Monthly Archives: October 2016

West’s Max Meleski helped key Vikings resurgence

West's Max Meleski helped

key Vikings' Resurgence

When Ben Chossek first was named New Berlin West football coach last fall, one of the first people he was told about was running back Max Meleski.

"Max was one of the first kids they talked to me about after I took the job," Chossek said. "As a player and as a human being he was someone who had stood out from previous years. They wanted to make sure we communicated with him right away."

"No. 1 they said he was an excellent football player, who had a good junior season," Chossek recalled. "But he was also a leader through his actions every day, dedicated to the sport.

"He was a strong student, making good decisions outside of the school and community and representing us very well."

Chossek received some good advice.

Meleski finished the regular season with 1,186 yards in 203 carries, a 5.8 average and he caught 6 passes for 128 yards, an average of 21.3 yards per catch. He had 18 touchdowns rushing and one receiving.

Counting the 33-6 playoff loss to Catholic Memorial on Oct. 21, he finished the year with 1,206 yards in 222 rushes and a 5.4 average. He had 7 catches for 131 yards for 18.7 average and a score.

He was a workhorse, rushing for 209, 208, 157, 137, 119, 112 and 104 yards, with three games of 4 TDs, two with two, and two games with a TD.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

And getting that many touches was something new for the senior.

"I'm going to be honest with you," Meleski said. "The coaching change was a huge adjustment for us. We have a whole new offense this year, a whole new system to learn. I thought I would still be splitting the carries three ways. I'm the workhorse. Yeah, it's definitely tiring. But I love it."

Meleski was a running back as a freshman after playing wide receiver and defensive end in middle school. After his freshman year he went right up to varsity.

"I was a running back right away and I was on two special teams," he said of his first two years at West. "They were kind of grooming me for the next year (junior). I didn't get all the reps, but I did start for a couple of the games, but I got a decent amount of reps for all the games."

Meleski, who should earn all-conference honors this year, was the Pick n Save student-athlete of the week in August of this season. He was an honorable mention all-conference choice as a junior and a scholar athlete as well.

We knew he could do some unique things that not everybody could do. He hasn’t done anything in a game that we haven’t seen in practice.”

Coach Ben Chossek

"He has tremendous speed for a tall, wiry guy (6-feet, 1 inch, 185 pounds), but he has excellent strength as well," he said. "Those two things are what separates him from some other kids who are strong or fast but not both."

With Meleski being a key player on and off the field, Chossek talked about his leadership skills.

"Max is a quiet leader. He leads by example," Chossek said. "Not that he won't say anything, but he is more the type that will pull someone aside and talk to him individually than do it in group. He's not rah-rah."

Chossek pointed out that Meleski's backup got hurt during a game and they had to wait for an ambulance. When his parents came out, Meleski introduced himself to them and asked them to please keep in touch with him and let him know how their son was doing.

"He's a kid that takes a genuine interest in other people," Chossek said. "He makes good decisions and is just a quality human being. I think that says a lot about his family as well. I have a younger daughter and as she gets older, I hope he is the type of person she is hanging out with."

From a team's point-of-view, the Vikings made the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Meleski's freshman year. He remembers standing on the sidelines watching the game. Chossek talked to the team about what they wanted their legacy to be.

"At the beginning of the year he said 'Do you guys want to be known as the class that made the change, made the difference, got this program back to where it needs to be,'" Meleski recalled. "We all said 'yes.'"

Chossek felt his team came through for him this past season.

"When you get an opportunity to coach a team that hasn't had a lot of success, one of the things you're hopeful for is that the seniors and the older kids have an opportunity to make some change.

"When people look back, what do you want them to say about your group. This group's legacy was not only their results, but what they did every day."

QUESTIONS FOR MAX MELESKI

  • FAVORITE FOOD:  Beef Jerky
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Blake Shelton (Country Music)
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:  Lone Survivor, Action (War Movies).
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:  Arrow
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  Physics.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Alma, Buffalo County at family cabin.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Bowfishing, Hunting.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: New Berlin Eisenhower.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT:  Playing with his brother, Sam, who is a sophomore this season.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Go to college. Something in the medical field.

Bucks players I find watch able

One of the best things about the Milwaukee Bucks NBA season beginning tonight is it gives me another local sport to watch on television.

I am not a fan of the NBA because everyone already knows that Golden State and Cleveland will meet for the title – barring a terrible injury – and I never want to see anyone get hurt.

But I do enjoy watching the local team.

Like most people looking at them with their head instead of their heart, I don’t feel the Bucks will make the playoffs because of the injury to Khris Middleton.

The front office was totally unprepared to replace someone of his skills. When I say ‘the front office’ I mean more than John Hammond. Jason Kidd has his fingers in the pie also.

I still don’t understand why they ‘gave away’ Michael Carter-Williams for Tony Snell.

Someone must have really disliked MCW. Tony Snell!  Give me a break. They need something more.

But there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Bucks. On a scale of 1-5 – with one being the best – here are my thoughts on the players to watch.

1 – Giannis Antetokounmpo – If this young man ever learned to shoot from 15 feet on a consistent basis, then Katy Bar The Door (for you young people that means he will be unstoppable). Watch ability: 1.

1A – Jabari Parker – Despite ‘Sports Illustrated’ not putting him in the Top 100 NBA players, I rate him right there with Giannis. Both will be hard to stop going to the basket and provide plenty of thrills. Now Jabari must improve his defense to be really considered a ‘next-level player.’ Watch ability: 1.

3 – Matthew Dellavedova – Yup, in my mind he is the third most important player on this team. He brings experience, defense (I hated him when he was with Cleveland. He was a pest) and shooting ability. They need a very good year out of him or they are screwed. Watch ability: 1.

4 – Greg Monroe – I am a big defender of Moose. The Bucks knew what they were getting and he delivered (15.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 52% FG, 74% FT). The ‘front office’ was familiar with his play, why did they say he didn’t fit it. Hello??? Not his fault, guys. Watch ability: 1.

5 – Mirza Teletovic – Yup, put him a notch below Delly/Monroe. He must be able to shoot and lead on and off the court. Delly and Telly will make Giannis and Jabari better players. Watch ability: 1.

6 – John Henson – I like John Henson – I really do. He has a nice, soft left-handed shot near the basket, he can block shots with the best and he can rebound. But it seems like he’s always injured or sits on the bench way too much. He needs to be on the floor. Watch ability: 2.

7 – Malcolm Brogdon – I loved this pick. Anyone who played for Tony Bennett knows how to play the game. PERIOD. I might be ranking him high, but when Delly is on the bench, he will play a big role. I also think his shooting will be effective. Watch ability: 3.

