2017 Viroqua High School football team

Members of the 2017 Viroqua football team include (front, from left) Jake Curti, Sawyer Felton, Matt Kleiber, Trent Berg, Sam Jett, Austin Yttri, Camryn Nelson, Andrew Wedwick, Ryan Hannah; (second row) Sam Saner, Brooks Ekern, Jared Anderson, Alex Jacobson, Tyler Hannah, Anthony Rappl, Brenden Ellefson, Austin Christianson; (third row) Kacey Hammond, Remington Running, Carson Burckhardt, Jacob Ellefson, Braxton Cary, Steve Diehl, Drew Fortney, Keenan Hanson, Dalton Hardy, Paul Nickelotti; (back) Brett Skrede, Lucas Oldham, Christianson and Colton Fox.

There seems to be a good news bad-news scenario in regard to the prospects for the Viroqua High School football team as it embarks on the 2017 season.

The good news is the VHS program certainly seems to be headed in the right direction under the guidance of head coach Bill Hannah, who is heading into his fourth season of rebuilding a program that has not made the WIAA playoffs since 2004. After going 1-8 in both 2014 and 2015, the Blackhawks tripled their win total last fall, going 3-8 and were in the playoff discussion until the final few of games of the year.

The bad news is that the Blackhawks lost eight talented players from the 2016 team to graduation, including all five team captains and four All-Coulee Conference players.

More good news: The program, which has struggled to build good participation numbers in past years, has an impressive total of 45 athletes out for the sport this fall, compared to just 25 when Hannah took the reins. Bad news again is that of that total, there are just four seniors on this year’s squad.

Coach Hannah knows the 2016 graduates will be hard to replace. “We lost a large group of very good seniors…we will need to be great blockers and tacklers this year. We will need to play hard and with passion. Losing those seniors meant that we lost our leaders and we are still looking for this year’s seniors to step into that role.”

Ryan Hannah will be called upon to lead the offense at quarterback for the third season as the Blackhawks signal caller in a new shotgun wing offense. Ryan Hannah also roams the VHS defensive secondary and is the team’s punter, where he earned all-conference honors at both positions in 2016.

Steve Diehl, an all-conference selection last year as a defensive back, will return for his senior year as a linebacker and running back for the Hawks. Trent Berg will lead the Blackhawks in the trenches, anchoring the lines on both sides of the ball and Brenden Hoffland is penciled in at tight end on offense and defensive back on defense. Berg and Hoffland, join Ryan Hannah and Diehl as the only other members of the senior class out for the sport.

According to coach Hannah, the Blackhawks will run a 4-3 defense this season, under the direction of defensive coordinator Eric Anderson. Hannah will handle the offensive coordinator duties. Other assistant coaches include Joel Anderson, Cade Cary, Troy McGregor, Frank Hammond, Tom Lohr, Jim Beckstrand and Kodi Ethridge.

Duane Skalecki joins the VHS coaching staff this year as director of the weight room training facilities and Hannah said he is excited about the impact improved weight training can bring to all Viroqua athletic programs.

“Duane has a great passion for weight training and fitness and will do an excellent job…athletes need to realize that lifting helps them in all their sports and in personal fitness,” the head coach said.

Hannah said that the Blackhawks have embraced a new motto for the season, “‘F.A.M.I.L.Y.- Forget About Me I Love You,’ recognizing that football is a total team sport…you can’t be selfish and you have to play for the guys next to you.”

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Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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