Behind big-time talent, Shorewood-Messmer is aiming high this fall
Carson and Dennis lead the way
His is still a smallish program looking for respect, but with lead players like Division I NCAA recruit tight end-defensive end Jonathan Carson and two-time state track champion quarterback Taylor Dennis, Shorewood-Messmer football coach Drake Zortman knows that he is the subject of envy even among high-powered programs.
"I'll take my top guys against almost anyone else's," he said. "Taylor was good two years ago, he was better last year and now we're going to enjoy the third, and Jonathan is just a flat-out special kid (who has a scholarship offer from Central Michigan)....Anybody would be happy to have them on their team."
The Greyhounds are in the third year of Zortman's rebuilding plan. It has been an unqualified success so far, with two WIAA state playoff berths and a near-miss on the Midwest Classic Conference title last season.
Still, he has a slight disappointment coming out of camp and heading into Friday's first game at home against Woodland Conference East Division favorite South Milwaukee.
"Being this the third year of my five-year plan, I was hoping to have a few more people out," he said. "I was hoping to get about 20 per class, but we still have about 60 overall and our freshmen and sophomores are good groups."
So is the 17-man senior group headed up by Dennis and Carson.
Dennis made a remarkable transformation to get ready for football. He has increased his weight from 153 at the end of the state championship track season for Shorewood and is up to 178-pound football fighting trim.
Aside from Carson (6-3, 246), who was a NOW All-Suburban choice at tight end last fall, Dennis will also have bulldog senior running back Mykyo Evans (5-11, 211) to work with, too. Evans will try to fill the gaps left by the graduated All-Suburban All-Purpose ace Alec Grimmer out of the Greyhounds full-house and pro-sets on offense.
A lot of work, however, has to be done with the rebuilt line if all those tools are to be effective.
On defense, Carson will get help from letter-winners like senior defensive end Tywan Ramsey (6-4, 271), junior linebacker Riley Sellinger (6-2, 184) and senior linebacker Matt Smith (5-6, 160). Zortman said that Sellinger has a chance to be special.
Another high-level returnee is junior defensive back Ray Pierce (6-0, 160) and Zortman said "he'll roll the dice" and hope that Dennis doesn't get hurt when he puts him in the defensive backfield.
"Scheme-wise and program-wise, we're further ahead than we probably should be," said Zortman. "We're doing a good job in camp being physical. We're hoping to compete again (in the Midwest Classic). It should be us and (champion) Lake Country Lutheran again."
Zortman likes the challenges his schedule has in South Milwaukee and fellow Woodland power Brown Deer. He was also happy with the three contact days his team ran with his former employer this summer, defending state Division 2 champ Homestead.
"They were very beneficial for us," he said.
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