8 – Michael Beasley – If you can score I will watch you. He scored 12.8 PPG in 18.2 minutes a game. This team needs that. He shot .522 from field goal range, but only .333 from the 3-point line. The Bucks need jump shooters, they have enough people who can go to the basket. But he probably won’t stay healthy. Watch Ability: 3.

9 – Miles Plumlee – A big man who hustles, does the dirty work (rebounds, garbage shots) around the boards and leans on less athletic big men. Watch Ability: 3.

10 – Thon Maker – This will surprise most people, but if you draft him, play him. I’m sick of this ‘he’s a project’ garbage. He’s big (7-3, 223) and he’s not afraid to shoot. I want to see him play defense, rebound and run the court. He needs to do that in games, not on the practice court. Watch Ability: 3.

11 – Tony Snell – The Bucks were so desperate to trade MCW they traded for an injured player. Comparing Snell to Middleton, is like comparing me to Brad Pitt. If he can shoot, he can play. Watch Ability: 4.

12 – Jason Terry – If he can’t shoot effectively, he will just be a coach on the bench/locker room. If he can shoot, that’s why I ranked him higher. Watch Ability: 4.

13 – Rashad Vaughn – A totally wasted pick (I do hope he works out, though) and I said that the moment they drafted him. Shooters have to be able to shoot. Watch Ability: 5.

14 – Steve Novak – If he was from another state, he wouldn’t be here. If he can shoot, he can help. Plus his leadership in the locker room is important. But he won’t last the season because of his health. Watch Ability: 5.

In looking at my column, you will see that I like watching shooters. I always get a bigger thrill out of watching a 3-pointer – it takes more skill – than watching some 6-10 guy dunk. One takes ability, the other has a lot to do with size.

This year’s Bucks team must improve their defense and they must hit outside shots, including the big 3-pointer, which was as common as a $3.00 beer at the Bradley Center.

Here’s to making your games watch able this season.

I have high standards for Pack

Years ago I had a cousin Joe, who loved the Green Bay Packers. I never forgot one time he told me his whole week would be affected on how the Packers did on Sunday.

If the Packers won, everything was wonderful, the week would fly by and he couldn’t wait until the following Sunday to watch them again.

If the Packers lost, he hated to go to work, the entire week would drag by and he couldn’t wait until Sunday to hopefully see Green Bay bounce back and win. He was miserable.

I was shocked by this attitude.

Now I want to emphasize if you bleed green and gold, that is wonderful. I will never tell someone that what they believe in is wrong when it comes to the Pack – after-all, I’m in the minority here. Keep on doing what you’re doing. I’m just sharing my thoughts.

I like the Green Bay Packers, but I will never feel that way about a sports team. I enjoy my life too much to let how a team plays on Sunday affect me the entire following week.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t get upset during or after the game. I’m not a robot.

For example.

The NFC Championship game which they blew to Seattle a few years ago was the most embarrassing, disgusting game I have ever watched. If you looked up the word ‘choke’ in the dictionary, the Packers team picture would be next to it. I refused to wear the little Packer gear I own until the following August, because I didn’t want to be associated with such a loser.

The fact is I don’t wear rose-colored glasses when following the local sports pro teams. Those of you who follow me on Twitter, know I can be sarcastic – to put it mildly – and some people call me negative. But if a player makes a stupid play I will call him out on it. I’ve had some people say that’s being negative. No, that’s being objective.

Over the years the Packers front office and coaching staff has sent the following message to their fans.

“We are the Green Bay Packers. We play to win Super Bowls.”

Well, gentlemen, you created a monster.

I have set high standards for you (injuries, of course can change those standards and the Packers certainly have more than their share of them).

If the Packers don’t at least reach the NFC Championship game every year – let alone make it to a Super Bowl – they have had a disappointing season in my eyes. As much as they blew the previously-mentioned game to Seattle, they did reach the NFC Title game. That was a better year than finishing with a 15-1 regular-season record and quickly losing in the playoffs.

To hear the Packers talk about winning division titles (something which they didn’t do last year and probably won’t do this year), I say ‘Who cares?’

I don’t care about winning division titles, unless there is a Super Bowl attached to it. Just make the playoffs and take it one game at a time. The Packers preach about getting to the Super Bowl, but lately it’s been just talk.

Gentlemen, it’s time to deliver.

CLARE HONAN DOES IT ALL FOR TOSA WEST VOLLEYBALL

CLARE HONAN DOES IT ALL FOR TOSA WEST VOLLEYBALL

Wauwatosa West senior Clare Honan does it all for the Trojans girls volleyball team and she has been doing it since her freshman year.

Clare's father, Dave, who played volleyball at Racine Horlick High School, initially got her to play for their church team when she was in fifth grade.

Honan, who played basketball at Whitman Middle School, and soccer her first two years at West, has focused on volleyball her past two seasons and is happy she did.

Honan, who stands 6-feet, 1 inch and has accepted a scholarship at D1 College of Holy Cross, talked about what made her pick volleyball as her sport of choice.

"I have always been tall," she said. "It was one of these sports where I could use being tall. I played soccer my whole life up until my sophomore year in high school. It (volleyball) was so different. I could hit things hard with my hands.

"The team aspect is nice also. You're not going to succeed unless your whole team is involved. It's always been a lot of fun."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Something caught West coach Kelly Dwyer's eye when initially reading Clare's sign up sheet at an Open House for all the incoming 8th graders.

"The students would come in, get a tour," he said. "All the sports are lined up and we have sign-up sheets there. Name, number, email and if you played before. She wrote all that down and by 'if she played before' she put 'Sting,' which is a top club team.

"That's when I first caught interest, because if you had someone who played there, you know they're going to be a good volleyball player. That's when I first learned about her."

Clare, a 4-year varsity player for Dwyer, was second-team all-conference as a sophomore, first team all-conference and first team All-Woodland as a junior, while also earning honorable mention All-State honors. Dwyer also nominated her for the All-State honors once again this year.

Honan will definitely leave her mark in the Trojan record books.

She tops the school's all-time list in blocked shots, setting that career mark last year as a junior and is adding to it this year.

She will finish second in history in kill shots behind Jenny Ciriacks, who was a Marquette University Club All-American.

But the surprising stat, is she will probably finish in the school's Top 10 in digs, which is an unusual stat for someone who stands 6-feet, 1 inch.

That is because - despite her length - she never leaves the floor because Dwyer doesn't have to sub in for her like he would a regular middle hitter. Because of her talents, she can just stay in the rotation all the way around.

"That's unusual for a middle," Dwyer said. "Usually the team's libero replaces their middle because they (the middle) are the slowest and tallest and can't really move. I have no problem playing her back there. I don't think I've really seen another team do it the way we do.

