From losing longtime coach Jeff Setz to the sudden passing of the father of senior Jaron Radish, the New Berlin Eisenhower football team experienced tragedy off the field this past season.
But the Lions came together to find success on the field, finishing 7-3 and 5-1 in the Woodland to make the WIAA Division 3 playoffs for the second consecutive year.
"I felt very good about our season overall and really like how our team came together as a group as the season progressed," Eisenhower coach Matt Kern said. "We were faced with some real challenges this year off the field, and I think in the long run those things pulled our team closer together. While we fell just short in each of our three losses this year, we were happy to have made the playoffs for the second straight season. Our seniors went 15-3 in the regular season the past two seasons, which I think is a great accomplishment."
After falling to Plymouth in the season opener, Eisenhower rattled off wins over West Bend East, Wauwatosa West, Pius XI and New Berlin West before dropping a 26-24 decision to eventual state semifinalist Pewaukee. The Lions closed the regular season with victories over Greendale, Greenfield and Shorewood/Messmer.
Seeded third in its playoff region, Eisenhower was unable to get past Wisconsin Lutheran, as the Vikings came away with a 33-24 win to again eliminate the Lions.
Earning first-team All-Woodland West honors on offense for the Lions were junior wide receiver Stephen Halusan, junior quarterback Bryce Miller, junior tight end Joey Lang, junior offensive lineman Dylan Abbott, senior offensive lineman Michael Keller, senior running back Joey Scaffidi and senior kicker Bryce Wesling.
Senior linebacker Max Maier, junior defensive back Brett Angiolo, senior defensive tackle Adam Lancaster and Wesling as a punter were first-team All-Woodland West on the defensive side of the ball.
Honorable mention All-Woodland West selections from Eisenhower were junior running back Jake Belongia, senior wide receiver Sullivan Kulju, senior defensive tackle Nick Fischer and sophomore defensive end Mark Shields.
The Lions will graduate 21 seniors, including all-conference picks Scaffidi, Keller, Wesling, Maier, Lancaster, Kulju and Fischer.
But Eisenhower returns six starters on defense and seven starters on offense, as a talented junior class will lead the team as seniors. Miller, Belongia, Halusan, Lang, Abbott and Jayden Olson give the Lions a solid offensive core, while Angiolo and Shields are back as all-conference players on defense.
"We will lose some very talented and key players on both sides of the ball like every team does, but we are excited about the core group that we will have back," Kern said. "Keys for the off-season will be identifying our next group of core linemen; identifying some options for replacing Wesling as a kicker and punter; and finding some depth within our secondary."