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Tony awards: Gumina and Koepnick set up Patterson in Hamilton's running game

Blockers set up Sussex Hamilton's running game for success

Nov. 27, 2012

Tight ends seldom get noticed without a high volume of receptions and yardage. A conference's top lineman seldom emerges from a job share at that position one year earlier. But as two components of a blocking scheme that netted some of the biggest rushing totals in the state, Tony Gumina and Tony Koepnick caught everyone's attention in 2012.

Both seniors at Sussex Hamilton, tight end Gumina and left tackle Koepnick were named first-team All State by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association after the Chargers finished the year with a 7-3 record. Their reputation was boosted by the performance of junior running back Drew Patterson, who rushed 222 times for 1,969 yards (8.9 average) and 26 touchdowns on his way to Offensive Back of the Year honors in the Greater Metro Conference.

All three players were named to the NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Team.

To the forefront

Hamilton coach John Damato called Koepnick a model of persistence.

"He never wavered from his own personal goals, and he knew the only way he could accomplish them was through hard work," Damato said. "He had a tremendous year that was marked by his consistency. He played his best football against the best competition. That is the best indication of a great football player."

There was plenty of good competition in the GMC, with close losses to undefeated league champ Brookfield East (in overtime) and a tight rivalry loss to upstart Menomonee Falls as the only setbacks in a very deep league. Koepnick, the Lineman of the Year in the league, was on last year's tri-champion but in a reduced role, splitting time at tackle with Ryan Hanrahan.

"We went every other series last year," Koepnick said. "It was through my hard work in the offseason, through my preparation and working hard in the weight room to get stronger and be more mentally prepared. It was knowing my place and getting prepared during the week."

Koepnick admitted he was disappointed he couldn't land the gig on a full time basis last year.

"I had to get my quickness better, had to get my strength up," he said. "I wasn't expecting to get all (the accolades); I guess I didn't realize that I was that good. I have to give some props to my teammates who encouraged me during the offseason and during the workouts."

Koepnick equated the offensive line to a family, one that includes sophomore Andrew Poenitsch, senior Kevin Zarske, senior Sufyan Hamouda and junior Zach Gaatz. Hamouda also received All-State consideration at center. Gumina played his role as well, and Patterson reaped the rewards.

"Drew is humble about it and puts everything back on us," Koepnick said.

Block party

Damato considers Gumina the best tight end ever to play at Hamilton, and the 6-3, 227-pounder caught 12 passes for 162 yards. But his primary role was to block.

"It's definitely a block-first position; that's mainly what we're focused on during practice," Gumina said. "Our coaches expect the tight end position to make plays when their number is called. With the Wing-T offense, we're a pound-the-ball offense and we get an occasional pass in there. This year, I was the first option for a pass, so that was nice."

Gumina improved his strength and speed over the offseason, also emerging as one of the top players on a basketball team that has aspirations of capturing the Greater Metro title this winter. He has offers from Northern Iowa and North Dakota State, with a walk-on offer from Wisconsin.

"I know the hard work and effort I put in has gotten me noticed," Gumina said. "I'm a nose-to-the-grindstone tight end, and I'm not the biggest kid in the state but I like to think I'm one of the best blocking at my position."

Gumina calls Patterson his best friend.

"He's a continuous hard-working athlete," Gumina said. "The future is bright for him and the sky is the limit. His work ethic is just incredible. He told us he wouldn't be in the position he's in without us."

Like they Drew it up

Patterson had to fill some big shoes: those of his brother Nick, who was last year's Offensive Back of the Year in the GMC and currently plays for the Whitewater football team. But Drew (6-0, 196) was also a first-team All Conference choice as a sophomore, so it wasn't a stretch that he would assume the role smoothly.

Keeping the Offensive Back of the Year award in house, Patterson also earned first-team All State honors. And he's not done yet.

"Drew has the ability to run past you, through you or around you," Damato said. "By giving defenses and his opponents a variety of possibilities, he really puts them in conflict and on their heels. He has a tremendous feel for the running back position and the game of football. He's being recruited by many Division 1 schools."

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