Clayton Kreger knows what it takes for Janesville Parker football to be successful in the Big Eight Conference. He lived it as a player when he was a part of two of the Vikings’ five conference titles between 2000 and 2006.
Kreger wants nothing more than to return the program to that level. And as he kicks off his first season as head coach, he believes the Vikings can get there faster than many believe.
To do so, Kreger has harkened back to the glory days of Joe Dye by adding Dye—Parker’s athletic director—to his staff, along with veteran coaches like Dick Schuh and Tom Scalissi. But Kreger is also working to add his own stamp to a program that has won just seven games in the past three seasons.
“Three coaches on my staff have a lot of head-coaching experience at the varsity level. There’s a lot of good knowledge here.
“And I’m trying to throw in my own little wrinkles. We didn’t have the speed when I was in high school that we have now. It’s looking at the base that I’m comfortable with and then throwing in the wrinkles with all of the athletes we have.”
Kreger isn’t ready to throw out a win total for 2015 and says he isn’t focused solely on a timeframe to return Parker to the playoffs.
After back-to-back two-win seasons, the Vikings went 3-6 a year ago. Despite beating playoff-bound Madison West in the finale, head coach Eric Skrzypchak resigned after three seasons.
“We’re going to start winning, and we’re going to start turning it around this year,” Kreger said. “We’re expecting to win.”
Parker’s long run of success almost always revolved around an established downhill rushing attack, and Kreger is looking to return to that style.
Juniors DJ Vance—at 6-foot and 177 pounds—and Eric Schuhmacher—at 5-11 and 210—give the Vikings a couple options. Junior Ed Jacobson, a pivotal defender, can also shift over on offense to help plow the way.
“Eric has been working a lot at fullback, too,” Kreger said. “So we’re going to have kind of a dual threat there. We’re excited about it.”
The Parker coaches have also shifted their offensive linemen around to bulk up the interior.
Junior Mylik Williams is a captain and returns after a second-team all-conference season, and Alonzo Velazquez is back along with him. Junior Logan Murdy shifts from fullback to center. Noah Hagy, Josh Harmata, Nick Lindsey, Treven Porter, Jack Gage and Zach Christianson will fight to help fill out the line.
“Last year we did a lot of wing T-type stuff, trying to get the edge with our speed guys,” Kreger said. “We still have those speed guys, but I want to play a little more smash-mouth football.”
Parker is developing several quarterbacks in hopes of sparking a surge in the passing game. The Vikings threw for less than 400 total yards in nine games last season.
Sophomore Jordan Bailey seems to be the front-runner at the position along with junior Garrett Masterson. Senior captain Austin Zane and sophomore Jadyn Ellis also took reps during Parker’s scrimmage last week.
“If you want to be good in this league, you have to have that threat to the defense of getting vertical,” Kreger said. “We’ll use the running game to establish the pass, but you will see us throwing the ball on Friday nights.
“We need to do a better job of taking care of the football. We put our defense in tough situations last year.”
Ellis, senior Darin Empereur, junior DyVonne Thornton and senior Vernon Davis will give the quarterback options at receiver. Zane and junior Mike Kettle will see time at tight end.
On defense, the Vikings have speed at the back end and proven leadership in the middle.
Jacobson is a captain and was a second-team all-conference selection a year ago. He heads up the linebacking corps along with returning starter Evan Teubert. Newcomers Colton Whitwam and Yousef Pixler join them, along with juniors Alex Garvoille and Jon Durham.
“Ed is kind of our defensive captain,” Kreger said. “He does a great job.”
Senior Riley Bendorf is the captain of a talented defensive backfield. Junior Sandy Toyer was a second-team all-Big Eight choice last year. He and senior defensive back Marq Brooks, as well as Vance, were part of Parker’s conference record-setting 4x400-meter relay team on the track this past spring. Senior Dylan Drake joins them as a cornerback.
“We’ve got speed all over in our entire program,” Kreger said. “We’ve just got to find ways to use it.”
The Vikings are still searching for the right combinations up front, where they’ll typically have four players on the line. Seniors Alex Perkins and Colten Carlson return. Others in the mix are Devontae Potter, Alec Renovitch, Anthony Vargas, Brandon Leeder, David Dubanowich and Juan Palafox.
