Brookfield East had fewer than a handful of starters return from an amazing 9-2 turnaround season in 2010 under first-year coach Tom Swittel.
But two of those starters - and a talented newcomer - were important contributors in a surprising 7-4 season (4-3 in the Greater Metro Conference behind tri-champions Brookfield Central, Sussex Hamilton and Marquette).
The two Spartans returnees were juniors Alec James and Zach Schober while the newcomer was Taylor Lucas. All three of those players were named to the 31-man first-team NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Football Team.
Here is a closer look at each of these Spartans.
James, a 6-foot-4 player weighing in at 215 pounds, made the team as one of two defensive linemen. Getting these type of honors is nothing new for James, as he was also a first-team All-State selection, All-GMC first team in the defensive line and the conference's defensive lineman of the year. He made the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association East Central All-Region team and was the Spartans top lineman.
The Spartans also used him at running back, which is not surprising since he ran anchor on the state championship Brookfield East track team in the 400 meters. He was timed in a 4.53 second 40-yard run this past summer.
"Physically, Alec is, by far, the most gifted athlete I have ever coached," said Swittel, who just finished his 33rd season of coaching. "That says a lot.
"He is a rare blend of size, speed and strength. He is strong at the point of attack but has this ridiculous speed to run things down from behind. He is almost impossible to pass block one on one."
James focused on the team's results, more so than his personal honors.
"A lot of people doubted us, but we wanted to prove everyone wrong," he said. "We were more of a target this year. But we didn't let up. I like to think we played harder."
James has his priorities in line.
"I know how to budget my time; there's a time to play, a time to fool around. Work ethic is important. We all did a lot of work in the weight room. It is hard to win in the GMC."
Brookfield Central nose guard Ryan 'Rocky' Johnson, who also made the team, had this to say about his cross-town rival:
"Alec James is a athlete. He is big, physical; a force to be reckoned with."
Lucas, who at times had to face James in practice, took it a step further.
"He is an amazing athlete, a freak of nature," Lucas said. "He is such an athlete. He is so strong he can just move guys around."
Since James will be a senior next season, he will have more of a leadership role.
"I personally like it a lot," he said. "When you are a leader, setting examples, being their role models, you have to make the right decisions. I want to be a leader that the players look up to. I can lead by example, but I will also tell them face to face (if I have to)."
Schober is definitely the prime example of a workhorse running back, averaging 22 carries a game. He was the Spartans' offense. He led the GMC in rushing and scored 13 touchdowns. He saved his best performance for the playoffs, running for 236 yards in a first-round playoff upset of top-seeded Greendale. He was a WFCA Central All-Region and all-conference selection. He earned East's Most Valuable Back Award.
"He is a tough, durable, instinctive runner," Swittel said. "He frequently breaks the first tackle and gets a lot of yards after the first hit."
Schober just loves when he is given the ball and wants to do more his senior year.
"I love it; I love being that 'go-to' guy," he said. "Next year, I want to carry it even more. I loved carrying the ball behind those big offensive linemen. I would like to run for at least 2,000 yards."
Lucas was the best of those big offensive linemen.
"It was unbelievable watching Zach," Lucas said. "I have never seen an athlete like him. He would carry 20 times. I loved opening holes for him."
Johnson also had praise for his cross-town rival.
"Zach was one of the best in the conference," he said. "He runs hard, fights for yards; you have to wrap him up. He is fantastic because he also can break away for long runs."
James also is familiar with Schober's work, having grown up with the talented running back.
"I've known him for a long time, since middle school," he said. "He is one of the hardest working guys on the team - at camps, in the weight room. He always stays late until he gets everything done."
The Spartans' 6-1, 285-pounder was the new kid on the block, having moved to Brookfield from Southern Door High School.
Lucas made the WFCA All-Region team and was first-team all-conference, being the leading vote-getter by a sizable margin. He also was honorable-mention All-State.
"Football is my passion," said Lucas, who pulled a lot and feels that that is one of his strong suits, along with run blocking. "I got to continue that passion. I want to play on the next level and eventually play professionally."
He enjoyed his one season for the Spartans and hopes to be part of the track team (shot put) and baseball team (pitcher/first base).
"It was amazing. I loved it," he said. "The guys were great. The coaches, I've never experienced this before."
Lucas said he hadn't won three games in his three years of high school ball before this season.
"I obviously wish we would have gone further," he said. "But it was quite different from what I was used to. It was a great season, and I was glad I was part of it."
High Honorable Mention: Senior defensiveback Mike Amato. Honorable Mention: Junior linebacker John LeClaire, sophomore linebacker Vince Schimborski, senior and defensive lineman Joey Torch.
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