FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Black Hawks embrace the unknown

Talent at two skilled positions is a plus for new head coach Jim Norris

GRAFTON’S FOOTBALL TEAM is embracing the underdog role in the North Shore Conference but those in the program are expecting big things under new head coach Jim Norris. Team members include (front row from left) Dylan Robinson, Kyler Nimitz, Max Medvedev, Justin Issacson, Conner Tiegs, Joe Birch, Calen Knauer, Owen Wiziarde, Caden Knauer (back row) Hawk Hefner, Jack Orlowski, Zach Weir, Aaron Weisflog, Jack Harmon, Ben Kell, Isaiah Mielke, Caleb Buback, Brady Ward, Mason Hunt, Alec Davis, J.P. Benzschawel, Bryson Clague, Joey Giorgi, Kenny Likins, Kyle Proegrock, Jacob Garza, Tanner Garbisch and Adam Kapke. The Black Hawks open the season at West Bend West on Friday. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Less than one week before the season, Grafton High School’s football team has yet to select its starting quarterback and tailback.
New head coach Jim Norris says it’s a great problem to have.
Last year’s starter, senior Brady Ward, and junior Zach Weir have been competing for the job since last October, he said.
“Both of them have been doing fantastic things in the weight room,” Norris said. “They’re both competing at a high level.”
Ward last year went 89-for-162 passing for 1,188 yards and 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for 343 yards and three scores on 77 carries and earned North Shore Conference honorable mention honors.
Weir went 15-for-30 passing with a touchdown and interception each.
Regardless of who Norris chooses, he will have a dual-threat field general with the ability to move the ball with his arm or legs.
When either turns to hand off, it will be to either senior Caden Knauer or junior Joey Giorgi. Knauer started last season and led the team in rushing with 655 yards and five touchdowns on 126 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per rush.
Giorgi saw more time when Knauer was out with an injury and racked up 428 yards and two scores on 75 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per run and earned NSC honorable mention.
Knauer is a more shifty back and Giorgi is more of a downhill runner, Norris said. Both see lanes, make the right cuts and finish well.
“They definitely will both see time and will have responsibilities defensively,” he said.
Norris himself has a new responsibility this year, moving into the head coaching position after Shaun Behrend, the coach the last two seasons, took a job teaching and coaching in Green Bay.
Norris the last two years was the offensive line coach and running game coordinator. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Sun Prairie. Norris played left guard at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and was assistant offensive line coach for a couple of seasons.
So far, his first varsity gig is all it’s cracked up to be, and he said he’s received support from the school and community.
“It’s been a ride. The kids have been phenomenal,” he said.
Norris said he gutted the playbook but a fair amount has carried over the last couple of years, “just to kind of keep things rolling.”
At receiver, several guys have been competing for spots. After seeing some varsity time last year, Bryson Clague “has been doing an awesome job,” Norris said. Jack Orlowski is back for his junior season after 335 yards and seven touchdowns on 14 catches last year.
Others in the mix include Joe Birch, Owen Wiziarde, Dominic Voiland and Calen Knauer.
At tight end, juniors Mason Hunt-Olkowski and Caleb Buback will catch passes and block.
“They both fit our style of offense really well,” Norris said.
Up front, sophomore J.P. Benzschawel brings his 6 feet, 7-inch frame and 250 pounds to left tackle. Ben Kell will play left guard, and junior Jacob Garza will start for the second straight season at center.
Tanner Garbisch will again start at right guard after making improvements in the offseason, and Alec Davis will anchor right tackle. He was on the left side last year until Benzschawel was given a chance, moving Davis to defense.
“He’s definitely locked that side down,” Norris said.
The offensive line will flip over to defense, along with second-year starter Max Medveder ­— “a fast, quick nose guard” — and Aaron Wiesflog and Isaiah Mielke, who have done good things in camp, Norris said.
Garbisch and Kell will play inside, and Benzschawel will play one defensive end spot while Davis will play the other, along with some outside linebacker.
Other linebackers include Giorgi, Garza, Hawk Heffer — “who has been phenomenal” — and sophomore Kenny Likins, “who has done a lot of good things for us,” Norris said.
Buback and Hunt will also see time.
Senior Kyle Proefrock will join the defense when he gets back from injury. He earned NSC honorable mention at outside linebacker last season.
Both Knauers will patrol the defensive backfield, along with Colin Indermuehle.
Calen Knauer will kick for his third year in a row.
“He has a leg to go Division 1,” Norris said. “Consistency is going to be huge for him this year.”
Orlowski, an all-NSC honorable mention two years ago, will punt.
Norris said he likes his team’s depth, with about 65 in the program, including 25 freshmen. Grafton will play varsity and junior varsity 2 this year.
After going 3-6 last year in the conference and not making the playoffs for several seasons, Norris said the team has embraced the underdog role, but inside the program nobody talks like the Hawks are underdogs.
At UW-Whitewater, Norris said he learned from coach Lance Leipold, now at Buffalo University, to go 1-0 each week, every day, every rep. If the team does that, “Fridays will take care of themselves,” Norris said.
Grafton travels to West Bend West on Aug. 17. Its home opener is Aug. 31 against defending conference co-champion Homestead.



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