Clare's flexibilty helps Dwyer with his strategy.

"Normally the libero is just a person who plays back row," he said. "They (libero) can sub in for two people. They can sub in for a few people and only play the back row for them. So when you middle goes to the back row, your libero comes in.

"It helps because I can put my libero someplace else. I can put our libero on the outside right now. If we didn't have Clare I couldn't do that. But we have the flexibility to do that. It saves us with subbing."

She’s the type of girl that wouldn’t want any of this (recognition),” he said. “She prefers to go out and just do what she needs to do.”

coach Kelly Dwyer

Dwyer has seen the improvement in Honan's play over time.

"Her back row has gotten 10 times better," he said. "Her freshman year she made it a goal that she was going to play all away around (not come out of the game). We tried her out (back row) her sophomore year and she played it most of the time. Her junior year she stayed in no matter what."

Clare remembers when she first asked Dwyer about wanting to try it.

"My sophomore year I first brought it up to coach and he said 'I don't know about that.' My junior year he started playing me all around," she said. "I never want to be off the court."

The experience also helped Honan watch the other positions and learn more about them.

"It's really opened my eyes, seeing the court from all different perspectives like the liberos and the DS' (defensive specialists)," she said. "Always being in the right spot, knowing how to read. It's helped me with my block too, to know what the defense sees. I really enjoy it. I take a lot of pride in my game."

In the beginning, Clare didn't do as good a job statistically as she needed it, so she worked on her game.

"Coach changed his mind and let me do it," she said. "A lot of defensive players had graduated, so there was an opening. It was an adjustment.

"The stats showed who was in the last row when team lost points. When I played the back row we were losing points. So I focused on it. My junior year that's what I tried to work on in practice - be as solid in the back row as I was in the front row. That was my goal."

Honan and teammate Ericha Stuberg, a defensive specialist, constantly work together to get better.

"We're always talking and figuring out where to go and which position works best for us depending on who we're going against," Clare said. "It's difficult, but once I could get in the right spot for digging it just makes everything better."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Dwyer talked about Clare's strengths going into this season.

" Her hitting. She's a good attacker," he said. "Her court awareness. She's really smart on the court. It's like having another coach out there. There are times she's correcting somebody on the court before I can even get it out."

Honan also talked the strong points of her game.

"Definitely my ability to not get in my own head," she said. "Put a mistake behind me. If it's a loss, but we played well, I'm not going to get mad about that. I also think I have good control, hitting shots, tipping to where the defense isn't."

So what does she need to work on.

"I have so much," she said. "I'm definitely my worst critic. Having more communication - on the court, off the court, with coaches, with teammates. That can always get better. Blocking. I can always get better there."

Honan then talked about the season - the Trojans were 20-10 and finished in third place - going into the post-season this week.

"I am happy with my progress as a leader and helping out the people who are new," she said. "That's a really big change. Teaching - that's what I try to do. I never want to be overwhelming. Being back row, being able to see the floor, I can definitely help our other middle out on seeing spots to hit. I really like that."

Clare, being a co-captain, credited Anna Baish, the other captain, for being the emotional vocal leader.

"She's the fun one," Honan said. "She's always cracking jokes and she gets the team so invested, so involved in this. I try to lead by example. If we're down, I'm like 'The next one, we're going to get this.' I'm more results focused, to help my team along the way."

Dwyer agrees with her assessment of her leadership skills.

"I think she was a little shy at first," he said. "At the end of her sophomore year I started seeing her become a leader and wanting it more. I could tell she wanted to put in the work to get to where she is because she wanted it at that point.

"That year we had a ton of seniors - that helped her a little bit - learning the leadership from them. At the end of her sophomore year you could see her start to kick it and you could see she was going to be something really good. She just needs to be more vocal.

"I think she is starting to realize this year that these girls look up to her and they have more respect for her than I think she realizes. She's there to pick them up when they need it. It's more encouragement and the way she plays."

Dwyer knows she is special as a person also.

"She's kind. She looks out for them," he said. "She's like a coach out there; tells them what they need to hear. If they need to switch something really quick on the court she'll let them know. She is one of the nicest people I know."

Dwyer also considers Honan one of the top three volleyball players he has coached along with Ciriacks and Elise Ditscheit.

But despite all her accomplishments and honors, he knows who Clare really is.

"She's the type of girl that wouldn't want any of this (recognition)," he said. "She prefers to go out and just do what she needs to do."

QUESTIONS FOR CLARE HONAN

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Potatoes of any kind.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP:  Chance The Rapper, John Mayer (Pop)
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: The Italian Job; Comedy and Action movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Parks & Recreation, Comedies.
  • FAVORITE CLASS:  History.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Galapagos Islands
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?  Hang around with friends. Watch Netflix.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Wauwatosa East.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: At Nationals last summer her club team went to the Gold Bracket (Top 7) the final day and beat the Fusion (Illinois). 'Best game I ever played.'
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?  Major in Political Science. Attend College of Holy Cross on D1 volleyball scholarship.

Week 6 – Fantasy Football Thoughts

SUNDAY, OCT. 16, NOON

SAN FRANCISCO (1-4) at BUFFALO (3-2)

STATS: 49ers have lost 4 in a row, while the Bills have won 3 straight. Bills TE Charles Clay has 5 catches in back-to-back games. SF has scored 14 TDs in 5 games. FANTASY: Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter could be a good streaming kicker this week. LeSean McCoy is a workhorse with new OC. QB Colin Kaepernick is back in the lineup – which could be good or bad. Carlos Hyde (6 TDs) and WR Jeremy Kerley (22 targets last 2 weeks) are SF fantasy weapons.

PHILADELPHIA (3-1) at WASHINGTON (3-2)

STATS: Eagles averaging 29 PPG. On defense they’ve allowed only 3 TD passes in 4 games. FANTASY: Philly’s Caleb Sturgis one of top fantasy PK. WR Pierre Garcon has scored in 3 of the last 4 games against the Eagles.

CLEVELAND (0-5) at TENNESSEE (2-3)

STATS: Titans D has allowed only 4 TD passes and has 12 sacks. They are second in the league in rushing. Cleveland D has allowed 2-3 passing TDs a game and are ranked 25th vs the pass. FANTASY: Isaiah Crowell could have a solid game (83.0yard average). Terrelle Pryor might give you some points from the QB spot. DeMarco Murray could go over 100 yards and get a TD. QB Marcus Mariota and TE Delanie Walker could have big days.

BALTIMORE (3-2) at NY GIANTS (2-3)

STATS: Ravens scoring less than 2 TDs per game and Giants are allowing the same. Ravens allowing 18 PPG. Giants have scored 5 TDs in last 4 games.

