NCAA III football photo: UW-Whitewater's Tony Gumina

Tony Gumina of UW-Whitewater makes an 8-yard touchdown catch in front of St. Norbert College's Tommy Gonzales during a 2015 NCAA III first-round playoff game at Perkins Stadium. UW-Whitewater earned a 48-0 victory.

MICHAEL McLOONE -- UW-Whitewater Athletics

WHITEWATER — The fourth-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team has announced its roster for the 2017 season, and products of area high schools are numerous and fill key roles in the Warhawks' plans for the season.

The Warhawks enter the 2017 season with experience and talent on offense, defense and special teams — a combination it hopes to ride to the program's 36th Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and 12th in the last 13 years.

However, Whitewater lost its season opener last Saturday, a 17-10 decision at Illinois Wesleyan University that saw the Warhawks lose a fumble at the Wesleyan 1-yard line with a minute to play.

The Warhawks finished the 2016 season with conference title No. 35, the program's 11th trip to the third round of the NCAA Division III playoffs in 12 years and a 12-1 record, including a 7-0 mark in league play. The team extended its home winning streak to 32 games before it was snapped in the national quarterfinal.

The WIAC's head coaches and athletic communications personnel tabbed UW-Whitewater as the favorite to bring home another league championship this fall. The team is also ranked third in the nation by D3football.com.

The Warhawks return 10 starters on offense, including 2017 Preseason All-American Nate Trewyn (Janesville residence/Milton High School), a junior offensive lineman. Senior linebacker Matt Seitz (Hartland/Arrowhead) and junior linebacker Bryce Leszczynski (Milwaukee/Pius XI) return as starters on a defense that makes up for a lack of starting experience with depth at all positions.

UW-Whitewater's non-conference schedule includes three road games against opponents who finished a combined 22-8 last season.

On Saturday, UW-Whitewater will visit Concordia-Moorhead (7-3 last season) out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team wraps up the non-conference portion of the schedule on Sept. 16 at fellow 2016 NCAA qualifier Washington University in St. Louis.

The Warhawks open conference play at UW-Oshkosh on Sept. 30 following a bye week. Five of the last seven games between the two teams, including each of the last three, have been decided by three points or fewer. UW-Whitewater scored with less than a minute remaining in a 17-14 triumph last season in front of a national-record 17,535 fans at Perkins Stadium. Oshkosh went on to finish as NCAA Division III national runner-up.

The Warhawks continue the season with back-to-back home games against UW-Stout on Oct. 7 and against UW-La Crosse on Friday, Oct. 13. The contest against UW-Stout is part of Family Fest on campus and Alumni Day at Perkins Stadium.

After trips to UW-River Falls (Oct. 21) and UW-Stevens Point (Oct. 28), UW-Whitewater returns home Nov. 4 for Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day against UW-Platteville, which is ranked No. 15 by D3football.com and reached the NCAA Playoffs a year ago.

The Warhawks close the regular season Nov. 11 against UW-Eau Claire on Shriners Day, Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day at Perkins Stadium.

A complete, position-by-position look at the 2017 UW-Whitewater football team:

OFFENSE

Ten of 11 players who started in last year's national quarterfinal game return for the Warhawks in 2017.

Trewyn, a 2016 D3football.com first team All-West Region and first team All-WIAC center, anchors an experienced offensive line. Seniors Jordan Mueller (Plymouth/Plymouth) and Mitchell Schauer(Tomahawk/Tomahawk) return on the left side of the line, and senior Ben McFall (Rewey/Iowa-Grant) is the returning starter at right tackle.

Senior tight end Tony Gumina (Sussex/Hamilton) also plays a key role in blocking at the line of scrimmage and has evolved into a reliable receiving target. The two-time All-WIAC selection tallied 35 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Two-time first team all-conference senior Marcus Hudson (Delavan/Delavan-Darien) leads the wide receiver corps. He registered 52 receptions for 843 yards (16.2 yards per reception) and four touchdowns last fall. Hudson was flanked in the starting lineup last season by juniors Mitchell Dess (South Milwaukee/South Milwaukee) and Canton Larson (Oconomowoc/Oconomowoc). Dess finished with 20 catches for 269 yards and one touchdown, while Larson hauled in 23 catches for 284 yards and three scores.

Junior quarterback Cole Wilber (Dana Point, Calif./Dana Hills) and junior running back Drew Patterson return in the backfield. Wilber was named honorable mention All-WIAC in his debut season as a starter, totaling 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns. Junior backup Ryan Curran (Sun Prairie/Sun Prairie) passed for 86 yards and one touchdown in five games last season.

