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Central's David Hayden

Central’s David Hayden (center) runs with the ball after making an interception during a game against Onalaska this season. Hayden, who led the state with eight interceptions, was named to the first-team All-State team.

The Central High School football team enjoyed a big season for many reasons, and one of them was an improved defense.

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David Hayden mug

Hayden

The Red Raiders gave a potent offense extra chances with a knack for forcing turnovers, and senior defensive back David Hayden played the biggest of roles in that area.

In addition to helping Central to an 8-3 season and chance to play in the second round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs, Hayden has added to his season with a spot on The Associated Press All-State First Team.

Hayden’s eight interceptions topped the state, and he was selected as one of three defensive backs on the first team. He is the only player from the Coulee Region on the first or second teams, which are selected by a panel of sports writers from around the state.

Hayden also had 21 solo tackles and 47 assists to rank second for Central, which lost two regular-season games by a total of eight points before beating Oregon and losing to Monona Grove in the postseason.

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Servais

“We thought he would be a receiver and play some safety for us this year, but he broke his thumb and that took care of the offensive side,” Central coach Tony Servais said of Hayden. “That put him on defense, and he did a great job back there. He made a lot of plays.

“He made some great interceptions, and I think four or five of them were in the red zone, so they were important. He was also a great tackler.”

The area is also represented by Central’s Johnny Davis, Holmen’s Tate Grass, West Salem’s Brendan Holt, Westby’s Ryan Daines and Bangor’s Carter Horstman on the honorable mention list.

Iola-Scandinavia running back and linebacker Bryce Huettner — the state’s all-time leading rusher with 6,870 yards — is the player of the year.

Muskego’s Ken Krause, whose team ended Kimberly’s run of five straight championships by beating the Papermakers 24-21 in the Division 1 title game, is the coach of the year.

Iola-Scandinavia football coach Scott Erickson watched Huettner on the playground during recess in third grade, he thought his future standout had a chance to be special.

What was his first clue? The skinned up knees and ripped jeans stuck out to Erickson.

Huettner was that competitive even back then.

A starting linebacker since his freshman year of high school, and workhorse running back the last two seasons, Huettner has lived up to the early expectations and then some.

He finished the season with 2,612 yards and 42 touchdowns to being his career total to his state-record 6,870 yards to surpass Hilbert’s Mike Firkus who rushed for 6,707 yards from 2003-05.

“He’s that guy that can come into a football game and everybody plays better,” Erickson said. “Bryce is one of those kids you don’t see very often. They are few and far between and pick everybody up no matter what happens. He’s a student of the game. Thankfully I got an opportunity to coach him.”

Also nominated for Player of the Year were Grantsburg’s Leo Chenal, Mitchell Waechter of Fond du Lac Springs, Waunakee’s Sawyer Maly, Dylan Hendricks of Pulaski and Racine St. Catherine’s Da’Shaun Brown.

Huettner was instrumental in Iola-Scandinavia claiming the school’s first state championship with a 43-14 romp over Racine Lutheran at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 16. He gained 156 yards and scored three times.

This may have been the longest season Krause has coached, but it felt like the fastest.

You could chalk that up to a 14-0 season that ended with the school’s first state championship, but for Krause it had as much to do with how his team handled adversity and in general maintained a positive vibe regardless of the circumstance.

“This group was by far our most positive group and probably our hardest-working group every day,” Krause said. “There wasn’t one day when they were negative or not working hard.”