skip navigation

WisSports.net Preseason Football Rankings: Division 4

07/09/2024, 4:00pm CDT
By Travis Wilson

Aquinas is bumped up to Division 4 after winning three straight D5 titles

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
Division 4
Division 5 (Coming soon...)
Division 6 (Coming soon...)
Division 7 (Coming soon...)
8-Player (Coming soon...)

WISSPORTS.NET SPRING FOOTBALL RANKINGS: DIVISION 4

1. Aquinas

Aquinas became just the ninth program in state history to win three consecutive titles, defeating Wrightstown 32-13 in the Division 5 championship game. The Blugolds rattled off 32 unanswered points and rolled up nearly 400 rushing yards in the title tilt, as Kyle White ran for 240 yards on 32 carries. Aquinas opened the year with a tough loss to Prairie du Chien, but won 13 consecutive games, including a 20-13 victory over defending Division 4 champion Columbus. The Blugolds will try to become just the third team in state history to win four straight titles, though they'll do so in a higher division in 2024 after being elevated due to Tournament Performance Factor points. "Our skill position players is where we probably have the most athletes," said head coach Thomas Lee. "Kids are going to have to fight for jobs at wide receiver, running back & defensive back. We are committed to starting 22 players. This is a big deal in a school of 309 kids. Committing to this has helped increase our participation numbers and has really gotten kids to commit to the weight room. It has also forced our staff to become better coaches." Starting quarterback Jacob Thornton, 1300-yard rusher Kyle White, and talented receivers Logan Becker and Waylon Hargrove are among the talented skill players for the Blugolds, who also boast a couple outstanding offensive linemen in Max Maliszewski and Jon Kearney. A total of seven starters return on offense, with five back on defense.

2. West Salem

West Salem advanced to the Division 3 state title game in 2022, and while 2023 was a solid season, it was a bit off the pace from the previous year, with the Panthers settling for a 7-1 overall record and third place finish in the Coulee Conference. Head coach Justin Jehn stepped down in the off-season, with former Royall coach and current West Salem Athletic Director Ryan Olson taking over the program. He'll inherit a roster with plenty of experience, as eight starters are back on offense and six on defense. Luke Baginski is a dual-threat quarterback who produced more than 1800 yards of offense and accounted for 22 touchdowns last season. He'll be joined by talented skill players Trevor Arentz, Carter Pontius, and Drew McConkey. Olson can rely on longtime assistant Bob Gorniak, who is in his 40th season as the defensive coordinator for the Panthers.

3. Lodi

Lodi never punted and rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense in a 38-14 win over Luxemburg-Casco to capture the Division 4 WIAA football state title. The Blue Devils sent veteran head coach Dave Puls out with a state title after 20 years guiding the program, which also included a D4 championship in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2015. Puls announced earlier in the playoffs that it would be his last season with the Blue Devils. Lodi finished 14-0, winning every game by at least two scores. That included a 28-0 win over defending D4 champion Columbus to help wrap up the Capitol Conference title. While they have the tools to overcome it, there is perhaps no team in the state that will have as much turnover as the Blue Devils. As mentioned, Puls stepped down, replaced by Kyle Mack. not only that, every starter off last season's team graduated, meaning it will be an entirely new group out there for Lodi this fall. "Many players are going to have the opportunity to play, earn their role, and contribute to the team," said Mack. "With smaller numbers in the upcoming senior class, some of the underclassmen could see playing time and gain valuable experience for the future. Being part of a championship team; seeing firsthand and understanding the work, time, and effort it takes to be successful at a high level will be helpful."

4. Xavier

Xavier has been the top team in the revamped Bay Conference the last few years, winning three consecutive league championships. Last season, the Hawks went unbeaten in conference play, including crossover wins against Freedom and Wrightstown. The Hawks lost to both of the Division 4 finalists last season; runner-up Luxemburg-Casco in a Week 1 non-conference affair and a Level 3 exist against Lodi. First Team All-Conference running backs Dane Katz and Eddie Heuring return up front, where they'll block for Matthew Potter, who went for more than 1000-yards last season. Carter Appl and Cole Hietpas are a pair of dynamic players in the defensive front seven.

