2011 was a very down year for Cadott football. In the spring of that year, coach Pat Rothbauer was replaced, after 13 seasons and a 61-67 record. The team would post a 2-7 season total under new coach Perry Myran. 2012 was even worse. With a lot of players from the previous season having graduated, low participation and injuries, the Cadott Hornets cancelled the season after starting the year 0-2. Cadott began the season with only 16 players, they were now down to only 14 healthy players on September 5…five seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and one freshman. Coach Myran and athletic director James Sekel felt they couldn’t risk putting the players in harm’s way. Cadott has not had a winning season since 2004 and since the start of 2008 they have posted a 18-51 record. However, 1999 was a different story.
Pat Rothbauer became the head coach in 1998 and directed the team to a first-year record of 6-5 and making the playoffs for the first time since 1988. The Hornets started the year with a scrimmage against Flambeau which was led by quarterback Jim Leonhard who was a future all-state player, walk-on and all-American defensive back at Wisconsin, NFL player and current defensive coordinator for the Badgers. Leonhard ran roughshod in the scrimmage and even though the Hornets thought they had a good season ahead they had some questions to clear up. The official season began with a 37-12 win over Amery. Amery returned the opening kick-off for a touchdown, one of the few times Cadott would trail this season.
After earning a 4-0 record the Hornets faced two very strong teams. First up was Osseo-Fairchild and Cadott eked out a 21-12 victory, pulling it out in the fourth-quarter. The next week they faced unbeaten Neilsville. In a summer league 7-on-7 passing league, against schools much bigger than Cadott or Neilsville the two had met in the championship. Quarterback/defensive back Luke Rykel, who had earned second team All-Chippewa County as a junior in 1998 by passing for 858 yards and nine scores, showed he was a very capable leader in the tournament. Now, several months later they faced each other for real and in sloppy conditions the Hornets prevailed 20-8 to take control of the Large Cloverbelt Conference and it would stay that way for the remainder of the regular season. Rykel was a very good defensive back. Against Mosinee he was assigned to cover All-State receiver Kyle Heckendorf and held him to three catches for 31 yards. It should be pointed out that Rykel sat out the fourth quarter with Cadott up 42-0 and Heckendorf caught three passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the 49-22 win.
Running back John Peterlik was coming into his own as a senior. He was picking up key yardage on the ground and by catching passes. In game after game Peterlik gained 100-plus yards and seemed to score at will. A very speedy runner who, once he hit the corner, was gone. John would go on to share All-Northwest Player of the Year honors and honorable mention all-state. In the 42-0 shutout of Auburndale Peterlik gained 176 yards on just 8 carries and scored on runs of 70, 50 and 9 yards. Against Mosinee he rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries and 2 scores on the ground and 1 td receiving. In the 42-0 win over Altoona, he scored 5 times on the ground. As a defensive back and a kick returner he was excellent, scoring on punt returns and interceptions.
The playoffs started and trailing 7-6 the Hornets scored on their last six possessions and cruised to a 49-13 Level 1 win over Bloomer. Next up was Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau as Peterlik carried 23 timers for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Cadott romped to a 52-20 win. Level 3 was a 32-7 win over Maple Northwesternand the Hornets gained 400 yards in total offense and allowed only 170. 11-1 Pestigo would be the Hornets next victim, a 40-0 blowout. After getting a lot of ribbing from his teammates for not scoring against Northwestern, John Peterlick made up for it in the Level 4 win. While rushing for 129 yards in 14 carries but being kept from crossing the goal line the week before, John picked up 76 yards on 16 attempts and caught four passes for 70 yards and he was able to score three times. The team was now going to Madison to play Lancaster for the D4 title. Throughout the playoffs the Hornets had to play on the road despite being the #1 team in the region because they didn’t have a fence around their school field so they became 'road warriors'. The overall school athletics that fall were very strong. Beside the football team, the girls volleyball team made it to state and the cross country teams were very strong. The fans traveled very well to the away football games and to some it seemed like it was as if all the regular home fans followed them wherever they played.
In Madison they faced the Flying Arrows from Lancaster. John Hoch was building a dynasty down in the southwest part of the state. The Arrows won the D4 and D5 state titles in 1993, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2014 with runner-up spots in 2011 and 2012 as well as 1999. The two team’s lineups couldn’t have been more different. Cadott had eight two-way players while Lancaster had not a single one. For the Hornets it was a matter of pride to be in the game, to be out on the field and not on the sidelines. Cadott had been able to avoid an injury all season which could have cost two spots that needed to be covered.
The Flying Arrows took a 6-0 lead but with 56-seconds left in the first half Luke Rykal tossed a 70-yard touchdown to his brother, junior Nathan Rykal. The extra point kick failed and the two teams went into the locker room tied at the half. Lancaster had held the Hornets twice on downs after Cadott had driven inside the Flying Arrows' 10-yard line. The touchdown pass was the start of 27-straight points for Cadott as they went on to win 34-21. Lancaster put on a serious comeback but the rally was too late. The Hornets turned the game around in the second half as Peterlik started things off with a 22-yard touchdown run followed by an 82-yard td reception from Luke Rykal. Luke stayed hot, as he completed a 54-yard pass to his brother Nathan. All of a sudden, Cadott was up 27-6. Lancaster would score 15 points in the fourth quarter but Peterlik sealed the game with a 40-yard touchdown run. Peterlik gained 121 yards on 14 carries, Luke Rykel was only three for nine passing but all three went for touchdowns along with 206 yards. With the game over Cadott took home the gold trophy.
On the season there were many honors for the Hornets. John Peterlik earned All Northwest Co-Player of the Year as accorded by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, All-Chippewa County and honorable All-State on the AP team. He gained 1,644 yards on only 164 carries, a 10.0 average, as well as catching a team leading 28 passes for 507 yards and seven td’s. On the season he had 35 total touchdowns and 226 points. Luke Rykel was a master quarterback earning second team All-Northwest and first team All-Chippewa County. He completed 73 of 134 passes for 1,540 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Sophomore Curt Bergsham played fullback and gained 958 yards on 159 attempts and 12 td;s. Nathan Rykel hauled in 23 passes for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. Other stars were linebacker/offensive guard Brent Crank and defensive end/offensive guard Lyle Jankee who also made All County.
On October 18, 2019 the school and the former team members of the 1999 D4 championship team celebrated the 20-year anniversary of their victory in Madison. It was a grand time and a reminder of when the football program was at its heights. Maybe things are on the upturn. 2020 proved to be a good year as they posted a 5-5 season.