Franklin football team powered by All-Suburban honorees
Six players on offense, defense recognized for efforts during banner season
From the end of the 2012 season through the grueling captain's practices held this summer to the tough loss to Greendale in the second game of the season and right until the very last moment when they carried the unhappy consolation prize of the silver state runner-up trophy back home to Franklin, the Sabers' football team was indeed "A Band of Brothers."
"We were all literally best friends from grade school on up," said senior safety and co-captain Jared Karow, one of six Sabers named to the NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Football Team. "What was really cool, was that we had a lot of guys (in this senior class) who came out once they hit high school and that really made a difference."
Karow, also a Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-State selection, was joined on the NOW All-Suburban Team by fellow seniors All-State quarterback Sean McGuire, running back Chad Walton, linebackers Erik Wimmer and August Beck and by junior offensive lineman Vince Hughes.
Together they led a team that was anchored by a 28-man senior class that forged bonds strong enough to withstand the fires of competition and the pressure to succeed.
That bond was built during the intense summer captain's practices in July. McGuire and fellow co-captains Karow, linebacker Jake Fernandes and defensive lineman Jake Harman, led the group through a powerful series of drills that had them ready to go by the start of official practices in early August.
Coach Louis Brown said McGuire ran those practices "better than anyone I've ever seen."
"We just tried to set a tone," McGuire said. "I was looking at teams and talking to kids from other states and how they got ready. Some have spring practices, which we don't have (in Wisconsin), so we did the best we could. We met three times a week and got as much done as possible.
"That helped us get everyone on the same page. That unity was our strength. From those early days we set high goals. We put in the effort and left our hearts on the field. We knew if we did this together we could do anything."
Another aid, said Karow, were the speed and agility camps run by Franklin trainer Mike Freitag. Many players took part in these events which Karow jokingly referred to as "Sunday Fun Days" because of their intensity.
Behind all that, the Sabers entered August camp ready to go.
The 'best' leader
At the front, three-year starter McGuire and the offense did its job. With the former wide receiver now all-world running back Walton serving as the team's all-purpose go-to player after missing almost all of last season with a broken leg, McGuire led the team to a 36.3 points per game effort.
They scored more than 40 points four times, above 50 twice and 60 once.
"We had a great quarterback with great receivers," Walton said. "Having a quarterback like Sean makes things a lot easier. They have to defend the pass like they defend the run and that really opens up the running lanes."
Brown couldn't say enough about McGuire.
"As a leader, he may be the best we've ever had," Brown said. "He just makes all things better when he's in there."
Brown added that having Walton back made McGuire even better.
"Just a complete package," Brown said. "Every coach we've played has been impressed by him."
Hughes was the surprise talent on a veteran line. Winning runs through his veins as he's the grandson of Franklin baseball coaching legend Jim Hughes. Brown went on and on about Hughes' athleticism and great footwork.
"He was absolutely terrific in pass protection," Brown said.
The defense made things stand up. Responding to unsubstantiated stories about being soft, the unit responded to the 37-point Greendale debacle ("That could have been the best thing ever to happen to us," Karow said) with a new-found determination and finished with a respectable 18.3 points against average.
Franklin won 11 straight games before the loss to Arrowhead in the Division 1 state championship game. And that final defensive average was thrown off by the 45-point effort that Arrowhead put up against a tired unit.
"We got our heads out of the gutter after the Greendale game," Karow said. "We never took a single practice or walk-through lightly after that."
During the state final game, Karow was nursing a sprained ankle that he suffered in the 35-8 state semifinal win over Mukwonago.
"I just couldn't get the same push-off," Karow said. "That hurt because where we strive as a defense is speed and that's what Arrowhead strives for on offense."
Before he was hurt, Karow had been unofficially clocked at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
The season was otherwise very satisfying for Karow seeing as, like Walton, he lost a good chunk of last season to injury (surgery for a torn labrum)
Other leaders on the defense were the strong linebacking corps led by linebackers Wimmer, Beck and Fernandes. Always seeming to be around the ball, the trio was turnover machines. Wimmer and Beck were the tackle leaders in final numbers with approximately 115 and 99, respectively (Karow finished with 91).
The state-level diver Beck was called by Brown, "the most physical kid that we had this season" while Wimmer "was always around the ball and everyone had to account for where he was all the time."
In the end, accountability was what Franklin proved to be all about. It's a history lesson too, as McGuire's older half-brother Ben Smith was the center for one of McGuire's predecessor's all-time great Saber quarterback Ben Hempel.
"I grew up listening to those stories," said the Western Illinois recruit McGuire.
Place in history
And now this team, with a Southeast Conference title in hand, a state finals' trophy now in the case at school, has its place in school history secured.
"Before the Mukwonago (state semifinals) game, we had alumni coming up to us and telling us 'Do it, finish what we couldn't,'" said Karow. "Afterward, they were telling us how great it was that we finally did it."
It was a simple thing done well, said McGuire.
"It was the most fun I've had," he said. "It was like living a dream."
SENIORS: Nick Ruffolo, Sal Colla, McGuire, Jaylin Cronin, Josh Haase, Alec Jakubowski, Walton, Austin Meyer, Karow, Robbie Bell, Wimmer, Michael Cuske, Austin Manning, Robbie Heimbruch, Andy Suvaka, Beck, Ryan Larson, Chad Kanugh, Fernandes, Austin Desautel, Harman, Taylor Bohne, Marco Martinez, Ryan Ruffing, Zak Wroblewski, Nick Plath and Cal Wrobel.
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