Franklin — Over the last decade, the word quarterback has become synonymous with Franklin football.
The position is the centerpiece of the spread offense implemented by former coach Jesse Miller back in 2001 and continued by coach Jeff Klemp today. It is the player, rightfully or not, who gets most of the credit for wins and blame for losses. And it is the young man that reporters and television cameras flock to after the game.
Plenty of stars have taken snaps for the Sabers in the last 10 years. Grant Zielinski, the team's quarterbacks coach, was the first quarterback in the system and went on to play ball at the University of Northern Iowa. Ben Hempel set the state's all-time passing marks in yardage and touchdowns. Rob Evans won the school's only state title in 2006.
And over the last three seasons, it has been Lance Baretz's show as the three-year starter took his place among the best signal-callers not only at Franklin but in Wisconsin.
Time in the spotlight
"I was in elementary school when Ben was playing. I'd go (watch games) but didn't have a great idea of what was going on," said Baretz, who was named the 2010 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban player of the year. "In 2006 I was a ball boy on that team and knew Rob. Having those guys to look up to, knowing the legacy of Franklin quarterbacks - there have been some great guys that have come through here - it's been an honor to have my three years in the spotlight, and I'm sure there will be more good ones to come."
Given Franklin's recent history, that is likely, but those who follow in Baretz's footstep will have a difficult time putting up the numbers he did in his time as a three-year starter.
His combined offensive production of 9,472 yards is the third-best total in state history behind only Clear Lake's Mike O'Connell's 10,334 and Hempel's 9,860. O'Connell broke Hempel's six-year-old mark this season.
Baretz's 7,048 career passing yards rank fourth all-time behind Hempel's 9,508, Chippewa Falls McDonell's Ben Gardow's 9,056 and Kewaunee's Lee Waechter's 8,238. Baretz is also fourth with his 75 touchdown passes; Hempel is first with 92.
Baretz accounted for 113 touchdowns (passing/rushing), unofficially second all-time behind only O'Connell's staggering 141. (Not all players touchdown totals are known, according to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.)
"You really don't replace a kid like that," Klemp said. "It's like when Ben graduated. You don't find another Ben Hempel out there. We won't find another Lance Baretz. We've had a decent string of quarterbacks and somebody else with a different personality will play quarterback next year. But it won't be like having the next Lance."
A great single season
Baretz's senior campaign also ranks among the best-ever single-season efforts. His state-best 34 touchdowns passes tied him for fifth all-time; Kenosha St. Joseph's Danny Freund holds the state record with 40 and Hempel is second with 39, both in 2003. And this season's total of 2,763 passing yards led the state and ranks 22nd overall and the best in the NOW area outside of Hempel's 2003, 2002 and 2004 efforts of 3,372 (fourth all-time), 3,169 (sixth) and 2,829 (19th).
"I can't take all the credit for those numbers myself," said Baretz, who has not yet decided where he will play college football. "If you look at those receivers that caught balls for me, three of them could play college ball. Our running back might play college ball. The defense will have a few guys playing college ball. The numbers are misleading. It gives me all the credit for them. But there are plenty of times when they made my job really easy."
Perhaps most importantly, Baretz was a winner. He helped Franklin go 29-9 over the last three years including an 8-3 mark in the playoffs with consecutive trips to the state semifinals in 2009 and 2010 and an 18-5 record in the Southeast Conference, including this year's unbeaten (7-0) league-title effort.
"I'd be lying if I said no," Baretz responded when asked if his career numbers and winning percentage surpassed his expectations. "It sounds kind of cocky, but at the same time, I knew the guys I was surrounded by on both sides of the ball. We had some outstanding talent."
That included three receivers who played with Baretz on the varsity all three seasons: Anthony Meyer, Brady Oates and Evan Walton. Over the last three years, those three hauled in 311 passes for 5,142 yards and 59 touchdowns. Many of those players, along with Baretz and other members of the 22-player senior class, have played together since sixth grade and some of them even played flag football together back in first or second grade, Baretz said.
Like the collection of Franklin quarterbacks his name is now attached to, Baretz was proud to be a member of the 2011 graduating class.
"Hopefully we set up the foundation for the future and hopefully we can put Franklin up there with the dynasties like Arrowhead, Homestead, Marquette and I can't forget Waunakee," he said. "Obviously it's disappointing we didn't reach our final goal (of a state championship), but we set high goals and this one we didn't reach. Looking back on the three years I had with these seniors, we made a lot of good memories. Sophomore year we got pounded by a lot of the teams in our conference and we made a good playoff run to get ready for the next year. Junior year we get beat by Marquette and (Kenosha) Bradford and came back and beat those teams this year and went undefeated in the conference. … I have no regrets."
Of his 38 varsity games, one will stand out more than the rest in Lance Baretz's memory book: the Sabers' 40-35 win over Kenosha Bradford this fall.
BARETZ: "That's the highlight of my career. Everyone was talking about that game, even before the season started. The recruiters would ask me about it. We were so pumped up and ready. They were ranked 50th in the country and a unanimous first in the state. I don't know how many really thought we'd win the game, but we came in and did our thing and after they pounded us the year before, beating them to take over the conference, it was a pretty unforgettable game for me."
Lance Baretz is only the third quarterback to win the NOW player of the year award in the team's 21-year history:
2004: Ben Hempel, Franklin
2007: Mike Hennessy, Greendale
2010: Lance Baretz, Franklin
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