Pulaski

Pulaski dropped four of its first five games last year but rebounded to win four straight to close the season, qualifying for the playoffs. The postseason stay was short, however, as the Red Raiders went out to Homestead. "We have a nice returning group on offense that really hit their stride the second half of the 2023 season," said head coach Jerad Marsh. "It's a really smart group of returners but lost a group of talented seniors. Excited to see the incoming 10-12th graders compete for a large number of open spots." There are nine starters coming back on offense for Pulaski, with four on defense. Overall there are 39 letterwinners back.

9. Slinger

Slinger was a distant tied for third in the North Shore Conference last year, three games behind league leaders Homestead. All of the losses were competitive though, coming by a combined 22 points. The Owls found their groove in the playoffs, knocking off Beaver Dam and Germantown before falling to Sun Prairie East in Level 3. Veteran head coach Bill Jacklin likes the team's speed coming back, including a solid backfield group that will feature quarterback Michael Thiede and running back Kaleb Burkel. Chase Jacklin will be a three-year starter up front for an offense that returns six starters. The defense brings back seven starters, though Jacklin has some concerns about inexperience up front.

10. Cedarburg

Cedarburg played a bunch of close, competitive games last year, and were able to come out on top enough to qualify for the playoffs. The close games continued, as the Bulldogs scored tight victories over Hortonville and Homestead. The run came to a close in a Level 3 loss to Kaukauna. Cedarburg should remain in the conversation once again, thanks in large part to the return of one of the state's best and most versatile players in senior Logan Zahour. He was First Team All-Conference on offense, defense, and utility last season. Also returning is tight end Luke Leair, the son of head coach Brian Leair.

11. Menomonee Falls

Menomonee Falls finished third in the Greater Metro Conference last season, behind unbeaten league champ Sussex Hamilton and Division 1 state champion Marquette. "The team will be looking to repeat to be in the top half of the conference and qualify for the playoffs," said second-year head man Bobby Regent-Smith. "We will be a younger team but many of the players that will be starters have varsity experience." Among the three starters returning on the offensive side of the ball are talented receivers Buddy Hawkins and Corey Johnson. Four starters are back on defense, led by dynamic defensive back Nolan Anderson, who holds a number of Division 1 offers, including a preferred walk-on from Wisconsin.

12. Beaver Dam

Beaver Dam made the playoffs in the Badger-Large last season, going out in Level 1 against old Little Ten rival Slinger. The Golden Beavers make a big switch this year, moving to the East Central Conference. Getting away from powerhouses Waunakee and Sun Prairie East will be a positive, but there are plenty of solid programs in the new league. Still, they should enter in a position where they can challenge towards the top. "We return a lot of production in all three phases," said head coach Brock Linde, a 2004 Beaver Dam graduate. "We have a deep and quality senior class with strong leadership. We've had excellent underclassmen seasons the last two years." Beaver Dam brings back 33 letterwinners, including seven starters on offense and six on defense. Quarterback Eli Bryant and running back Josiah Barnes will be two of the top skill players in the East Central.

13. Germantown

Germantown lost four in a row to open the 2023 season and weren't very competitive along the way. The Warhawks were able to get back on track, and a 35-0 shutout of Brookfield Central in Week 9 clinched a playoff spot. The team went on the road to defeat Milwaukee King in the opening playoff game, but was hammered 52-25 by Slinger in Level 2. Germantown boasts one of the state's top players in senior Wisconsin commit Cooper Catalano, who accounted for 138 tackles and led the team in rushing. That's a good place to start from, but they'll need more across the board to challenge the likes of Marquette and Sussex Hamilton in the Greater Metro Conference. Vinny Inga saw some time at quarterback as just a sophomore last season and could be in line to take over on a full-time basis in 2024.

14. Brookfield Central

Brookfield Central got off on the right foot in 2024, winning the first four games of the season. However, as the schedule toughened, the losses mounted for the Lancers. The narrowly snuck into the postseason with a 3-4 conference mark, and after dropping five of the final six games, including a 33-14 defeat against Kaukauna in Level 1, the team slid to a 5-5 overall finish. The offense was very much Jekyll & Hyde last season, scoring 14 points or less five times and 24 or more four times, and must get more consistent to not only put points on the board, but help out a defense that struggled against some of the better teams on the schedule. Patrick Bokowski and Josh Christiansen are returning Honorable Mention All-Conference performers up front on offense.

15. New Richmond

New Richmond finished second in the Big Rivers Conference a year ago, an impressive showing for the school as it continues in the new, larger league. The Tigers scored impressive home playoff wins over Marshfield and Menomonie before falling to Waunakee in Level 3. The 2024 season will be a chance for the Tigers to reload. "We lost a strong senior class," said head coach Reggie Larson. " We graduated four, three-year starters on the offensive line and at tight end. We do return a lot of skill kids on the offensive side of the ball though." Four starters are back on that offense, with big things expected from quarterback Nick Stellrecht, receiver Aidan Eckert, and running back Joe Hoeppner. There are five starters returning on defense, led by All-Conference defensive back Abe Monson.

Others to Watch

Burlington
DeForest
Elkhorn
Greenfield
Hartford
Hortonville
La Crosse Central
Marshfield
Menomonie
Milton
Milwaukee King
Monona Grove
Monroe
New Richmond
Nicolet
Racine Horlick
Waukesha West
Wauwatosa West
Westosha Central
Whitefish Bay


About the Author

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 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), inducted to the Richland Center High School Hall of Fame in 2023, 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.

Tag(s): News Archive  News  Travis Wilson