Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
One of the football coaches I used to cover had an adage about prep football: "For every sophomore you start, you lose a game."
He means that youth doesn't often translate on the football field, a sport requiring the physical strength and maturity of an older player. As a freshman playing one of the most physically demanding positions on the field, left tackle, Arrowhead's Ben Bredeson defies the logic entirely.
Almost remarkably, the premier spot on the offensive line for the state's most-talented football team is held down by the young Bredeson, and he was part of an offensive powerhouse that racked up 35 points in the first half of last Friday's state title game en route to a 13-0 finish to 2012. The highlight reel shows No. 74, standing at 6-3 and 230 pounds, dominating his man on the game's first two touchdowns. His best work came as he held off a Sun Prairie defensive end long enough for quarterback Brady Kelliher to deliver his third touchdown pass late in the first half.
Arrowhead never scored fewer than 31 points all season. The offensive line, which also received monumental contributions from seniors Eric Precia and Jake McQuestion and juniors George Panos and Gabe Morris, was a big reason why.
"Coach (Joe) Panos has taught me a lot this year," Bredeson said. "It was different coming from the youth program to here; it was a big adjustment with the speed of the play, and everyone is faster and bigger. It took me a little bit to get used to it. In the youth, it was more of a running game. In this style of offense, the spread, you have to throw it a lot. I had to work on my pass blocking a lot and get better at it."
Bredeson hasn't looked like a newcomer to those ideas, nor does he apparently look like a newcomer at all. He earned the nickname "Dad" before the season.
"We call him Dad because he looks so old, and the first day of practice, we thought he was a freshman's dad," said the younger Panos, a junior who has a verbal agreement to play for Wisconsin in two years. "He's going to be a great one. He'll be better than me when it's all said and done."
Bredeson said the coaching staff had a hand in the nickname, as well.
"It was a summer workout, and coach (Sal) Logue, one of the D-backs coaches, came up with it, and (head coach Greg) Malling was standing right there," Bredeson said with a smile. "And the first day of practice, everyone was just calling me that."
The younger Panos, the son of Arrowhead's offensive line coach and a guard who spent time on the varsity as a freshman as well, has been part of Bredeson's quick success story.
"George has taught me a lot, not necessarily skills and techniques, but the maturity of being a freshman on varsity, because he was in my shoes two years ago," Bredeson said. "He helped me a lot to get through this year."
But the position isn't just about maturity at Arrowhead, which adopted a spread-style offense two years ago under Malling and rode that to its fifth state championship.
"In our offense, they want us to work in space," said McQuestion, a right tackle who joined Panos as an All-Region selection. "We have to be mobile, not a typical offensive lineman just blocking a guy. We want to be able to work on the edges. We work hard doing a lot of zone stuff and working on the side.
"Ben, he's a really special kid. The next couple years, he's going to be doing special things."
McQuestion has served as the senior staple on the line, able to mentor both Bredeson and the junior Panos, who earned an All-State nod from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
"The senior class has set the tone in terms of selfless play, and the offensive line exemplifies that," Malling said. "It didn't matter - freshman, senior sophomore - they don't care as long as we win."
And win they did, closing with a superb performance against previously unbeaten Sun Prairie in the 35-14 title-game victory.
"We did everything we could to win and dominated every play," Panos said.