The Kevin Stemke Award is presented annually to the state's top senior kicker or punter as part of the WSN Senior Football Awards presented by Taco Bell. The award is named after former Green Bay Preble and University of Wisconsin standout Kevin Stemke. At Wisconsin, Stemke was presented with the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter and holds UW records for highest punting average in a career (43.5) and total punting yards (10,660).
The pre-season watch list was trimmed down to 25 semi-finalists, and five finalists for the award have now been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state finals.
Kevin Stemke Award Finalists:
Tom Barneson, Eau Claire Memorial -- Barneson was cut from the soccer team his junior year, but made a quick transition to the football field thanks to some recruitment by the football coaches. Despite being only his second year playing football in high school, Barneson connected on 45 of 46 extra points, 7 of 9 field goals with a long of 40 yards, and booted 90% of his kickoffs inside the ten-yard line with 22 touchbacks.
Santiago Lopez, Stanley-Boyd -- Lopez was a key weapon for head coach Jeff Koenig this year, who turned to his senior kicker quite often to put points on the board. Lopez connected on 9 of 11 field goals this year, with a season-long 41-yarder in a win over Osseo-Fairchild. In a Week 9 victory over Cadott, he made field goals from 25, 26, and 40 yards. Lopez made 13 of 14 extra point attempts this season for the Orioles.
Lucas Otto, Sun Prairie -- Otto is an exchange student at Sun Prairie High School, but is making quite a splash in his time in the US. Despite never playing football prior to joining the Cardinals team this year, he displays incredible potential as a kicker. "He has one of the most explosive legs I have ever seen," head coach Brian Kaminski said. "When he comes into contact with the ball there is a different sound." On 63 kickoffs this season, Otto has 46 touchbacks, with 14 of those going out of the back of the end zone. Otto is 37 of 39 on extra points this season and 6 of 9 on field goals. All three of his misses this year were from more than 50 yards however. His long in a game for a successful field goal is 43 yards.
Jack Russell, Waunakee -- Russell's leg was a definite weapon for the Warriors this year, as he booted the ball into or through the end zone with regularity, forcing opponents to start drives at the 20-yard line. He was virtually automatic on extra points, and provided a scoring threat on field goals as well. He booted a 46-yarder in a Week 3 win over Mount Horeb/Barneveld, with a 32-yard field goal later in the game. Just before halftime in a Week 4 victory over Oregon, Russell banged home a 48-yarder for the Warriors.
Gus Utech, Marshfield -- Utech made 7 field goals during the regular season, among the best in the state this year. His long was a 40-yarder in a Week 6 win over Oshkosh West. He also was good on 35 of 38 extra points for the Tigers. He averaged 58.3 yards per kickoff, routinely placing kicks into the end zone for touchbacks. Utech also served as the team's punter, averaging 33.1 yards per punt. He was a unanimous First Team All-Conference kicker in the VFA-South.