DE PERE, Wis. — De Pere's star quarterback, Gabe Herman, still thinks about last season's sudden ending.
"It pops into my head a lot," Herman said following the Redbirds' "contact day" practice Monday. "I bring it up to the guys all the time. Reminding them when we're in the weight room, maybe if we just had one more rep, or one more set, we would have had that game."
In the second round of last season's playoffs, De Pere suffered an overtime loss when it went for a two-point conversion and the win, rather than kicking an extra point to extend the game.
Now in his senior year, Herman and his fellow Redbirds are looking for redemption. But they'll have to do it with a new leader as longtime head coach Chad Michalkiewicz left the program to take the head coaching job at Kimberly.
"I mean obviously we weren't happy," Herman said. "He was a great coach for us. We won a lot of games with him."
"I'd be lying to you if I said anything other than obviously we were sad right away but we're getting a great coach in coach (Ben Strickland)," senior linebacker Michael Alexander said. "I think we're just looking forward now. We have a great future ahead of us."
Strickland is a rising star in the high school coaching ranks. He spent the last four seasons at Edgewood High School in Madison before taking the job at De Pere.
"He's a very good teacher," Herman said. "He makes things make sense, that's the easiest way to see it. I think he's doing a great job."
His own experience as a player doesn't hurt. Strickland played safety for the Badgers, serving as a team captain in 2007.
"It's fantastic," Alexander said. "It's just nice knowing that someone is there that we can actually relate to. That's been on the field just like we have right now so it's good, it's great."
During the change, Herman said he has taken it upon himself to become a bigger leader.
"I mean this is my third year being the quarterback," he said. "I feel like a quarterback's role is to be a great leader. A great vocal leader, a great quiet leader... Making sure everyone is following what you're doing too."
And on the strength of his right arm, the Redbirds are thinking big heading into the 2022 season.
"If you think anything other than winning a state championship you're not thinking the right thing," Alexander said. "I think you always have to shoot for gold and that's what we're doing."
De Pere opens the 2022 season Thursday, August 18 at home against Neenah.