Patterson burst onto the scene in 2016 after transferring from Western Illinois, garnering All-Region and All-WIAC accolades and registering 207 carries for 1,125 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. He added 186 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.

Other returners with significant game experience in the back field include junior Jarrod Ware (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and sophomore Josh Ringelberg (Greendale/Greendale). Ware finished second on the team in rushing yards (419) and ran for three touchdowns, and Ringelberg collected 342 yards, including back-to-back 100-yard performances during the team's NCAA Playoff wins over Lakeland and Wittenberg (Ohio).

DEFENSE

UW-Whitewater looks to replace several starters on defense, but returns a number of players with game experience.

Junior Cal Durni (Brookfield/East) led all returning defensive linemen with 23 tackles, including 10.0 for a loss, in 2016. He tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Other returners up front include juniors Harry Henschler (Janesville/Craig), David O'Gorman (Watertown/Watertown) and Merritt Stott (Metamora, Ill./Metamora Township). O'Gorman finished the 2016 campaign with 12 tackles and one interception, while Stott recorded 19 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss and a pair of sacks. Henschler collected one sack in 10 games played.

Senior Harry Green (Chicago, Ill./Shepard) and junior Dalton Heckel (Silver Lake/Wilmot Union) each played in five games a season ago.

Senior Matt Seitz (Hartland/Arrowhead) and junior Bryce Leszczynski (Milwaukee/Pius XI) return as starting linebackers. Leszczynski led the team with 69 tackles, including 10.0 for a loss, and Seitz finished second with 64 stops and recovered a team-high three fumbles and was tabbed third team All-Region and first team All-WIAC.

Other returning linebackers include juniors Beau Martin (Winfield, Ill./Wheaton North) and Alex Zacharias(Stoughton/Stoughton). Martin finished with 21 tackles last fall, and Zacharias contributed 19 stops and tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles.

Junior Famus Hasty (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) is the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield. He posted 27 tackles and tied for the team lead with 13 passes defended.

Other 2016 contributors in the defensive backfield include senior Nick McCullough (St. Charles, Ill./North), juniors Bailey Breunig (Prairie du Sac/Sauk Prairie), Brett Buehler (Sussex/Hamilton) and Jon Weyker (Mequon/Homestead). Breunig finished with 26 tackles and three interceptions, and Buehler chipped in with 13 tackles. Weyker added 10 tackles and one interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior punter Michael Schwichtenberg (West Bend/West) returns to lead the team's kicking unit. He averaged 35.5 yards per punt last season and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 18 times on 59 punts.

Sophomore linebacker Mason Fleury (Elgin, Ill./Hampshire) returns for his second year as the team's long snapper.

Dess led the kick and punt return units a season ago with 284 return yards, including 232 on kick returns. Ringelberg led the punt return with 160 yards (12.3 yards per return), and Ware added 276 total return yards (226 on kick returns).

OTHER AREA PLAYERS

Other players with Madison area or southwestern Wisconsin ties on the roster:

Dylan Bernard of Fort Atkinson (Fort Atkinson High School), a sophomore majoring in Physical Education.

Ryan Curran of Sun Prairie (Sun Prairie), a junior majoring in Criminology.

Bailey Breunig of Prairie du Sac (Sauk Prairie), a junior majoring in International Business.

Nathaniel Osterloo of Mount Horeb (Mount Horeb), a sophomore majoring in Physical Education.

Jacob Erbs of Reedsburg (Reedsburg), a sophomore majoring in Accounting.

Alex Zacharias of Stoughton (Stoughton), a junior majoring in Biology.

Matthew Saager of Lodi (Lodi), a sophomore majoring in finance.

Nate Trewyn of Janesville (Milton), a junior majoring in General Business.

Ben McFall of Rewey (Iowa-Grant), a senior majoring in Physical Education.

Bryce Bellefeuille of DeForest (DeForest), a junior majoring in Political Science.

T.J. Hollis of Verona (Verona Area High School), a freshman majoring in Physical Education.

Ben Keeser of Fort Atkinson (Fort Atkinson High School), a sophomore majoring in General Business.

Cole Nelson of Fort Atkinson (Fort Atkinson High School), a freshman majoring in Undeclared.

J.T. Parish of Cambridge (Cambridge High School), a freshman majoring in Entrepreneurship.

Jacob Royston of Waunakee (Waunakee High School), a freshman majoring in Criminology.

Preston Strasburg of Fort Atkinson (Fort Atkinson High School), a freshman majoring in Undeclared.

Nate Tranel of Lancaster (Lancaster High School), a sophomore majoring in General Management.

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