Turnovers make life difficult in football, and Waukesha North has experienced a particular kind of turnover that hasn't helped the cause in one of the state's most brutal conferences. Chris Freiman becomes the fourth coach in four years in the program, but he's not lowering the bar.
"This isn't just a throwaway year, where we chalk it up to experience," he said. "We expect to be competitive in all the games we play. We're going to have a chance to win every game we're in. We need to have a positive idea about our team, and we're going to get some morale up in our program."
The last time North was in the playoffs was 2006, and it's gone 7-28 in the conference since.
Last year's team won two games under Hall of Fame coach Carey Venne, but he abruptly retired after one year on the job. The school hired one of Venne's assistants to fill the role.
"Defensively, we'll be pretty similar to what we did last year," Freiman said. "We took what Coach Venne had as far as space defense goes and tweaked it a little bit so we can handle some of the spread teams we've faced a little more. We made it a little more versatile."
Freiman also hopes his team will eventually become one of those dangerous spread-offense teams.
Under offensive coordinator and North alumnus Matt Harris, North will shift to more of a spread offense in 2012.
"Typically we've had a lot of quicker athletes but don't get a lot of offensive linemen, so we're going to spread the field and take advantage of our speed on the outside a little bit," Freiman said.
Freiman, a former standout track and football player at Wisconsin Rapids before joining the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point as a player and graduate assistant, took the job in March, just as his duties as a coach in the North track and field program kicked into gear.
"It's been good to see what I can do in a short timeframe," he said. "So I know when I have November, December, January, (I'll be able to do more). I have a great staff around me, and they've taken a lot of pressure off me. It's stressful, but at the same time, guys around me have really done a great job."
The Classic 8, home to perennial top-ranked teams Waukesha West, Arrowhead and Catholic Memorial, not to mention an improved Kettle Moraine and Mukwonago squad and newcomer Muskego (which lost just twice last year - both to eventual state champion Kenosha Bradford), won't do North any favors.
But Freiman isn't ruling anything out.
"We have a good corps of upperclassmen, good energy in camp, and it's been good to see the youth program help bring good athletes and good numbers to the high school," he said. "We're looking to get some things in place and get some stability for our program."
The Northstars open with a major curiosity Aug. 24, battling Indian Trails of Kenosha.
The new entrant in the Southeast Conference will field varsity athletics for the first time this year, though the school doesn't yet have any seniors in just its third year.
"They have a pretty good team from what I understand through the grapevine," Freiman said. "It's definitely not going to be a pushover right out of the gate."
Check out the Lake Country Publications Gridiron Guide football preview for the 2012 season, available in next week'sWaukeshaNow.