Dalton Heckel playing football for UW-Whitewater in 2017

Photo by Jason Antony via stock.xchng

Dalton Heckel, a native of Silver Lake, and graduate of Wilmot Union High School, will compete for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team during the 2017 season, which began last Saturday.

Heckel, a junior at UW-Whitewater, is majoring in Marketing.

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team enters the 2017 season with experience and talent on offense, defense and special teams, a combination it hopes to ride to the program’s 36th Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and 12th in the last 13 years.

The Warhawks, kicked off the regular season Sept. 2, finished the 2016 season with conference title No. 35, the program’s 11th trip to the third round of the NCAA Playoffs in 12 yearsand a 12-1 record, including a 7-0 mark in league play. The team extended its home winning streak to 32 games before it was snapped in the national quarterfinal game.

The WIAC’s head coaches and athletic communications personnel tabbed UW-Whitewater as the favorite to bring home another league championship this fall. The team is also ranked third in the nation by D3football.com.

The Warhawks return 10 starters on offense, including 2017 Preseason All-American Nate Trewyn(Janesville, Wis./Milton), a junior offensive lineman. Senior linebacker Matt Seitz (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and junior linebacker Bryce Leszczynski (Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI) return as starters on a defense that makes up for a lack of starting experience with depth at all positions.

UW-Whitewater’s non-conference schedule includes three road games against opponents who finished a combined 22-8 last season.

The Warhawks open the campaign at Illinois Wesleyan on Sept. 2. The Titans, members of the highly competitive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, tallied a 7-2 record and finished last fall on a five-game winning streak.

One week later, UW-Whitewater visits Concordia-Moorhead (7-3 last season) out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team wraps up the non-conference portion of the slate on Sept. 16 at fellow 2016 NCAA qualifier Washington-St. Louis.

The Warhawks open conference play at UW-Oshkosh on Sept. 30 following a bye week. Five of the last seven games between the two teams, including each of the last three, have been decided by three points or fewer. UW-Whitewater scored with less than one minute remaining in a 17-14 triumph last season in front of a national-record 17,535 fans at Perkins Stadium.

UW-Oshkosh enters 2017 ranked fourth by D3football.com after finishing as the national runner-up a year ago.

The Warhawks continue the season with back-to-back home games against UW-Stout on Oct. 7 and against UW-La Crosse on Friday, Oct. 13. The contest against UW-Stout is part of Family Fest on campus and Alumni Day at Perkins Stadium.

After trips to UW-River Falls (Oct. 21) and UW-Stevens Point (Oct. 28), UW-Whitewater returns home Nov. 4 for Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day against UW-Platteville, which is ranked No. 15 by D3football.com and reached the NCAA Playoffs a year ago.

The Warhawks close the regular season Nov. 11 against UW-Eau Claire on Shriners Day, Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day at Perkins Stadium.

See below for a complete position-by-position look at the 2017 UW-Whitewater football team.

OFFENSE

Ten of 11 players who started in last year’s national quarterfinal game return for the Warhawks in 2017.

Trewyn, a 2016 D3football.com first team All-West Region and first team All-WIAC center, anchors an experienced offensive line. Seniors Jordan Mueller (Plymouth, Wis./Plymouth) and Mitchell Schauer(Tomahawk, Wis./Tomahawk) return on the left side of the line, and senior Ben McFall (Rewey, Wis./Iowa-Grant) is the returning starter at right tackle.

Senior tight end Tony Gumina (Sussex, Wis./Hamilton) also plays a key role in blocking at the line of scrimmage and has evolved into a reliable receiving target. The two-time All-WIAC selection tallied 35 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Two-time first team all-conference senior Marcus Hudson (Delavan, Wis./Delavan-Darien) leads the wide receiver corps. He registered 52 receptions for 843 yards (16.2 yards per reception) and four touchdowns last fall. Hudson was flanked in the starting lineup last season by juniors Mitchell Dess (South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee) and Canton Larson (Oconomowoc, Wis./Oconomowoc). Dess finished with 20 catches for 269 yards and one touchdown, while Larson hauled in 23 catches for 284 yards and three scores.

Junior quarterback Cole Wilber (Dana Point, Calif./Dana Hills) and junior running back Drew Patterson return in the backfield. Wilber was named honorable mention All-WIAC in his debut season as a starter, totaling 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns. Junior backup Ryan Curran (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie)passed for 86 yards and one touchdown in five games last season.

Patterson burst onto the scene in 2016 after transferring from Western Illinois, garnering All-Region and All-WIAC accolades and registering 207 carries for 1,125 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. He added 186 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.

Other returners with significant game experience in the back field include junior Jarrod Ware (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and sophomore Josh Ringelberg (Greendale, Wis./Greendale). Ware finished second on the team in rushing yards (419) and ran for three touchdowns, and Ringelberg collected 342 yards, including back-to-back 100-yard performances during the team’s NCAA Playoff wins over Lakeland and Wittenberg (Ohio).

DEFENSE

UW-Whitewater looks to replace several starters on defense, but returns a number of players with game experience.

Junior Cal Durni (Brookfield, Wis./East) led all returning defensive linemen with 23 tackles, including 10.0 for a loss, in 2016. He tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Other returners up front include juniors Harry Henschler (Janesville, Wis./Craig), David O’Gorman(Watertown, Wis./Watertown) and Merritt Stott (Metamora, Ill./Metamora Township). O’Gorman finished the 2016 campaign with 12 tackles and one interception, while Stott recorded 19 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss and a pair of sacks. Henschler collected one sack in 10 games played.

Senior Harry Green (Chicago, Ill./Shepard) and junior Dalton Heckel (Silver Lake, Wis./Wilmot Union) each played in five games a season ago.

Senior Matt Seitz (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and junior Bryce Leszczynski (Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI)return as starting linebackers. Leszczynski led the team with 69 tackles, including 10.0 for a loss, and Seitz finished second with 64 stops and recovered a team-high three fumbles and was tabbed third team All-Region and first team All-WIAC.

Other returning linebackers include juniors Beau Martin (Winfield, Ill./Wheaton North) and Alex Zacharias(Stoughton, Wis./Stoughton). Martin finished with 21 tackles last fall, and Zacharias contributed 19 stops and tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles.

Junior Famus Hasty (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) is the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield. He posted 27 tackles and tied for the team lead with 13 passes defended.

Other 2016 contributors in the defensive backfield include senior Nick McCullough (St. Charles, Ill./North), juniors Bailey Breunig (Prairie du Sac, Wis./Sauk Prairie), Brett Buehler (Sussex, Wis./Hamilton) and Jon Weyker (Mequon, Wis./Homestead). Breunig finished with 26 tackles and three interceptions, and Buehler chipped in with 13 tackles. Weyker added 10 tackles and one interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior punter Michael Schwichtenberg (West Bend, Wis./West) returns to lead the team’s kicking unit. He averaged 35.5 yards per punt last season and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 18 times on 59 punts.

Sophomore linebacker Mason Fleury (Elgin, Ill./Hampshire) returns for his second year as the team’s long snapper.

Dess led the kick and punt return units a season ago with 284 return yards, including 232 on kick returns. Ringelberg led the punt return with 160 yards (12.3 yards per return), and Ware added 276 total return yards (226 on kick returns).

For more than 140 years, UW-Whitewater has provided students with the education and training to begin their careers with a solid foundation behind them. The UW-Whitewater is committed to the development of the individual, the growth of personal and professional integrity and respect for diversity and global perspectives. These are met by providing academic and co-curricular programs that emphasize the pursuit of knowledge and understanding and a commitment to service within a safe and secure environment.

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