2023 Pigskin Preview: Lake Mills in a new era and forming a new culture

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(ABC 6 News) — Bulldogs Football is on the cusp of a new era for 2023.

Bill Byrnes stepped down last season as the Bulldogs’ head coach after 20 years on the job as the keys to the car now belong to former assistant Brady Kurtz.

“I remember one day during camp last week,” Kurtz noted. “I was thinking, ‘Okay, we need to get things started.’ I was looking around thinking, ‘Well, who’s going to do this?’ Then I kind of realized, ‘Oh yeah, that’s kind of my job now.'”

“I miss him a lot actually, we were really close,” senior running back/linebacker Beau Kaufman said. “I mean, he’s the one that kind of gave me the job to run the football, I was a lineman before so I didn’t really have the chance. But, he gave me it and I succeeded.”

Under Kurtz, the staff’s plan for a new culture will take shape during these first few days of practice. Accountability and trust are key values that the team will need to be second nature come their first game day.

“We’re going to love each other, we’re going to play with tremendous effort, we’re going to have a great attitude and we’re going to be disciplined,” Kurtz added. “Those are our core values there: Love, effort attitude and discipline. From those, that’s where our culture grows.”

“Every rep we’re going as hard as we can, no jogging around,” senior two-way lineman Lance Helming said. “If you’re not taking reps, just paying attention the whole time.”

The Bulldogs will be leaning on the success of their veteran run game as Kaufman is arguably the most vital force on the team. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2022 with 10 touchdowns and is a dominant defender as well. Helming isn’t one to pass a up chance at a tackle himself either.

“They’re both fun, pancaking people on offense, blocking people,” Helming mentioned. “But I love tackling, they’re both really fun.”

“I like hitting people so probably defense,” Kaufman conceded. “I mean, [it] kind of sounds meathead but that’s what I like to do.”

Stiff opposition faces Lake Mills in 2023 and while the long-term goals may take time, it’s a matter of when not if in coach Kurtz’s eyes. He believes one day, Bulldogs Football will be a force on the field and it starts with their bonds built in practice.

“We have a pretty good bond together, so I can tell them if I need any help or anything,” Kaufman spoke of his teammates. “I really like that all of them are my best friends and we hang out together and they make some good gaps for me.”

“It’s a tremendous group that we’re working with from seniors to freshmen even though we’re small in number,” Kurtz concluded. “We really feel good about the culture we’re building here, just one day at a time.”

Lake Mills opens the 2023 season against Central Springs at home on September 1.