The Port Washington football team is counting on veterans to make a strong showing in the 2016 season.
That group is led by senior offensive and defensive lineman Tyler Beach (6 foot-6 inches, 270 pounds), who earned All State honors last season and has verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin.
Also back to run behind Beach and his offensive line mates is senior back Matt Ruppel (6-0, 190), who led the North Shore Conference in rushing with 1,336 yards, averaging 133 per game, and scored 21 touchdowns. Ruppel also was the team's second-leading receiver with 73 yards.
"He is strong and physical and runs well," coach John Bunyan said of Ruppel, a first-team All Conference choice last season.
Ruppel will be joined in the backfield by sophomore H-back Jacob Lippe, who has plenty of speed, and sophomore fullback Deron Spicer.
The quarterback will be senior Tanner Orten (6-0, 155), who threw for 243 yards and a pair of scores last season.
"He throws the ball and runs well," Bunyan said, "so we will have a mix of both skills with him."
Playing at wide receiver are two returning starters, senior Cam Karnitz (6-3, 185) and Sam Lerche (5-11, 155), along with Patrick Knowski.
Defensively, the linebacking corps is paced by Ruppel, an honorable-mention choice last season, and junior Michael Murphy (5-9, 155).
Manning the defensive line are senior Kyle Cassasola (6-1, 280), a second-team all-North Shore selection, and senior Jacob Wilger (6-1, 270). Defensive backs include Lippe and junior Sam Fritsch (5-10, 155).
"I am excited about the kids and how well they have played so far," Bunyan said. "I think we have good depth, and we have a lot of good skill players and good team speed."
Bunyan believes his team can be a dark horse in the always-competitive North Shore Conference, which he said will once again be led by Homestead and Germantown.
"We just need to play consistent football and stay healthy, and we can compete with anyone," he said.
Port opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at New Berlin West, then welcomes Kewaskum at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26.
The NSC slate starts on Friday, Sept. 2, at home against Milwaukee Lutheran.
Player to watch: Matt Ruppel, senior running back who paced the North Shore Conference in rushing yards with 1,336 last season. Ruppel is strong and physical and can pound out the yards.
Keep an eye on: The development of Port's other running backs and its wide receivers. If someone else can provide some threats besides Ruppel, the Pirates should have a strong offense.
We say: With Ruppel running behind Tyler Beach, Port should do well offensively. If the defense can match that level, the Pirates could indeed be a dark horse in the North Shore Conference.
First team: Tyler Beach (OL), Matt Ruppel (RB)
Second team: Kyle Cassasola (DL)
Honorable mention: Tanner Orten (QB), Matt Ruppel (ILB)
First-team losses: None
Coach: John Bunyan
Outcome: Did not make playoffs
Last year (home in bold)
New Berlin West W 28-21
Kewaskum L 34-16
Milwaukee Lutheran L 40-34
Whitefish Bay L 48-14
Cedarburg L 21-14
Homestead L 49-0
Grafton L 21-6
Germantown L 46-28
Nicolet W 48-21
West Allis Central W 41-21
Aug. 19 New Berlin West
Aug. 26 Kewaskum
Sept. 2 Milwaukee Lutheran
Sept. 9 Whitefish Bay
Sept. 16 Cedarburg
Sept. 23 Homestead
Sept. 30 Grafton
Oct. 7 Germantown
Oct. 14 Nicolet