BELOIT—Brad Dement will be the absolute last person you’ll find who will disparage Beloit Memorial’s football foes in the Southern Lakes Conference.
If he hears anyone claim his Purple Knights suddenly have an easy road after leaving the rugged Big Eight, the head coach will squash that talk as fast as he hopes defensive end Josh Martinez levels an opposing quarterback.
“I’ve told the guys it’s a new conference, but these teams are just as good as the ones we played before,” he said. “You can’t take anything for granted. The top team in the conference was undefeated and went pretty far in the playoffs and had a guy go to the Badgers. These are quality, well-coached and disciplined teams.”
The best thing about the new conference is simply that it isn’t the old one. That alone should make it easier to establish a new mind-set.
“I want our guys to think they only have to worry about Beloit Memorial and what we do and if we do things right we can be successful,” he said. “That was tough when we were playing Sun Prairie, Middleton and Verona back-to-back and in the back of their minds they know we haven’t had success against any of them for so long. This is more of an unknown and that’s something I can take advantage of.
“I really do believe this is an opportunity for this program to start fresh and to turn it around.”
While Dement played quarterback as a Purple Knight and enjoyed flinging the ball around, his teams may have looked a lot like John Heineke’s. He really appreciates the run-oriented Wing-T and figures he has the horses to make it work.
“We’re going to go back to what we ran last year and try to perfect it,” Dement said. “We have three quality running backs in Cavari Kramer, Dee Nora and Toby Robinson. Cavari and Toby can break it at any time. Dee may not be able to do that, but he’s probably our best at hitting a hole at top speed. I really like our backfield and I think we have the guys up front to block for them.”
The Knights lost versatile quarterback Griffin Oberneder to graduation and his job falls to Aidan Kuhle-Tyler. Like Oberneder, Kuhle-Tyler will also see time in the secondary.
“I don’t like doing it a lot because he’s our quarterback, but he’s such a smart kid and he knows everything,” the coach said. “He’s like Griff was for us. Aidan did a nice job in the scrimmage (with Janesville Craig) executing the fakes and making the passes he had to.”
Dement said new assistant Bob Meyers, the former Parkview head coach, will help run the Knights offense this fall.
“He has a wealth of experience in the Wing-T and he is working with our linemen and running the offense,” the coach said. “He will be up in the booth which will be huge for us. We’ll be calling plays together, but really I’m giving him full autonomy with it. I’ll just be kind of the CEO.”
Dement said “about five or six” players will see duty on both sides of the football. For instance, Kramer will also play some safety and Nora some linebacker.
“We’ll have a couple of offensive linemen playing on defense, too,” the coach said.
One will be offensive tackle Martinez, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder who Dement said is one of the most complete prospects on the squad.
“Martinez has the frame to put on another 20 pounds,” the coach said. “He’s strong and he has long arms. I think his future would be on defense in college.”
The other will be Andre Fuller, a strong, stocky player who’ll anchor the offensive line at center and also play some defensive tackle.
Returning middle linebacker Kendale Thomas will also play a key role.
“Kendale can control the middle for us and he’s also going to play some tight end,” Dement said.
The Knights will get a big assist from the soccer team on special teams. Brothers Baylor and Beckham Denu may share kicking duties.
“Baylor has been kicking off into the endzone and Beckham has been punting 40 yards or more,” Dement said. “They both can handle field goals and extra points. We’re really blessed with those guys and there’s another brother coming up. I hope he wants to kick, too.”
The Knights open their schedule at non-conference foe Racine Case on Friday. Dement said he will only have a few players who may be out due to academic reasons.
“We really did a great job, my staff and I, making sure all our kids were going to our study halls,” he said.
Dement said Case will be a good challenge.
“They have some athletes they’ll try to get the ball to and a quarterback who can throw pretty well,” the coach said. “They have some big interior linemen and some guys who can move. They’ll try to spread the ball around and they’ll try to take the outside away from you and force you inside to where their big guys are.”