COLFAX — Four years ago, a small group of football players greeted head coach Mark Maloney and his staff on the first day of practice. Several of them were thrown into the fire rather quickly, especially anyone who showed any desire to play on either the offensive or defensive line and some ended up playing all four years.A few played two or three seasons while others played only a year. The team went from a 3-6 record as freshman with one conference win to 2-7 as sophomores and nary a conference win before they saw the results of their off season weight program take affect. As juniors, the Vikings were 5-4 and qualified for playoffs with a 3-3 conference record, then lost in a Level I game at Edgar. They were even more successful this year, finishing at 6-3 and tying for second in the conference at 4-2. Looking for their first playoff win since 1984, the Vikings fell short and lost at home to Chequamegon.
Sawyer DeMoe was one of the four year starters for Maloney, playing everything from quarterback, running back and tight end on offense and defensive end as well as linebacker on the other side of the ball. DeMoe rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in his career, completed 5 of 19 passes for 136 yards and one score and collected 25 passes for 551 yards and two TDs, leading the team this year with 348 yards on 16 receptions with one TD. He also returned five kickoffs back for 40 yards and took care of the kick offs this year. DeMoe came up with some mighty big plays on the defensive side, compiling 43 solo tackles in two years and 49 assisted tackles and led the team this year with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss of yardage. In the fourth quarter of the Spring Valley game, he made three straight tackles which included two quarterback sacks. He was named First team All Conference this year as a defensive end and Second Team on offense as an end.
Ben Kragness was a four year player and played on the line for both defense and offense. Weighing only 220 pounds as a freshman, Kragness is a prime example of what a good weight lifting program can do as he muscled up to 260 pounds his senior year. As an offensive lineman this year, he was instrumental in helping the running backs accumulate over 2,000 rushing yards, and on defense he came up with 13 tackles with 20 assisted tackles. He also scored a touchdown against Glenwood City when he blocked a pass and snared it in midair then bulled his way to the end zone. His junior year he was named Second Team AC as a defensive lineman and he culminated his senior year being named First Team for both offense and defense.
Jeremiah Wait’s high school debut was put on hold for a year when he tore his ACL in the first week of practice his freshman year. But he bounced back to play in three varsity games as a sophomore then began to make teams around the area take notice when he finished second on the team in rushing as a junior with 527 yards, was first in kickoff returns with eight for 202 yards and also led the team in punt returns with 123 yards on seven attempts. As a defensive back, he was second in tackles with 28 solo and 25 assisted while picking off two passes. After a steady diet of weight lifting, he built himself up from 135 pound as a freshman to 170 pounds his senior year which resulted in him pounding the middle of the line and scooting around the edges to gain 1,194 yards on just 186 rushes, averaging 132 yards a game. He also scored 11 touchdowns for the season, snagged a couple of passes for 19 yards and ran five kickoffs back for a total of 77 yards. Struggling with a high ankle sprain late in the season, he still managed to finish with 21 solo tackles on the defensive side with a trio of interceptions. His career total for rushing yards was 1,761 and he was a Second Team AC defensive back as a junior and Honorable Mention on offense, then moved up to First Team this year for both offense and defense. To top things off, he was named the Conference Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in rushing yards. Wait hopes to fulfill a childhood dream and play at the college level, probably as a defensive back.
Trevor Olson lettered three years while playing in the trenches on both sides of the ball and was another cog in the wheel of linemen who blew some big holes open for Wait and company. At 299 pounds, Olson was a pulling guard and was often out in front making a crushing block to spring his teammates for some long runs. On the defensive side his junior and senior years, he totaled 20 tackles and 31 assisted tackles, one for loss of yardage and two QB sacks while forcing a pair of fumbles. He was chosen Honorable Mention AC as a defensive lineman his junior and senior years.
Andrew Adix was a great compliment to Wait as the fullback for three seasons and was also a linebacker for two. He rushed for 251 yards and crossed the goal line six times while snaring five passes for 81 yards as a senior. He was second on the team in kickoff return yardage with 119 yards on seven attempts. But Adix worked just as hard when he didn’t have the ball as he was usually out in front of Wait looking to seal off the cornerback or linebacker, allowing him to get around the corner. As a linebacker on defense, he came up with 26 tackles with three for loss of yards. Career wise for offense, he rushed for 264 yards and six TDs and caught seven passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
Tyson Hellmann was another three year player and had the ever important duty of getting the ball to the quarterback as the center. He also played on the defensive line and in his last two seasons collected 15 solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles. He was rewarded as a Second Team AC center this year for his ability to clear a path for his running backs to gain a lot of those yards.
Jon Hayton had a rough sophomore and junior year, missing most of those seasons with injuries. But he made the most of his senior year when he led the Vikings in tackles from his linebacker position with 47 solo and 45 assisted tackles. Three of those tackles were for loss of yardage and he had one sack, earning him a First Team AC selection. He had one of his biggest games against Spring Valley, making some key stops late in the fourth quarter allowing the Vikings to hold on for a win.
After playing his sophomore year then skipping his junior season, Logan Mittelstadt came back strong, playing on both sides of the line. He came up with 23 solo tackles and assisted on 25 more this year. He made his only pass reception of the year count as it went for a 26 yard touchdown against Tigerton.
Jacob Klukas was a two year player at the varsity level and had to step in to fill some big shoes this year when a couple of his teammates went down with injuries. Klukas was a defensive back and made some key plays by knocking down several passes in the win over Glenwood City..Klukas also saw some time on offense, scoring a rushing touchdown in the Tigerton game, and as a receiver, caught one pass for nine yards.
Tucker Tiege played mostly on special teams his senior year and recorded six solo tackles and six assists.
Andrew Larson, in his only varsity season was a wide receiver and snagged two passes for 64 yards and scored a touchdown against Tigerton. He ended up scoring the final points of the season for the Vikings on a two point conversion pass from DeMoe against Chequamegon. On defense, Larson recorded five solo tackles and six assists.
Darrion Jenson was a one year player and played on both the offensive and defensive line. He finished his career with four solo tackles and a couple of assists.
“I’ve always said this class of seniors would be my measuring stick,” Maloney said after the season ended. “They have done a great job of turning the football program into a winning one. Now it will be up to the younger classes to carry it forward. This group of seniors put in a lot of sweat equity during these four years and it paid off. They were very coachable kids,were very respectful to everyone and they will be hard to replace. They have definitely raised the bar for the underclassmen,” he added.