BELOIT—Brad Dement remembers the playoff game all too well.
A senior quarterback in 1997, he’d helped guide Beloit Memorial to the WIAA Division 1 state semifinal round against Oak Creek at Janesville’s Monterey Stadium.
“I go back to that game in my mind all the time,” Dement said. “It was John Heineke’s final year. He told us right before we were going to play Sun Prairie that this was going to be his last season. That pumped us up and we beat them. We were close in that semifinal, too, but couldn’t quite get it done.”
Unfortunately, the Oak Creek curse was still very much in effect. The Purple Knights fell in a shootout, 42-36,
“We really wanted to win that game for Coach Heineke because we respected him so much,” Dement said. “That hasn’t gone away. Part of what I’m doing now is because I want to make him proud. I had an awesome experience playing under him and made lifelong friendships with teammates. I hope the kids playing now will have that same feeling.”
While the task of rebuilding Beloit’s football program has been an insurmountable task for a number of quality head coaches, Dement relishes the opportunity. He has been named the interim head coach for the unorthodox spring WIAA football season.
“This has always been a dream of mine to be a part of,” said Dement, who is a Health and Physical Education teacher at the high school. “I always kept tabs on the program.”
So what is the first step back to respectability?
“From my experience as a teacher and coach, I believe it’s all about building relationships,” Dement said. “Priority number one is teaching these kids how to be good people and doing it by example. We need to be involved in their lives and build trust. We need to really understand them, forgetting about all the things that happened in the past and starting over.”
Dement said he wants the coaching staff to be energetic, transparent and able to communicate.
“We’re kind of blowing the whole thing up and we’re going to start over with the foundation that these students come first and it’s more important to teach them skills that will make them better men,” he said. “By doing that, they will become better football players. It goes hand in hand. We are going to change the culture.
“I want the players to feel good about being a part of this program and respecting it. The wins will come. The big thing is having pride in it.”
Dement says continuity needs to be established from youth football and intermediate school on up to the high school.
“I look back when Coach Heineke ran things,” he said. “In youth football, we ran his offense and defense. In middle school we ran his offense and defense. Literally, there might have been one or two more plays, but the offense was basically the same from youth football up to high school. He had middle school coaches in Wayne Burich and Bill Dupuis who were as passionate as any of the high school coaches. We need to build that foundation. I know it’s a big task, but I think we have people here and in the community who are excited about giving kids the right opportunities.”
Dement, 41, nearly played for the last Knights to post a winning record. He graduated in 1998 and the following fall was the final playoff season and last team to finish .500 or better.
After graduating from BMHS, Dement played for Carroll University from 1999-2002 and was a two-time All-MWC quarterback, setting records there for passing yards and completions.
After graduation, Dement was the Pioneers quarterback coach for a year and also served two seasons as offensive coordinator at Wauwatosa East High School. He helped the Red Raiders earn two consecutive WIAA playoff appearances as they led their league in total offense both years.
Dement headed west where he became a teacher at a middle school in Phoenix, Ariz., and coached quarterbacks at two different high schools and was an instructor in the Randy Wright/Jeff Trickey Quarterback Camps.
In the fall of 2013, Dement returned to Beloit after the death of his father to help his mother. He was hired as a physical education teacher for Cunningham and Burdge elementary schools and joined then-head coach Jon Dupuis’ staff at BMHS.
He stayed during Rodney Wedig’s tenure, but when he left to take over the Milton program in 2019, Dement joined head coach Derek Diehl at Turner. He helped develop Kenny Draeving into a record-setting quarterback who landed a scholarship from Upper Iowa.
“I’ve been blessed to work with some outstanding coaches,” Dement said. “First there was Coach Heineke and his staff. Then I had a great college coach at Carroll and when I left I worked with a Hall of Fame coach at Tosa East (Tom Swittel). In Arizona, I worked with another Hall of Fame coach in Jeff Bowen. Obviously, coming back here, working with Jon, Rodney and Derek, I continued to learn a lot.”
Since 2000, the Knights have had no fewer than eight head coaches. During that span, the team’s best record was 3-7 in Wedig’s third season in 2017. The Knights have won one game or none in 16 of those seasons, including 2019’s 1-8 under Ken DuBose.
“Right now with the season in the spring, we’ll try to set the culture here,” he said. “As we get out of the season, we’ll be making more contacts with the youth program. We have a coach on staff, Rob Douglas, who will head that up. My goal is for communication with those youth coaches. Get them playbooks, have clinics and talk about our foundation and building blocks. That’s how we’re really going to turn this thing around. It goes back to building relationships and making them feel like a part of this, too.”
Dement said he’s currently finalizing his staff. Equipment has been inventoried. Football practice doesn’t begin until March 8, but there have been contact days.
“We’re working on our contact days lifting weights and we’ve had online meetings,” he said. “We’re adjusting like all the other teams to the COVID protocols. We’ll be ready to play against whomever, whenever.”