John Klus

Oregon senior linebacker John Klus (32) tackles Mount Horeb/Barneveld running back Malik Winston on Aug. 24.

Senior middle linebacker John Klus led the state in tackles for most of the season, so it was no surprise he was named a unanimous first-team Badger South all-conference selection late last month.

One of 13 Panthers to be honored with all-conference honors, Klus helped lead Oregon to a second-place 6-1 record in the conference and a 7-2 regular season mark overall. In the process, Oregon earned its first WIAA Division 2 home playoff game since 2008.

Klus just missed being a unanimous selection last year.

“I thought the last two years he has been the best in the conference,” coach Dan Kissling said. “When the voting was finished (this year) there wasn’t anybody close to him.”

Klus, who finished the season with 127 tackles (six for loss), was also named Defensive Player of the Year for the Badger South. He also had one sack, a forced fumble, an interception and three blocked punt, including two on back-to-back possessions against Milton.

Kissling who has coached at his alma mater since 2000 (2010 as the head coach) said, said while Oregon has had some tremendous linebackers, the numbers speak for themselves.

“You can’t really argue with John’s career stats, 458 total tackles in four years,” Kissling said.

John Jones is second on that list with 283 and Nick Kaschub is third with 234.

“Even if we didn’t bring John up his frosh and sophomore years, he still would have led our program with 351 tackles,” Kissling said. “He has natural instincts for the linebacker position and a motor that is alway going 110 percent, which puts him at that elite level.”

Klus was joined on the first team by senior down lineman Logan Ackerman and senior defensive back Carter Erickson. Senior defensive back Carson Smedley and junior linebacker Matt Kissling earned second-team honors.

Ackerman was fifth with 74 tackles, including eight for a loss, which was second on the team. He tied Kissling for the team-lead with four sacks. Erickson had 55 tackles and was second to only senior defensive back Jack Haufle (5) on the team with four interceptions.

“No doubt losing those guys (Ackerman, Smedley, Erickson and Haufle) will hurt us,” Kissling said. “Logan was the kid we played against our opponent’s best O-linemen.”

Smedley had 78 tackles to go along with a forced fumble and two interceptions.

“Carson’s leadership as a safety was huge and will be missed,” Kissling said. “Carson isn’t the biggest kid or the fastest one out there, but he puts himself in position to make plays because he understands the game and what we want him to do out there.”

Smedley didn’t play in the team’s playoff loss to La Crosse Central and Kissling said his absence really hurt Oregon.

Matt Kissling is the only all-conference defensive player that will be back next year. He finished second on the team with 83 tackles, including a team-best 10 for loss, to go along with an interception and a defensive touchdown.

“We did play a fair number of juniors, which will help us next year but having Logan, Carson and Jack definitely let us do some things to stop our opponents,” Kissling said. “Having Matt coming back, he should be one of the leaders out there next season.”

Monona Grove senior defensive end Sam Gronski was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Offensively, senior running back Dylan DiMaggio and Junior guard Nate Hall earned first team offensive honors.

DiMaggio rushed for 686 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for a team-best 209 yards and a touchdown. Monona Grove senior quarterback Jordan Bishop earned was named Offensive Player of the year and Stoughton junior tackle Jack Nelson was named Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Senior center Brandon Schultz and junior tackle Brady Gagner were joined on the second team offense by senior running back Keion Szudy.

Szudy rushed for a team-best 812 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. He also caught 18 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns.

Kissling said while he felt like both DiMaggio and Szudy were first-team caliber type kids, it’s hard to get more than one guy on the same team on the first-team.

“There were some really good backs in our conferences this year,” he said. “I think Dylan really shined against some of the top teams in the conferences, and I think that is why he got the edge over Keion.

His ability to catch and run may have also put him slightly ahead despite missing the final game against Monroe.

“DiMaggio was also a kid who really got a lot of his yards after being hit,” Kissling said. “He was really hard to bring down with one defender.”

Sophomore tight end Gabe Pearson, senior Matt Rusch (offensive lineman) and senior Jack Haufle (receiver/kicker) were tabbed as honorable mentions.

Pearson caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in six games. Haufle caught five balls for 96 yards in four games.

Kissling said he is very excited having three all-conference returns back for next season.

“I think all three of them will have bigger roles on both sides of the ball, as will many of our kids will,” he said. “I think having Brady, Nate and Gabe coming back on the O-line side will definitely keep us going in the right directions.”

Sports editor