FANTASY: Terrance West is OK. Steve Smith and Mike Wallace were banged up last week, Wallace on the game’s final play. Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz look better on paper than turf right now. Waiting for Eli Manning to wake up.

CAROLINA (1-4) at NEW ORLEANS (1-3)

STATS: In 4 of 5 games the Saints D has allowed 34 PPG. TE Greg Olsen is on pace to finish the year with 1,651 yards – over 300 more than any other tight end in the history of the league. Carolina has allowed over 20 points a game. FANTASY: QB Cam Newton should play, but how effective will he be to start. Will one hit send him to the bench? A healthy Cam should kill this defense (7 TDs in 2 games last year). QB Drew Brees in last 16 home games he’s averaged 342 yards, with 42 TDs versus 12 interceptions.

JACKSONVILLE (1-3) at CHICAGO (1-4)

STATS: Blake Bortles has thrown for only 194 and 207 yards the last 2 games as the Jags are running more. Bears D has allowed 5 TDs rushing and Jax has 2 scores. Bears have thrown for 300 yards in last 3 games and Jax has allowed 8 TDs in 4 games. FANTASY: Allen Robinson has caught 3 of Bortles 7 TDs. Jordan Howard is the guy to have in this game. Over 110 yards in each of last 2 games. Alshon Jeffery, Cam Meredith and Zach Miller (182 yards, 3 TDs last 3 games) give Brian Hoyer 3 good targets.

LOS ANGELES (3-2) at DETROIT (2-3)

STATS: Rams have 7 TDs in last 3 games. Detroit has allowed 14 TDs in 5 games. Brian Quick has gone for 51-69 yards with 3 TDs in last 3 games. Lions have 10 TD passes out of 12 scores. FANTASY: Todd Gurley (2.7 ave) is a must start. Tavon Austin is getting more involved in the offense. Detroit allowed 12 TDs to TEs last year and 6 already this year (Lance Kendricks?) Theo Riddick is more of a WR than RB and he’s active. Like Matthew Stafford-Marvin Jones.

PITTSBURGH (4-1) at MIAMI (1-4)

STATS: Steelers averaging 4.5 TDs per game. Miami has allowed 8 TDs in 5 games. Miami allowed 6 of 8 TDs to WRs (Antonio Brown time). FANTASY: Le’Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards in his first game and caught 88 yards in his second. Sammie Coates averaging 83 yards a game. Maybe Ryan Tannehill can throw 2 TDs against the Steelers 27th ranked defense. Jarvis Landry has caught at least 7 passes each game.

CINCINNATI (2-3) at NEW ENGLAND (4-1)

STATS: Giovani Bernard’s caught 20 balls for 182 yards, TD in 3 losses. Bengals have allowed 11 TD passes. Andy Dalton has been sacked 17 times. FANTASY: If you have to use a Bengal, use A.J. Green despite his road struggles. Tom Brady should be good for 2 TDs. The TE Twins (Gronk and Martellis) should score. LeGarrette Blount should get in the end zone, but not rush for big stats.

3 P.M.

KANSAS CITY (2-2) at OAKLAND (4-1)

STATS: Chiefs are 5-1 the last three years, with at least 20 points in every game against Oakland. Jeremy Maclin had 12 passes for 149 yards and 3 TDs vs. Oakland last year. Andy Reid is 15-2 coming out of byes. KC foes scored more in the air (54 TDs) than on the ground (14) in their last 36 games. FANTASY: Jamaal Charles should cut into Spencer Ware’s touches, but not near the goal line. Michael Crabtree had 8 catches and 2 TDs vs the Chiefs last year.

3:30 P.M.

ATLANTA (4-1) at SEATTLE (3-1)

STATS: The Falcons should score 2-3 TDs even though they are at Seattle. Only 24 passing TDs in 26 home games for Seahawks. Seattle’s allowed 5 TDs to WR in last 20 games. Only 6 teams have allowed more points than Atlanta. FANTASY: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones won’t have huge stats. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for 200 yards per game, with 8 TDs in five weeks. Russell Wilson should be at full strength. Jimmy Graham has back-to-back 100 yard games and the Falcons have allowed 5 TDs to TE’s this year. Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin also have to start.

DALLAS (4-1) at GREEN BAY (3-1)

STATS: Ezekiel Elliott has 140, 138 and 134 yards rushing and 3 TDs in last 3 games. Packers have top run defense (43 yards a game). FANTASY: I like Cole Beasley and Jason Witten in this game. Dak Prescott will score twice. Aaron Rodgers should score at least twice. Jordy Nelson once. Like Mason Crosby in this game to hit double digits.

7:30 P.M.

INDIANAPOLIS (2-3) at HOUSTON (3-2)

STATS: Colts can’t run the ball, Texans can’t stop the run, but has 13 sacks. Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and has lost 2 fumbles. Hmmmm. Houston should score 2 TDs, maybe 3 against this defense. FANTASY: Frank Gore should score. Andrew Luck vs top-ranked passed D. Hmmm again. He’ll toss 2 TDs. T.Y. Hilton is a must start. Adam Vinatieri is the best in the league so far. I see Lamar Miller finally getting in the end zone. A struggling Brock Osweiler shouldn’t start even against this defense. He is holding back DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but they should start. Like PK Nick Novak.

MONDAY, OCT. 17, 7:30 P.M.

NY JETS (1-4) at ARIZONA (2-3)

STATS: Jets have lost 3 in a row and allow 27 PPG. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Cards each have 5 TD passes scored and allowed this year, but Arizona has 18 sacks, 7 interceptions – advantage Cards. FANTASY: Matt Forte and Bilal Powell go against the 23rd ranked defense. Brandon Marshall has averaged 6 catches and 102 yards (2 TDs) the last 2 games. All 5 Cards TD passes have gone to WRs. A disappointing Carson Palmer has 6 TDs and averages 289 yards a game while Jets are 31st vs the pass. Play him. Larry Fitzgerald has 5 TDs in 5 games. Could be a good game for John Brown. Play David Johnson, but Jets are second in rushing defense.

 

 

 

 

With Central’s Zach Heckman, It’s the BIG PICTURE that counts

With Central’s Zach Heckman, It’s the BIG PICTURE that counts

After watching Brookfield Central junior running back Zach Heckman bust a 60-yard run for a touchdown, it is hard to imagine he started his career as a lineman because he was ‘too big’ to play in the backfield.

“In fifth and sixth grade I was a guard,” said the personable Heckman when recalling his first exposure to football. “I was above the weight limit (over 120 pounds). Seventh grade I was pretty excited; it was the first year I was (at the weight limit required for that level). I was finally able to carry the ball.”

