When Iola-Scandinavia football coach Scott Erickson watched Bryce Huettner on the playground during recess in third grade, he thought his future standout had a chance to be special.
What was his first clue? The skinned-up knees and ripped jeans stuck out to Erickson. Huettner was that competitive even back then.
A starting linebacker since his freshman year of high school, and workhorse running back the last two seasons, Huettner has lived up to the early expectations and then some.
He finished the season with 2,612 yards and 42 touchdowns to bring his career total to a state-record 6,870 yards to surpass Hilbert's Mike Firkus who rushed for 6,707 yards from 2003-05.
For those reasons and more Huettner has been named the state's Player of the Year by Associated Press in a vote of media members from around the state.
"He's that guy that can come into a football game and everybody plays better," Erickson said. "Bryce is one of those kids you don't see very often. They are few and far between and pick everybody up no matter what happens. He's a student of the game. Thankfully I got an opportunity to coach him."
Also nominated for Player of the Year were Grantsburg's Leo Chenal, Mitchell Waechter of Fond du Lac St Mary's Springs, Waunakee's Sawyer Maly, Dylan Hendricks of Pulaski and Racine St. Catherine's Da'Shaun Brown.
Huettner was instrumental in Iola-Scandinavia claiming the school's first state championship with a 43-14 romp over Racine Lutheran at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 15. He gained 156 yards and scored three times.
Amherst coach Mark Lusic had the unenviable task of trying to slow Huettner down during their annual Central Wisconsin Conference-Large matchup the past four years.
"There's no doubt his senior year he was really special. He really made Iola go offensively and defensively. He made them a special team," Lusic said. "Bryce was a heck of a runner and very tough to bring down. It usually took two guys to bring him down."
COACH OF THE YEAR
This may have been the longest season Muskego's Ken Krause has coached, but it felt like the fastest.
You could chalk that up to a 14-0 season that ended with the school's first state championship, but for Krause it had as much to do with how his team handled adversity and in general maintained a positive vibe regardless of the circumstance.
"This group was by far our most positive group and probably our hardest-working group every day," Krause said. "There wasn't one day when they were negative or not working hard."
The 2018 season was the year when everything came together for the Warriors. One year after losing in the state semifinals, Muskego ran the table, winning its Classic 8 games by average of 28 points, and capping its playoff run with a 24-21 victory over Kimberly that snapped the Papermakers' five-year streak of state championships.
Four other coaches - Black Hawk's Cory Milz, Fond du Lac St. Mary's Springs Bob Hyland, Iola-Scandinavia's Scott Erickson and Racine St. Catherine's Dan Miller - were also considered for the honor, but Krause's work in getting Muskego to climb the ranks for one of the state's toughest conferences swayed the committee.
The program started with a fourth-place finish in the Classic 8 when it joined the league in 2012 and dipped to fifth the next year. In 2014, however, Muskego tied Arrowhead for the league title, the first of three conference championships over the next five seasons.
The team's success this year put the community, as Krause said, on Cloud 9.
"I live in Muskego and I have kids in youth sports. When I go to youth sporting events or go to different restaurants or gas stations, just everybody is so happy in our community," Krause said. "It's just a special feeling."