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Knights hoping to step forward with the football

Coach sees signs of improvement after winless 2006

Aug. 23, 2007

Establishing good habits, starting new traditions and being patient will be watchwords for the Nicolet football team this fall as the Knights seek to break their long run of losing seasons which hit a low point in 2006 with an 0-9 campaign.

"We've had a great attitude to start," Nicolet coach Rob Rinka said. "We're doing some things intuitively now, not coach-directed and that's a good sign. It's no longer 'hurry and get ready'. The kids got in shape over the summer and got into the weight room and passing leagues. There seems to be a level of maturity and a sense of purpose, not to just come out but also to be ready to perform. They're backing each other up. They want to succeed."

And that's half the battle, as the Knights prepare to open their season at non-conference opponent Pewaukee on Friday, Aug. 24.

Rinka and his staff are working with about 45 athletes this fall. Key performers on offense include senior halfback Colin Long, junior halfback Barik Williams and sophomore fullback Reggie Dillingham. Rinka said that Dillingham has been most impressive as he bench-pressed 265 pounds as a freshman last season.

Junior Kyle Poklar will handle the quarterback's slot.

Three-year veteran tackle senior Dan Taibleson will look to pave the way for the backs out of the Knights multiple-look offense this fall.

Defensively, senior linebacker Nick Vigder and junior tackle Mustafa Karadeniz will lead the way as the Knights will run out of a 4-3 set.

"We have a lot of competition going on," Rinka said.

And a lot of motivation as well.

"We need to establish some traditions and break some bad habits," Rinka said. "You look at our record of futility over the years (only one WIAA playoff berth ever) and it becomes habit-forming. Hope is always high at the start of the season but then it crumbles on the reality of our schedule and then all that trickles down to the kids.

"To be successful, you need to break some old traditions and put ourselves in position to be successful. When we face teams like Homestead and Germantown, we just can't roll over. We need to say it's a game on our schedule and get motivated for it, establish some small goals. We can't always go for the big play. We need to get a first down here and then a first down there and then build from that. The rest will take care of itself. Whatever situations we'll be in, we'll gain from it."

Already things have started improving. Rinka reported that about four years ago, 20 to 30 percent of the players would be late for practice. Not real late, but five minutes or so.

"Now, that's not an issue," he said.

It's a first step.

Vital Stats

ENROLLMENT: 1,378

NICKNAME: Knights

CONFERENCE: North Shore

LAST YEAR: 0-9, 0-7 conference

PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify

The Sidelines

HEAD COACH: Rob Rinka

ASSISTANTS: James Davis, Thomas Karthausser, Dave Wolter and James T. Wilson

Look Back

2006 SEASON

Thomas More 27, Nicolet 14

Westosha Central 38, Nicolet 21

Grafton 35, Nicolet 21

Cedarburg 45, Nicolet 15

Milwaukee Lutheran 20, Nicolet 13

Homestead 42, Nicolet 0

Port Washington 27, Nicolet 0

Whitefish Bay 35, Nicolet 7

Germantown 49, Nicolet 14

Look Ahead

2007 SCHEDULE

(All games 7 p.m. unless noted)

Aug. 24at Pewaukee
Aug. 31Westosha Central
Sept. 7Port Washington
Sept. 15at Homestead*
Sept. 20Cedarburg
Sept. 28at Germantown
Oct. 6Grafton*
Oct. 12Milwaukee Lutheran
Oct. 17at Whitefish Bay

*-1 p.m.

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