Heckman is now 5-feet, 11 inches and 175 pounds, by no means intimidating based on his size. But once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s the total package according to Lancers coach Jed Kennedy.

“I think he’s one of the best backs in the state,” Kennedy said. “He’s been really good. I never try to quantify how good a player is going to be. He is one of those kids who would be a really good safety for us. He’d be a really good corner for us, a really good running back for us. He’s a great athlete. He’s really smart.”

Heckman averages over 6.0 yards a carry and is one of the top rushers and scorers in the area and the state.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Heckman, however, was down to earth when asked about his goals.

“I didn’t really think about it that much,” he said. “I wanted to have coach trust me; knowing every game I would be able to do what he asked. Also to have the team trust me as well. Coach told me before the season I would start.”
Kennedy hasn’t been disappointed.

“Malik Turner was a great running back and there hasn’t been that drop off with Zach,” Kennedy said of last year’s starter. “Zach’s been really, really good.

“One thing about Zach, if you tell him to run the ‘B’ gap, he’ll run the ‘B’ gap. If you tell him to run the ‘D’ gap, he’ll run the ‘D’ gap. At times we just tell him ‘Be an athlete, just go make a play.’ He’s very coachable and is always doing exactly what we tell him to do.”

Like all good running backs, Heckman knows that he wouldn’t be successful without the work done by his offensive line.

“They make my job so easy,” he said. “They open up huge holes. It’s really their work (that makes Heckman successful).”

Central plays an unbalanced line. Starting on the left side is senior quick guard Cody Moua (5-10, 215), junior center Alex Wille (5-11, 226), junior strong guard C.J. Heaney, senior inside tackle Jacob Vetta (6-2, 254), senior outsidetackle Sam Ockwood (6-2, 250) and senior tight end Jacob Ozolins (6-6, 235).

Kennedy saw Heckman play the summer before he was hired.

“I saw he was athletic,” he recalled. “First time I saw him play was his freshman season. He started on the freshman team and then as a sophomore he started on the JV and backed up on the varsity.”

When asked about Heckman’s strengths, Kennedy was quick to reply.

“With him it’s a combination of everything,” he said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s fast enough to make the great run. He’s powerful enough to get the tough yardage. If you look at Whitefish Bay (a 50-43 win in the opener) he had 40 carries, averaged over 4 yards a carry. He’s between the tackle tough, getting 4-5 yards a run.

“If you look at some of our other games, at Marquette he had long runs. He got to the outside, he used his speed. I don’t know if he does anything great, but he does everything really, really good.”

Heckman through 8 games has 1,257 yards in 192 carries with 17 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

He has twice carried the ball 40 times and twice he went over 200 yards rushing – against West Allis Hale he had 206 yards and against Marquette he rushed for a season-high 238 yards. His lowest total was 101 yards in a rout of Brookfield East.

He scored 4 touchdowns against West Allis Central, 3 touchdowns against Whitefish Bay and Hartford, 2 against West Allis Hale, Brookfield East and Marquette and once against Wauwatosa East.

He’s not the fastest kid in the state. He’s not the biggest kid in the state. He’s not the most powerful runner in the state. But he’s really, really good at all those things.”


It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Heckman was involved with the Lancers biggest win of the season, when he sparked his team to a 35-30 fourth quarter comeback over Marquette in a battle for the Greater Metro Conference title.

The Hilltoppers just took a 24-14 lead at the end of the third quarter, when Heckman quickly put the Lancers back on top.
First he ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run around end, leaving the Hilltoppers in his dust. Then after Marquette fumbled the kickoff, he ended the drive with a 3-yard score, giving Central the lead for good, 28-24.

Heckman talked about his strong points, which includes his yards after being hit.

“My speed is a big advantage, it enables me to get to the outside,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger this off-season. Last year I noticed I wasn’t getting as many yards after being touched. This year it’s been easier getting yards after being hit. Those long touchdowns, they’re fun.”

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

But he realizes he still can improve his game.

“My moves in open space aren’t very good,” he said. “I more rely on running over people. There were a couple times where a guy has taken a good angle on me and taken me down on the sideline. I could have had a touchdown run. So I have to kind of work on that.”
Kennedy paused a second when asked what Zach needs to work on.

“Continuing to improve inside of our scheme,” he said. “He’s one of the top (runners) in the state in rushing.

It’s hard to tell him to improve. He’s really, really good.

“We haven’t worked on it a lot, but I think we have to start throwing the ball to him more and more. We haven’t done a whole lot of that, but if he continues to fine tune his receiving skills.”
Catching the ball would be fine with Zach.

“I would love to be able to run some routes,” he said, breaking into a big smile. “That seems like it would be pretty fun. Whatever comes, I’ll do.”

One of the reasons Zach and his teammates have been so successful has been their balance on offense.

“(Sophomore quarterback) Drew (Leszczynski) and (senior wide receiver) Thomas Gibson are unbelievable,” he said. “Every defense that we play – they have to respect the pass and the run. You can’t just stuff nine guys in a box and stuff us on the run every time. It’s easier for the O-line and me to get big holes.”

Kennedy agrees with Zach when looking at the big picture.

“The reality is, in order to win a state title, you have to be able to run and throw the ball,” he said. “With a kid like that, the running takes care of itself.”

Kennedy feels that when it comes to leadership, Zach leads the Lancers by example.

“He’s one of those kids who never misses a workout in the weight room. He works hard every day,” he said. “I’ll give you an example. Yesterday we were going to rest him up – you don’t get a lot of chances to give the kids a break. I look out there and he’s practicing. When I asked him what he was doing out there, he said ‘No, coach. I’m good to go.’

“He’s not the kind of guy who will talk your ear off, but he’ll work hard every day. Kids see that and kids recognize that.”
Zachman agrees with his coach’s assessment.

“Vocally, I’m a pretty quiet guy on the team,” he said. “But I try and lead by example – working hard in practice. I’m not like ‘I’m the No. 1 running back, I can slack off.’ I want to work hard every day and show other people they can do that too.”

Despite all his individual accolades, Zach knows what the big picture is all about.

“It’s been a good season, but our one goal is to win a state championship,” he said. “Things like conference championships come along with that, but our work ethic at practice and the weight room, even in film, we’re always just focusing on the state championship. We need to beat good teams to win state.”

Kennedy knows what he has in Zach (What the) Heckman.

“He’s just one of those kids – he’s tough,” Kennedy said. “He’s got it all. He’s not the fastest kid in the state. He’s not the biggest kid in the state. He’s not the most powerful runner in the state. But he’s really, really good at all those things. You put it all together and he can do it all for us.”

