By Alex Strouf, The Denmark News
The North Eastern Conference was a sweet change for the Denmark Vikings, formerly in the Bay Conference. Without having the play teams like West De Pere, Menasha, and Seymour every year, it serves a less frustrating path for the Vikings.
However, that still means teams like Freedom, Wrightstown, and Luxemburg-Casco need to be dealt with every year.
“We’re not gonna miss playing teams like West De Pere, I’m not going to lie. That doesn’t bother us at all,” Denmark head coach Chris Haese told me earlier this week. “However, you can look at our schedule and we’re still playing some really tough teams. There’s a lot of tough teams in our conference.”
Denmark got to open the season against Freedom on Friday. The Vikings returned their top two leading rushers from last season, junior quarterback Jon Deprey and senior fullback Matt Vanden Heuvel.
However, most of both the offensive and defensive linemen for the Vikings last season were apart of the Class of 2015. Replacing them is not an easy task, and it showed on Friday.
Jacob Diny was Denmark’s center last season, and a positional battle between junior Pete Mears and senior Chad Kropp would decide who would replace Diny this season. Mears would be named the starter for Friday’s game.
Both teams got off to fast starts, as Freedom would score a 65-yard passing touchdown from junior quarterback Charlie Jadin to Avery Van Stralen.
The Vikings would follow that up with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jon Deprey to Nathan Rabas. However, the extra point from first-year kicker Tyler Penovich would be blocked.
The Irish and quarterback Charlie Jadin would continue to punish the Denmark defense through all four quarters, however safeties Luke Wavrunek (Sr.) and Wyatt Gezella (So.) would each do a nice job. Wavrunek finished with 7.5 tackles and an interception, while Gezella finished with four and two pass deflections.
Offensively, the Vikings started to throw the ball a lot more than last season. Deprey finished with two touchdown passes and Rabas finished the night with two touchdown receptions. Deprey only threw one touchdown all of last season and Rabas was the one to catch that.
For the Irish, Jadin finished 27-for-38, 354 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception in his first varsity start. Yes, his first full game.
“It was a great experience. Didn’t expect that coming out of here, but the pass game was just working,” Jadin told me after Freedom’s 35-19 win. “We were just able to get almost everything we wanted out of that.”
The Vikings move to 0-1 in season and conference play. The game they’re focused on is next week, as they travel to where their season ended last year; Wrightstown High School. Denmark head coach Chris Haese will face his two brothers who are assitant coaches at Wrightstown, while his nephew, Zac Haese, is the quarterback for Wrightstown.
You can listen live to Denmark vs. Wrightstown on InsideDenmarkSports.com, with the pre-game show beginning at 6:30PM.