Matt Kissling

Oregon’s Matt Kissling (right) tackles Monona Grove’s quarterback during a game in 2017. Kissling will play a larger role as a running back and linebacker this season.

Both Oregon and Stoughton are hoping to contend for a Badger South Conference championship heading into the season.

Oregon coach Dan Kissling tabbed Monona Grove and Watertown as the two top teams coming into the season. The Panthers will host the Silver Eagles and Goslings in Weeks 7 and 8.

Oregon has won five conference titles, but not since 1990.

“We haven’t won conference in so many years, and I think we can do that this year,” Kissling said. “But especially this year, there’s no slouch in the conference. Every team is better from last year. There used to be a time 10 years ago where you could count on beating a couple teams 35-0, but that’s not the case anymore.”

Stoughton coach Dan Prahl sees his Vikings as the conference favorite, ahead of Monona Grove, and Oregon and Milton as potential dark horses in the race.

“In this conference, every week is tough,” Prahl said. “We’re going to see a variety of styles and talent levels. We’re hungry for a conference title, especially after coming up a game short two years ago.”

Monona Grove

Head Coach: Brandon Beckwith (4th season), 42-7

Letterwinners returning: 25

Offensive starters returning: 5

Defensive starters returning: 0

The Silver Eagles have to reload after graduating all of their defensive starters from a Badger South Conference championship team last year.

Monona Grove has won the conference title nine of the last 10 years. The Silver Eagles made a run to the Division 2 state quarterfinals last year, where they lost 33-7 to Badger North champ Waunakee.

Experience could be an issue with just 13 seniors. Senior running back Brady Killerlain (836 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry and nine touchdowns) will be the focal point of the Silver Eagles’ spread attack.

Junior Cam Behnke and sophomore Casey Marron are batting to start at quarterback. Senior center Garrett Hanson, a first-team all-conference selection last year, anchors the offensive line, along with classmates Nate Wilcox (6-foot-2, 330 pounds) and Devin Bilder (6-foot-4, 285 pounds).

Watertown

Head Coach: Benji Kamrath (11th season), 51-50

Letterwinners returning: 36

Offensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters returning: 7

The Goslings averaged 26.5 points per game last year.

Watertown returns four all-conference players on offense. Second-team quarterback Ethan Pauly passed for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns last year as a junior, and also ran for 448 yards and eight scores. Tight end Daniel Denault earned first-team honors after hauling in 59 receptions for 711 yards.

Wide receiver Cade Oiler, a first-team selection, had 34 receptions for 400 yards and four touchdowns, and Kory Stas was a second-team selection with 41 receptions for 786 yards and 12 touchdowns. Both are ranked in the top 15 wide receivers in the state by Wissports.net.

Oregon

Head Coach: Dan Kissling (10th season), 33-54

Letterwinners returning: 19

Offensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters returning: 7

The Panthers had one of the top running games in the Badger South last year, racking up 2,261 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Oregon finished one game behind Monona Grove last year for the conference title after a 21-7 loss to the Silver Eagles in Week 3.

The Panthers have to replace two first-team all-conference running backs in Dylan Dimaggio and Keion Szudy. Oregon could rely on an experienced offensive line led by senior guard Nate Hall, who was a first-team pick, and senior tackle Brady Gagner, who was a second-team selection.

In the backfield, the Panthers are expected to lean on senior running back Matt Kissling (121 yards last year), Mason Grender (216 yards) and junior fullback Ryan McCorkle.

Oregon also has one of the top tight end targets in the conference in junior Gabe Pearson (7 catches, 117 yards).

There is a quarterback competition between junior Erik Victorson, senior Corey Moore and junior Brevin Brisack.

The Panthers’ 3-3 defense will have to fill the void of all-state linebacker John Klus. Kissling could be a candidate to replace Klus at linebacker, along with senior Logan Woodson and junior Clay Haggerty. Pearson, Hall, Gagner and senior Anthony Wilson will anchor the defensive line.

Stoughton

Head Coach: Dan Prahl (5th season), 23-17

Letterwinners returning: 22

Offensive starters returning: 8

Defensive starters returning: 6

The Vikings run a spread offense with talented linemen and skill position players.

The key cog on the line is University of Wisconsin-Madison recruit Jack Nelson, who Prahl said excels in pass protection and gets off the ball well.

Nelson is ranked as the second-best player in Wisconsin by Wissports.net. Quarterback Adam Hobson threw for 1,239 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, and ran for 674 yards and five scores.

Hobson’s top target last year was Nathan Hutcherson, who caught 40 passes for 426 yards and six touchdowns.

The Vikings’ young 4-3 defense is expected to be anchored by junior linebacker Brooks Empey, who is the top returning tackler from last year with 61 stops.

Madison Edgewood

Head Coach: Jesse Norris (2nd season), 3-6

Letterwinners returning: 7

Offensive starters returning: 5

Defensive starters returning: 2

The Crusaders run a spread offense that will feature a lot of new skill players.

All five returners on the offense are linemen. Patrick Wolter, Connor Grabins and Nick Fox were second-team all-conference last season.

Edgewood will play all of its home games at Breese Stevens Field since school officials are still negotiating with the City of Madison to get approval to play games on its campus.

Milton

Head Coach: Rodney Wedig (1st season)

Letterwinners returning: 21

Offensive starters returning: 6

Defensive starters returning: 3

Wedig takes over a Red Hawks program looking to rebound after going 3-6 the last three years. The last time Milton made the playoffs was 2015.

Wedig went 6-41 in five years at Beloit Memorial before coming to Milton. He guided Big Foot to a Division 4 state runner-up finish in 2008 and a Division 4 state championship in 2009.

Quarterback Hunter Pernot threw for 533 yards and six touchdowns in five games for the Red Hawks last season. Pernot is competing with Evan Jordahl for the starting spot, but both could play a role on offense. Senior running back Nick Huber (327 yards, 5.5 yards per carry last season) and Jerry Jones are expected to carry the load in the backfield. Dane Nelson is the Red Hawks’ top returning wide receiver (25 catches, 325 yards and three touchdowns last season).

Milton runs a 3-4 defense led by second-team all-conference safety Jordan Stivarius, who had 67 tackles and one interception last year, and junior linebacker Logan Knudsen (48 tackles).

Monroe

Head Coach: Toby Golembiewski (4th season), 17-14

Letterwinners returning: 28

Offensive starters returning: 8

Defensive starters returning: 7

The Cheesemakers return both quarterbacks who played last year in senior Alex Witt and junior Max Golembiewski. Witt served as the starting quarterback for the first six games, but moved to tight end to get more blocking on the edge. Both are expected to play a role on offense as starters.

The Cheesemakers lost their first six games last year, then rallied to win two of their final three. Senior running back Nick Bansley is a threat out of the backfield after rushing for 456 yards and five touchdowns last season. Junior Tyler Mattley could also help carry the load in Monroe’s Wing-T offense.

Seniors Bodie Minder and Julian Gruber were all-conference selections on both the offensive and defensive lines last year.

Fort Atkinson

Head Coach: Brady Grayvold (2nd season), 0-9

Letterwinners returning: 28

Offensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters returning: 7

The Blackhawks’ Wing-T offense will be led by senior running backs James Vander Mause and Will Neuser.

Fort Atkinson is 3-15 in the last two years, and have had one winning season in the past five years.