APPLETON — The Appleton North Lightning football team was one game away from going to the Division 1 state title, losing to the eventual champion Franklin High School.
Heading into the 2022 season they’ve lost a lot of their key offensive parts to graduation. Gone are their leading passer, rusher and receiver, but they are returning the core of their defense.
“Some dogs,” said junior linebacker Brock Arndt on how he would describe the defense.
“I’d say tenacious," said senior defensive back Brock Salm. "We’re always going after the ball, we’re always giving it our all. We’re just play-makers.
The Appleton North defense is a confident bunch heading into their 2022 season as they return many contributors who helped them almost get to the state title game.
“I think we’re going to be special this year," Brock Salm said. "I mean, last year we were really great and we’re returning a lot of guys and our offense, I think a lot of people are sleeping on our offense. I think we’re going to be really good.”
With an offense that has a lot of new pieces, all eyes on are the defense to start off hot this year. The team is bringing back two of their top three tacklers in Salm and Arndt. Last year the Lightning defense only gave up 11 points per game.
"We’re really experienced defensively, so I think everyone is expecting our defense to play well and we are as well," said Appleton North head coach Rob Salm. "I think it’s going to be a physical defense with an offense that’s going to surprise some people.”
In 2021, the Lightning's leading tackler was Arndt, who was just a sophomore last year. He finished with 77 total tackles with five tackles for a loss and two interceptions as well. He’s been a leader since he stepped foot on the school's varsity football field.
“Being a younger kid, he’s just such a great leader for our team," said Brock Salm. "He’s always giving it his all. He’s a vocal leader for our team too, which is awesome.”
“When they say I’m the leader of the defense, I love telling people where they got to be, being the energizer, I just love the defense,” Arndt said.
It’s easy to see why Arndt’s teammates follow him when his head coach heaps this kind of praise on the junior:
“He’s just fearless," Rob Salm said. "He’s a multi-sport kid who loves contact, loves competition and he just has that kind of heartbeat that never stops. (He) plays with that physical edge that you need in a defensive football player. Definitely sets the tone for us.”
Appleton North knows there’s a target on their back after there high successful 2021 season, but they should have another great year if they do these three things:
“Be the most physical team on the field every single play. Do your job to the best of your ability every single play and make sure you outwork everybody. Those are the three things we live by,” said the head coach.
Appleton North opens up their season on the road Thursday at Green Bay Southwest.