Parker will know where it stands within the Big Eight right away, as it hosts defending champion and perennial title contender Middleton in Week 1. And if the Vikings are to return to their winning ways right away under Kreger, second- and third-week dates with Janesville Craig and Beloit loom large.
Number, Name, year, height, weight, position.
1, Yousef Pixler, Sr., 6-0, 170, WR/DB
2, Darin Empereur, Sr., 6-0, 164, WR/DB
3, Jadyn Ellis, So., 6-3, 189, WR/DB
5, Riley Bendorf, Sr., 5-10, 163, RB/DB
6, Zachary Conway, Jr., 5-11, 140, WR/DB
10, Zane Austin, Sr., 6-2, 181, QB/TE
11, Jordan Bailey, So., 6-0, 180, QB/DB
12, Dylan Drake, Sr., 5-8, 147, WR/DB
15, DyVonne Thornton, Jr., 5-6, 144, WR/DB
16, Garrett Masterson, Jr., 6-0, 168, QB/LB
20, Brandon Leeder, Jr., 5-11, 168, RB/LB
21, Juan Palafox, Jr., 5-8, 190, RB/LB
22, Evan Teubert, Sr., 5-10, 163, TE/LB
23, DJ Vance, Jr., 6-0, 177, RB/DB
24, Christian Fischer, Jr., 5-5, 129, WR/DB
25, Eric Schuhmacher, Jr., 5-11, 210, RB/LB
26, Tevin Anderson, Jr., 5-10, 158, RB/LB
27, Kyran Hinds, Jr., 5-11, 144, WR/DB
28, Trey Conley, Sr., 5-9, 166, RB/DB
30, Sandy Toyer, Jr., 5-8, 154, WR/DB
32, Dayton Jensen, Sr., 5-8, 185, OL/DL
35, David Dubanowich, Jr., 6-0, 189, RB/LB
39, Ed Jacobson, Jr., 6-3, 220, RB/LB
40, Jonathan Durham, Sr., 5-8, 179, RB/LB
42, Colton Whitwam, Sr., 6-0, 176, TE/LB
44, Marq Brooks, Sr., 6-1, 183, TE/DB
45, Angel Marquez, Jr., 6-0, 198, TE/DL
47, Alex Garvoille, Jr., 5-11, 168, RB/LB
48, Anthony Vargas, Jr., 5-11, 166, TE/DL
51, Josh Harmata, Sr., 6-3, 200, OL/DL
53 , Logan Murdy, Jr., 5-10, 200, OL/DL
54, Alec Renovitch, Sr., 6-0, 220, OL/DL
57, Treven Porter, Sr., 5-11, 209, OL/DL
58, Colten Carlson, Sr., 6-2, 279, OL/DL
59, Colin Delaney, Jr., 5-11, 284, OL/DL
60, Eric Einerson, Jr., 5-11, 173, OL/DL
63, Brian Cabrera, Jr., 5-6, 199, OL/K
65, Devontae Potter, Sr., 6-0, 277, OL/DL
67, Jovan Gonzalez, Sr., 5-10, 200, OL/DL
68, Nick Lindsey, Sr., 5-10, 235, OL/DL
70, Jack Gage, Sr., 6-1, 185, OL/DL
71, Mylik Williams, Jr., 6-2, 240, OL/DL
72, Colin Parker, Jr., 5-9, 276, OL/DL
73, Zach Christianson, Jr., 6-3, 218, OL/DL
74, Noah Hagy, Jr., 6-0, 192, OL/DL
75, Connor Francis, Jr., 6-2, 213, OL/DL
76, Tyler Ayala, Sr., 5-11, 301, OL/DL
77, Frank Deaton, Jr., 5-8, 242, OL/DL
78, Alonzo Velazquez, Jr., 6-6, 249, OL/DL
81, Mike Kettle, Jr., 6-2, 182, TE/DL
85, Vernon Davis, Sr., 6-1, 162, WR/DB
89, Alex Perkins, Sr., 6-0, 290, OL/DL