QUESTIONS FOR ZACH HECKMAN

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Steak.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Logic (Rap)
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: We are Marshall. Documentaries, Action Movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Office. Comedies.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Spanish. Born in Peru and mom is from Peru.
  • LEAST FAVORITE CLASS: Math
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Hilton Head, S.C.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Play video games (Madden Football).
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield East.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Eighth-grade Jr. Lancers making the AAYFL Championship Game.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Major in Business. Play college football.

A Tip of the Cap to the Brewers

Yes, I think there is a lot to be positive about for our local baseball team and it’s future. I predicted they would win between 68-72 games and they won 73, with one stud major-leaguer (Ryan Braun) in the line-up at season’s end.

I think GM David Stearns and his front office pals did a nice job making trades and pick-ups. Some of the moves were downright steals. Some of his moves were good for both sides, which I personally think that is the way trades should be made.

But we won’t really be able to judge several deals for at least two-three years because of the young kids involved like SS Isan Diaz, C Jacob Nottingham, RHP Bubba Derby, RHP Phil Bickford, C Andrew Susac, OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz and OF Ryan Cordell to name a few of the new arrivals in 2016.

I  also think Craig Counsell did an excellent job of managing and keeping his team playing hard – heck, even winning – down the stretch, when some teams would have thrown in the towel. Even though some of the teams already clinched a playoff spot, a win is a win.

These kids were smart enough to realize they were playing for their baseball future and I credit them for that.

Some thoughts I have on next season.

Please don’t play Jonathan Villar at third base on a regular basis. You either make the play or you don’t at third base and I don’t feel he has the reaction time to play there. He could be either the second baseman or trade bait.  He had a terrific season and it was one of Stearns’ best moves.

Please find a regular third baseman so Hernan Perez can be the ‘super utility’ guy that Counsell wants. I was very upset when he was taken off the roster last year and said so on my twitter account. But I’m glad he accepted the offer as a non-roster player and came back. He is  better four day a week guy than a regular.

Chris Carter tied for first in home runs and games played with Nolan Arenado, Colorado’s superb third baseman. Another excellent signing. So he strikes out. Like former manager George Bamberger said, it’s better than hitting into a double play. Also looking forward to see how Orlando Arcia plays starting the season with the big club.

Keon Broxton was also my pick to start in center last spring. I’m glad on his third trip down he fixed his swing and had a great second half. Domingo Santana needs to stay healthy and that gives you two young starters, with a list of studs a phone call away. I think Brinson could break camp as a regular.

The Brewers have a catcher who can field but not hit in Martin Maldonado. He needs to be the backup. I’m hoping they either pick up a free agent or give Susac, formerly Buster Posey’s backup, a chance.

There are plenty of bullpen bodies on hand, led by Tyler Thornburg. Junior Guerra, another steal by Stearns, and Zach Davies, were solid, but must prove their performance was real. Just look at Taylor Jungmann and Jimmy Nelson if you don’t understand where I’m coming from. I still like both of those young men, though, and I hope they bounce back.

The pitcher I really like is LHP Josh Hader. He could be a fun pitcher to watch and a big part of the future and should have had a look in September. It will be fun in the spring to see some of these young men pitch.

Matt Garza needs to be traded (given away) because this a rebuilding team. Wily Peralta got his act together in the second half and I would also move him in the right deal this winter.

Finally there is the Braun situation.

You can keep him, which I don’t have a problem with, because despite his contract, the Brewers made money this year. He is their best hitter. Period.

Or you can trade him, but hopefully you would get more than four lower level prospects. He needs to bring you a ‘real’ major league starter – pitcher or hitter – or you don’t trade him.

One of the worst things you can do is bring in a ‘cancer’ and that is what Yasiel Puig is. This young clubhouse doesn’t need that. Everything Stearns has done in my book will go right out the window if he would bring a player like Puig here.

I am really looking forward to see the tweaks in the off-season the Brewers will make.

They get a C+ for their first year of rebuilding. I’m impressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Fantasy Football Thoughts – Week 5

BYE WEEKJacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle will have the week off, so there will be several talented players missing.

THIS WEEK – Here are some brief fantasy facts and tips on each game.

PATRIOTS (3-1) AT BROWNS (0-4) – Browns are a bottom 10 defensive team, so New England will score some points. They have averaged 248 yards passing and have rushed for at least 120 yards per game, but they are facing New England. Look for the Pats to try and blow out everyone out now that Tom Brady is back. They might try to ease him back in, but I doubt it. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: Terrelle Pryor,  Brady and WR Chris Hogan, who could be a sleeper this year.

EAGLES (3-0) AT LIONS (1-3) – Is Philly rusty after the bye week and will the Lions be fired up to play well at home. Lions have bottom 12 defense vs run and pass (12 TDs). FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: TE Zach Ertz, sleeper RB Wendell Smallwood, Matthew Stafford and Eric Ebron (if he is healthy).

BEARS (1-3) AT COLTS (1-3): Indy has allowed 30-or-more points three times. Colts are averaging 371 yards and 27 points but Bears have seen Andrew Luck sacked 15 times in 4 games. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: RB Jordan Howard, WR Eddie Royal, Luck, WR T.Y. Hilton and PK Adam Vinatieri, still going strong.

TITANS (1-3) AT MIAMI (1-3): Miami’s defense has held up pretty well and Tennessee’s offense hasn’t scored more than 2 TDs in a game. WR Taje Sharpe hasn’t come through yet and TE Delanie Walker is the Titans most reliable receiver. Miami plays the next 4 games at home and could turn it around. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: RB DeMarco Murray and WRs Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills.

REDSKINS (2-2) AT RAVENS (3-1): Only Cleveland passed for over 200 yards against Baltimore, but opponents do have 8 passing TDs. All four Ravens games by been decided by 6 points or less. He might not play much, but watch RB Kenneth Dixon, coming off a knee injury. He was Ravens’ best RB in August, but hurt his knee. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: QB Kirk Cousins, WR DeSean Jackson and TE Jordan Reed. RBs Dixon, Terrance West and WR Steve Smith, Sr.

TEXANS (3-1) AT MINNESOTA (4-0): All three Houston wins came at home. Vikings have played 8 straight games allowing 17 points or less. Brock Osweiler has led the offense to 5 TDs in 4 games. Minnesota has not allowed more than 4 kicking points in any game. Stefon Diggs has crashed and burned the last two weeks. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: RB Lamar Miller, WR DeAndre Hopkins and TE Kyle Rudolph.

JETS (1-3) AT STEELERS (3-1): Ryan Fitzgerald is averaging 253 passing yards, but has 5 TDs in 4 games. Jets defense has 11 sacks in 4 games. They have allowed 300 yards passing in 3 of 4 games. Ben Roethlisberger has tossed 46 TDs in last 16 home games. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: WRs Quincy Enunwa, Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell.