5. Kiel

Kiel was second in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference behind Two Rivers, as the Raiders beat Kettle Moraine Lutheran before falling to Luxemburg-Casco in Level 2. "We will be a veteran team with 21 seniors, looking to build off of a successful 2023 season," said head coach David Esswein, a 2012 graduate of the school. "Our size, speed, and skill at all positions will be our biggest strength. We'll need to continue to grow together as a team, in order to maximize our full potential." Quarterback Cade Voelker returns to lead the offense after a strong junior campaign. Harrison Zorn, Braden Aprill, and Bryce Gullixon are strong skill position athletes, while Brady Bortz is a stud up front. The Raiders bring back nine starters on offense and eight on defense among 26 returning letterwinners.

6. Lakeside Lutheran

Lakeside Lutheran was third in the Capitol Conference last year, dropping tough games to Lodi and Columbus. The Warriors made a nice postseason run, winning road games at Evansville and Platteville before falling to Catholic Memorial in Level 3. It turned out to be the last season for longtime head coach Paul Bauer, who stepped aside in the off-season, with Matthew Doering taking over the program. "We have four of five returning linemen and a lot of speed and athleticism," said Doering. The top two rushers are gone from last year, but look for more involvement from Kaycee Guzman, the hero of the team's basketball state tournament. Lakeside brings back a total of six starters on offense and five on defense, and will make the transition to the Badger-Small this year, which will present some new challenges.

7. Lake Mills

Lake Mills was fourth in the Capitol Conference last year, struggling against the league's better teams. The L-Cats did manage to win a playoff game against Racine St. Catherine's before a blowout loss to Catholic Memorial in Level 2. Despite losing Division 1 two-way standout Matthew Stenbroten, the team brings back the bulk of last year's roster, which gained valuable experience. The offense welcomes eight starters, including starting quarterback Tyler Wollin plus versatile Max Ruedebusch, who has committed to Yale. There are four starting offensive linemen back as well. The defense returns nine starters, but will be looking to improve upon last year's performance. "We need to be able to stop the run and play tough, physical, and gritty football to have success this year," said head coach Tyler Huber.

8. Mosinee

Mosinee was an outright Great Northern Conference champion last season, allowing just three points in conference play. After beating Bloomer in Level 1, the Indians suffered heartbreak the following week against Somerset, losing on the final play of the game to see a 10-point lead evaporate in the final couple minutes. "I think we will be very solid again this year," said head coach Kyle Stoffel. "We have a lot of experience returning up front on both sides of the ball. We lost some key players in the skilled positions, but have some talented kids who are ready to step in and fill these roles." The loss of standout two-way player Keagen Jirschele will be tough to overcome after he led the state in interceptions and accounted for more than 1000 yards of offense. The Indians need to replace quarterback Gavin Obremski as well. 

9. Columbus

Columbus won a Division 4 state title in 2022, but dropped down to D5 last season, where the Cardinals lost a battle of defending champions in Level 3 to Aquinas. The stay in D5 will be a short one, as the WIAA's Tournament Performance Factor points will bump the Cardinals back into Division 4. A couple of key changes apply in 2024, as the state's all-time leading rusher, Colton Brunell, has graduated after three consecutive 2000-yard rushing seasons. Waiting in the wings is talented senior Conner Roche, who has the athletic ability to put up big numbers himself. Also moving on is head coach Andrew Selgrad, who guided the Cardinals to that state title two years ago but has accepted a position at Ripon. The team hired Andy Ryan, a Lancaster graduate and former assistant with Columbus, as the new head coach. He can turn to one of the state's top junior quarterbacks in Peyton Powers, who threw 22 touchdown passes as just a sophomore last season.

