Greendale - Despite heavy graduation losses from the 2010 team, the Greendale football program hardly missed a beat in 2011.
The Panthers won the Woodland Conference Black Division with an 8-0 record and finished 8-2 overall, losing a WIAA Division 2 playoff contest to Brookfield East while missing their top two running backs, Mike Scheidt and Sebastian Garcia-Bankowski.
Their successful tradition continued largely through the hard work and dedication of this year's seniors.
That group featured tight end Kennedy Ringelberg, quarterback Sam Brick, linebacker Drake Barczak, offensive tackle Matt Pulizos and punter Brett Nethery.
They, along with all the other seniors, provided not only production on the field but solid leadership in all areas for the Panthers.
For their accomplishments, all five are members of the 2011 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban team.
He also earned all-state honors at tight end and was named the offensive player of the year in the Woodland Black after catching 30 passes for 572 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He was clearly a primary option for Brick in the passing game.
"(Working with Brick) was a lot of fun," Ringelberg said. "We are good friends, and that helped out with our football chemistry throughout high school."
Ringelberg said the foundation for Greendale's division crown was laid in the off-season.
"We have a good program, and everyone keeps in shape," he said. "Our preparation is a step ahead of everyone else's."
Brick was a dual threat in passing and rushing for Greendale this season, accounting for a total of 26 touchdowns. He completed 68 of 119 passes for 1,275 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions, while adding 457 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Brick was unanimous all-division and the top vote-getter at quarterback on the all-region squad.
"We were confident coming into this year, even though we lost a lot of people," he said. "We knew we had a strong senior class, so we were looking forward to the season."
He keyed a solid Panther defense with 98 tackles, including 38 solo, plus 5½ sacks and nine tackles for losses. Barczak topped every linebacker in all-division voting.
"Our work ethic was so good in the off-season," he said about Greendale's success. "Everyone is so dedicated to the program, and coach (Rob) Stoltz is always there leading us."
Pulizos was one of the stalwarts of the Panthers' offensive line and was recognized by division coaches as the top vote-getter on the line as well as lineman of the year.
"I don't know if I expected we would be this good because we lost a lot of people," Pulizos admitted. "Everybody really stepped up this year."
Pulizos is currently looking at a number of colleges, including Illinois State, the home of Greendale alum Eric Brunner.
He averaged nearly 42 yards per punt and placed 13 inside the opponent's 20-yard line while only seeing one returned all season.
"He is the best punter not named Gruettner," said Stoltz, referring to Muskego's Jordan Gruettner, the all-state punter.
Nethery said he is proud to be a part of a program as strong as Greendale's.
"At the end of November, we start working out for next year," he said. "Winning conference is part of the expectation each and every year at Greendale. We don't take anything less than that. It is just hard work from everyone involved that makes for success."
Nethery has talked with coaches at Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa about being a preferred walk-on as a punter next fall and is awaiting further word.
These five seniors and many others fulfilled their mission of keeping Greendale a winner, and now they turn the task over to next season's group - which, as Nethery said, is already starting its work.
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