Greenfield - The air show that the Whitnall football team has put on in recent seasons soared to a new level in 2012.
Senior quarterback Zach Sutton and his talented receiving corps, led by senior Sam Mentkowski, put up some numbers that are just not seen all that often in area high school football.
Sutton, following in the tradition of former quarterbacks Luke Mentkowski and Joel Stave, put up 342 passes this season, completing 196 for 57 percent. He passed for 2,406 yards and 22 touchdowns.
His primary target was Mentkowski, who racked up 72 catches for 1,008 yards and 12 scores. The 72 receptions put him 15th in state history for a single season, and his 16 catches against Wisconsin Lutheran tie him for third place for receptions in a single game in Wisconsin history.
Mentkowski, who shattered every receiving record in Whitnall history, is a finalist for the Al Toon Award, given to the best wide receiver in the state.
He was not a one-man show, however. Senior Patrick Wyrowski collected 43 catches for 510 yards and was a semifinalist for the Toon Award, and all told, Whitnall had five receivers with at least 15 catches this season.
All this passing offense, plus just enough timely running by junior Dan Lak, helped the Falcons win a share of the Woodland Conference East Division championship with Brown Deer and South Milwaukee at 5-3.
The title was the fourth in school history and the first since 2000.
Whitnall reached the WIAA Division 3 playoffs and finished 5-4 overall after an opening-round loss to Wisconsin Lutheran.
"I was excited with how things wound up," first-year head coach Jeff Wallack said. "If you had told me in August that we would be relevant in the conference race, I would have been happy. The kids worked hard, and this was a good way to spend my first year."
There were some special moments along the way, he said, highlighted by the memorable opening of Falcon Stadium with a victory over rival Greenfield. The Falcons then went on to finish 3-0 in their new home.
Whitnall also beat New Berlin Eisenhower for just the second time in 10 seasons and won its homecoming game for the first time in years, Wallack said.
The defense still does not resemble Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain, but it did improve from previous seasons. The Falcons forced 16 turnovers, quadrupling its total from 2011, and they held a powerful Greenfield rushing attack to less than 100 yards.
The Falcons lose 19 seniors, including Sutton, Mentkowski, Wyrowski, receiver Nick Cimler and defensive back Nate Stemo, among others, but Wallack thinks the high-flying fun, and the success, can continue next season.
The area's other three teams did not reach the playoffs but each enjoyed some successful moments and is hoping for better things in 2013.
West Allis Hale
The Huskies made some strides under their first-year head coach, Brandon Ehret, posting a 4-5 mark, their most victories since 2008.
"I think we were extremely close to being a playoff football team," Ehret said. "We had some things go wrong for us that we couldn't afford to have happen. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to gain the respect of our opponents, and I think week in and week out, we did that."
Ehret praised the senior class of 25 players, which included quarterback Nick Sotiros, wide receiver and defensive back Travis Balcerzak, lineman Reese Weishar and outside linebacker Alex Schwab.
Sotiros passed for 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns, both school records, while Balcerzak made 12 catches for 257 yards and a school-record seven scores in just five games at wideout.
Schwab racked up 81 tackles, including 12 for losses, and intercepted two passes in earning first-team all-Greater Metro Conference honors, while Weishar totaled 41 tackles and four sacks.
Other key contributors included Taylor Tomczak with 30 catches for 393 yards and Jordan Riche at linebacker with 80 tackles, including a school-record 14 for losses.
"When I got this job," Ehret said, "my primary focus was to change the culture and get the kids believing that not only are we going to be competitive, we're taking the field to win. I think that we got some of that confidence back into the Hale football program this year."
Now Ehret is hoping the progress can continue next season, adding, "Our kids understand that nothing is ever going to come easily in this conference; you must work for it."
West Allis Central
A tough schedule left the Bulldogs at 2-7 on the season, although they did win their final two games, over Marquette and Greenfield.
"Our opponents were 48-32," head coach Dax Rodriguez said. "We faced Watertown, with probably the best quarterback in the state (Tarek Yaeggi), and playoff teams like Brookfield East and Sussex Hamilton."
Central stayed in most of the games but usually found a way to lose through mistakes.
"We gave some games away," Rodriguez said. "We outgained five opponents on the year and lost three of those games. We kept having turnovers inside the 20."
One highlight was the performance of senior fullback Waige Fischer, who ran for 875 yards and nine touchdowns, including six in the final three weeks.
Junior receiver Darren Walker averaged 30 yards per catch and totaled 450 yards receiving, while junior linebacker Devin Boehm collected 62 tackles and senior cornerback Josh Neary made four interceptions, third in the GMC.
The Bulldogs lose 16 seniors, including much of the offensive line, but will return Walker, Boehm, running backs Jason Alvarez and Dushun Glover and quarterback Will Konecny, who showed potential late in the season.
A fairly strong defense was undone by an inconsistent offense as the Hustlin' Hawks finished 2-7.
"Our defense played well," head coach Scott Otto said, "and our offense kept plugging away and had some good games, but was hurt by inexperience."
The quarterback position was often in flux, as Otto tried senior Alec Piekarski, junior Joey Hannah and sophomore Jeremy Swider at different times of the season.
Senior Reggie Blakely provided some punch in the running game late in the season.
Junior outside linebacker Joe Molla finished with 31 solo tackles, eight sacks and 9½ tackles for losses, while senior back Jordan Koutnik, senior linebacker Tyler Haim, senior linebacker Trevor Holmes and junior lineman Eli Streeter also helped the defense.
The best news for Otto is that the Hawks appear to have younger talent on the horizon. Greenfield's junior varsity team went 7-3 and won the Woodland East Division crown, while the freshmen finished 5-2-1 and took the division crown as well. The eighth-grade team went 5-0 and won its division.
"I expect to contend for the East Division championship next season," Otto said.
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