10. Luxemburg-Casco

Luxemburg-Casco posted the best season in school history, winning an outright North Eastern Conference championship, then advancing all the way to the Division 4 state title game. It included a win over previously unbeaten Two Rivers in Level 3 and a wild comeback victory against heavyweight Catholic Memorial in the state semi-finals. The Spartans were a senior-dominated team, with all nine First Team All-Conference selections graduating. Second-leading rusher Cameron Dorner, who went for more than 800 yards a year ago, is among the returnees for head coach Neil Seering.

11. Somerset

Somerset went just 4-5 in the regular season and narrowly snuck into the playoffs with a 3-4 league mark. However, the Spartans made the most of it, going on a lengthy road trip to defeat Oconto Falls in Week 1, then scoring one of the wildest and most exciting wins I've seen in a comeback 42-40 victory against Mosinee. Things came to an end the following week against Baldwin-Woodville, but it was a positive step forward for the program that has been down a bit in recent seasons. With 42 returning letterwinners, head coach Joe Hutter has an experienced core group of seniors and juniors ready to take it up a notch. Kane Donnelly is an experienced and versatile quarterback threat, while Blake Fox and Jake Krier will try to pick up the slack in the running game after the graduation of 1400-yard rusher Caymen Gebheim.

12. Platteville

Platteville opened with a loss to Darlington and closed it with a 28-7 loss to Lakeside Lutheran in Level 2 of the playoffs, but won nine straight games in between, capturing an outright SWC title. "I believe the strength of our team this year is going to rely on the offensive side of the ball and especially our skills guys and quarterback," said third-year coach Bryce Arneson. "I think that we are going to have the most athletic guys on the field and will have one of the best football players in the area at quarterback, so we will need to use that to our advantage. We will need to make sure that we set our guys up in the best possible situations for them to succeed. I also believe that we are going to have a swagger and confidence from the season that we had last year, and that will fuel us into having some high expectations for this upcoming year." Quarterback T.J. Pink is the quarterback Arneson references, coming off a junior season where he threw for 2,457 yards and 27 touchdowns. Also back is top receiver Lucas Ludlum plus leading rusher Tyler Sasse. The Hillmen return six starters on offense this year, with five on defense.

13. Baldwin-Woodville

Baldin-Woodville was third in the Middle Border Conference last season, dropping games to Rice Lake and Saint Croix Central. The Blackhawks made a strong run in the playoffs, advancing to the state semi-finals before going out to eventual champion Lodi. Thre are some significant personnel changes coming for 2024 following the graduation of all but one player that earned All-Conference last season, including league Offensive Player of the Year Cal Smith. The lone returning All-Conference selection is Gavin Sell, who led the team in receiving and was also a standout defensive back.

14. Saint Croix Central

Saint Croix Central was second in the Middle Border Conference a year ago, behind only Division 3 state champion Rice Lake. After defeating Baldwin-Woodville 54-21 late in the regular season, the Panthers would fall to Baldwin-Woodville 46-29 in Level 2 of the playoffs to see their season come to an end. "We graduated a very strong senior class but return a deep and talented junior class ready to step into starting roles this fall," said head coach John Tackmann. "We have very strong numbers as an entire program, which will create some intense competition throughout the summer and fall as players fight for key roles on our 2024 team." Just two starters are back on offense, but one is big offensive lineman Tadd Posey. There are four starters returning on the defensive side of the ball.

15. Freedom

Freedom went through a rough stretch in the middle of the season that played a big role in the Irish missing the playoffs following a 4-5 campaign, though all but one of the games was very competitive. It resulted in the team missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The goal is to get back on the right track quickly as six starters return on both sides of the ball. The offensive line should be a strength with four starters returning. While the rest of the skill positions will feature new faces, quarterback Drew Kortz is back after a strong junior campaign.

Others to Watch

Adams-Friendship
Altoona
Berlin
Bloomer
Campbellsport
Edgerton
Ellsworth
Evansville
Jefferson
Kettle Moraine Lutheran
Kewaskum
Kohler/Sheboygan Lutheran/Christian
Little Chute
Martin Luther
Mauston
Mayville
Oconto Falls
Osceola
Prescott
Racine St. Catherine’s
Saint Croix Central
Saint Francis
Two Rivers
Winneconne
Wisconsin Dells


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