ATLANTA (3-1) AT DENVER (4-0): The Falcons face a good defense (16 ppg, 17 sacks, 5 interceptions, 3 recovered fumbles), so let’s see what happens as Atlanta leads the NFL in yards and points. Broncos have held QBs with 210 or less yardage four times in a row. Matt Ryan won’t reach his average here (368 yards). Trevor Siemian (left shoulder) day-to-day. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: TE Virgil Green (if he’s healthy), WRs Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders if QB healthy Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman.

BENGALS (2-2) AT COWBOYS (3-1): Dallas is 11th vs the run and Bengals defense is more than respectable. but they have allowed 10 TD passes. Andy Dalton is averaging 309 yards (third-best in league), but the Bengals will focus on the run. Still A.J. Green could pose a match-up problem. Ezekiel Elliott won’t rush for 100 yards, but Zak Prescott is the key here. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten get catches and yards, but no TDs, while Terrence Williams has two TDs the last two weeks. PK Dan Bailey has a bad back and Cowboys brought in kickers this week. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: RB Jeremy Hill and WR A.J. Green, WRs Brice Butler if Dez Bryant doesn’t play and Beasley, one of my favorites.

BILLS (2-2) AT RAMS (3-1): Anthony Lynn being moved to OC has helped this offense, but RB LeSean McCoy is the only fantasy guy worth anything. Bills allowed 13 (Baltimore), 18, (Arizona) and 0 (New England) points in 3 of their games. Rams defense seemed to stop good QBs and then blow it against average ones. In three of four games, the offense has managed 0 (SF), 9 (Seattle) and 17 (Arizona) points. Todd Gurley has a 2.6 average. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: RB McCoy and WR Brian Quick (2 TDs in last 3 games). Not much here.

CHARGERS (1-3) AT RAIDERS (3-1): Despite the records, this should be a fun fantasy game. RB Melvin Gordon leads all RBs with 6 TDs, but averages only 58 yards (3.2 YPC). anyway). QB Phil Rivers is amazing (278 YPG and 2 TDs). The Raiders rank 31st in run defense (134 yards, 5.1) and last in pass defense (333 yards), but they are third in yards and eighth in points offensively. San Diego is 20th or lower in yards (372) and points allowed (27). QB Derek Carr is becoming a stud. Tim Crabtree is better than Amari Cooper in my eyes. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: All 4 San Diego receivers (Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman and Hunter Henry) and Crabtree and Cooper.

BUCCANEERS (1-3) AT PANTHERS (1-3): Jameis Winston (277 yards, 9 TDs) is the best QB in this game if Cam Newton (concussion) is out. Bucs’ TE Cameron Brate has stood out the last 2 games (5 rec, 113 total yards, 2 TDs). Tampa Bay has 9 sacks. I don’t like any of the Carolina backs since Newton is their main running threat (hence the concussion). Derek Anderson should throw at least 2 TDs in this game. TE Greg Olson is their best receiver. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: QB Winslow and WR Mike Evans. Carolina WR’s Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn, Jr., Devin Funchess and Philly Brown. I also like the Carolina defense on MNF.

GIANTS AT PACKERS: Giants averaging 2 TDs per game, but they are overdue and I see 3 scores. Packers haven’t allowed 50 yards rushing against anyone. Eli Manning will throw at least 2-3 TDs unless the Green Bay defensive line pressures him. I look for Odell Beckham, Jr. to break out – who is going to guard him. If Pack O-line protects Aaron Rodgers he could have a big game. FANTASY PLAYERS I’LL WATCH: OBJ, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz and RB Paul Perkins for the Giants. Green Bay I want to watch Rich Rodgers being the top TE now and Eddie Lacy could get his first TD. Also curious to see if the other WRs get a shot to play and do something. The 2-3 WRs are way over-rated, but coach Mike doesn’t know that.

Sasha Semina – a young lady with many talents

Many times a student-athlete is referred to as versatile. Brookfield Central junior Sasha Semina takes that word to another level.

When Brookfield Central girls tennis coach Dave Steinbach needs someone to play the piano or compose music, all he has to do is look to Sasha, his No. 1 singles player, who also has a background in ballet.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"I play piano, I compose music, song write," Semina said recently before a Lancers practice when she sat down to do this interview with me. "They are big passions of mine. I also like writing. creative writing, writing stories."

No one in Sasha's family played tennis (competitively), only recreational.

"Ballet wasn't going too well for me - ballet is really cool. Tennis, when I would watch it, I would see these players have awesome determination; they would fight through anything. They would never give up. They were amazing role models.

I just loved watching all these players. I said 'I can do that.' I did have a lot of fun when I played. Looking at those matches where tennis is just so mental. Really, it's just like a battle. I thought it was really cool."

Semina started taking group lessons initially, then got involved in competitive tournaments.

"I'm very competitive," Sasha said. "I'm not over the top, but winning is very important to me. I want that winning mentality because losing feels pretty terrible."

She doesn’t strut her stuff. She is a leader by example. When she finishes her matches, she’s there. She does all the team-bonding. “You would love to have one like that every year.”

- Coach Dave Steinbach

Semina initially met Steinbach at his Warhawk Camp at UW-Whitewater and brought a smile to his face when she told him she was coming to Brookfield Central.

"I love coach Steinbach. This is my third year on the team with him," Sasha said. "I met him at Warhawk in seventh grade. He asked me what school I wanted to go to and I said Brookfield Central.  He said 'Oh really.'"

Steinbach heard nothing but good things about Semina.

"People told me 'You're really going to get a good one.'  And I did." he said, breaking into a smile. "That made my day."

Semina didn't disappoint.

She was second team All-Greater Metro All-Conference as a freshman and honorable mention as a sophomore. She was second-team All-State and team Most Valuable Player as a freshman and sophomore. She had a combined 48-21 record her first two seasons, a .696 winning percentage playing No. 1 singles.

Sasha enjoys being the Lancers top player, but doesn't like the pressure that comes with it.

"I love being No. 1," she said. "It's a really awesome honor for Brookfield Central which really has a great tennis program under THE coach Steinbach. But it also brings a lot of anxiety with it because I have to play the best player."

A lot of times it will come down to my match. A lot of people really pay attention to the No. 1 singles players and their scores. It also qualifies for state. I also do tennis outside of school - USTA tournaments - sometimes it's really hard because I have got too much in my head because tennis is so mental. Once that happens, you can really get in a rut.

"A lot of times because I've really gotten used to it, I do well under pressure. Sometimes pressure is good, but if you do lose, you have to get over it. A loss is always hard, but you always move on. Pressure is good because pressure drives me to be better."

Sasha says she's aware of why she plays tennis.

"I'm doing tennis for myself for fun," she said. "You have to remember your love of the game. Sometimes when I played a little too much competitively when I was younger, you kind of lose sight. Tennis no longer becomes fun. It becomes a chore. You kind of dread it.

"But then you go out and hit with your friends and you realize this is such a great sport. I'm so lucky to be playing it. Dealing with the pressure, I have to do a lot of little mental tricks. I have to look at a lot of sources like books or go online. I have routines on the court before my matches. I have to make sure I'm ready."

Steinbach is well aware of this, but he feels Sasha handles the pressure well.

"I think it bothers her, but she wins her matches," the veteran coach said. "When she plays someone really good, she competes very well. She doesn't display it (pressure), but internally it bothers all of us. She is very composed. She has very good rituals. She probably has the best rituals of almost any player I've had."

Steinbach then explained Semina's rituals.

"Between points, she'll come back to the fence and make's sure she is really ready," he said. "That keeps her from rushing. She's a grunter on her swing, which is what I want all my players to do. She is a good example of breath control and that keeps her from getting nervous. It helps your timing, it helps your strength. Ritual and breath reduces her anxieties."

Ironically, according to Steinbach, Semina is the total package, on and off the court.

"Her ability isn't what's the most important thing for her on this team," he said. "The fact that even though she is the best player, she socializes with everyone on the team. She hits with everyone on the team.

"She treats them well, as equals, which is a really valuable asset to have. Sometimes your elite players are a little stand-offish."

Sasha talked about how much her teammates mean to her.

"It's awesome, so much better than being on your own," she said. "If you lose you have someone to talk to. This team's amazing. We're all so close. "They're all wonderful girls. They all have so much potential. They're already good players.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"It's like I don't really want to win for myself, but I want to win for my team. I love cheering for my team members. It's so much fun; being there for your teammates, who are some of your closest friends. I love it."

Both Steinbach and Semina agreed about her strong points as a player.

"She has a lot of variety in her game," he said. "She doesn't hit shots the same in a rally. She will give you under spin, she'll give you short, give you deep. She is very crafty and she is also is an athlete, so she has good defensive skills.

"She has more than one weapon, so she can watch her opponents, find out what they don't like and experiment. I ask her what her game plan is, she always has an answer. She is always massaging her opponent to find out what they don't like. She can come to the net. A lot of girls can't volley."

Semina expanded on her coach's comments.

"I'm also good at staying calm. It's hard to stay mentally tough during tennis matches," she said.  "A lot of times you want to get down on yourself, but then you let your opponent back in the match. It can make all the difference. I've gotten a lot better this year, especially staying really calm, thinking through matches. My mentality is a big strength."

Sasha is one of the team captains and she feels that is an important part to who she is.

"Making sure I'm a good role model to my team because they're an awesome team," she said. "They're younger, so I want to set the best example. I also want to represent Brookfield Central and coach Steinbach the best that I can. He's known for having a good mental attitude. My main goal is just to have fun and not stress out."

Steinbach says leadership is nothing new for Sasha.

"She was a leader as a freshman already," he said. "She came in, very self-confident. She does other things (piano, composing music, writing) besides tennis that gives her a lot of self confidence. She doesn't strut her stuff. He is a leader by example. When she finishes her matches, she's there. She does all the team-bonding.

"You would love to have one like that every year."

QUESTIONS FOR SASHA SEMINA

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Beef, a really good burger.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Tom Waits (folk, rock, blues). Also likes Classical.
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Lord of the Rings franchise.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Stranger Things.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Math.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: France.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Write, draw, listen to music.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield East.
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Coming back from a huge deficit to defeat a talented Nicolet Foreign Exchange student
  • PET PEEVE: Poor sportsmanship on tennis court. Pretentious people.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Compose music and play tennis in college.

Brookfield, New Berlin, Tosa West shine on gridiron

Brookfield Central

Brookfield Central held off a determined Sussex Hamilton team, 28-20, and I tip my hat to gutsy RB Zach (What the) Heckman, who got banged up early in the game, but still ran for 132 yards in 30 carries and a TD. Look for a feature on Zach in Preps2pros.net in two weeks.

Jaiden Banda also ran for 79 yards in 10 carries and 2 scores and Drew Leszczynski continues to play QB like a seasoned veteran instead of a sophomore.

Central hosts Tosa East on Friday and then finishes the regular season at Menomonee Falls as coach Jed Kennedy’s crew shoots for their second straight title.

Brookfield East

The Spartans QB Jake Graf ran for two fourth-quarter TDs to put away Menomonee Falls, finishing with 95 yards in 14 carries. Sam Santiago-Lloyd is slowly getting up to speed from his ankle injury and scored a TD and rushed for 82 yards in 22 carries.

Graf has done a wonderful job guiding the Spartans with Santiago-Lloyd being sidelined or not at full strength.

East clinched a playoff berth but closes out with a tough schedule at Marquette and then Sussex Hamilton at home.

New Berlin Eisenhower

The Lions moved back into a tie for first place with a 17-7 win at Greendale. QB Bryce Miller and Devin Colburn each ran for a score and Jayden Olson rushed for 102 yards and Bryce Wesling, PK supreme, had two extra points and a 36-yard field goal.

Defense held the Panthers to one TD pass and knocked them out of a first-place tie.

Ike finishes with a ‘non-conference’ crossover game hosting Greenfield and then a conference crossover game at Shorewood/Messmer.

New Berlin West

Coach Ben Chossek’s Vikings improved to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the Woodland West by crushing Pius, 49-0. RB Mad Max Meleski scored 4 TDs (8, 14, 6, 1) and rushed for 104 yards.

West’s defense tossed it’s second shutout in a row.

The Vikings, still playoff eligible, host South Milwaukee in a ‘non-conference’ crossover game and travel to Whitnall in a conference crossover game.

Wauwatosa West

The Trojans crushed first-place Pewaukee, 39-10, behind RB Paris Howell, who rushed for 178 yards and 2 long TDs (42, 62).

Jamil Razza also scored a TD (8) and tossed a TD pass to Ernie Laspisa (51 yards). Lapisa also ran back a fumble 22 yards for a score and Ean Haller ran 73 yards for the opening score to set the tone.

The Trojans now host Brown Deer and travel to Cudahy to close out the regular season with a ‘non-conference’ and a conference crossover game.

Wauwatosa East

If the Red Raiders had any luck it would be bad, as they dropped a 21-20 decision to West Allis Hale.

Quarterback Luke Lindemann rushed for 92 yards and threw for 88 and a score (Matthew Kubicek) and scored a rushing TD.  Jeremiah King scored the other rushing TD.

They have games at Brookfield Central and then host West Allis Central, as they seek their first win of the year.