Heck started on Amherst’s State Championship team
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Dylan Heck, a starting linebacker on Amherst High School’s 2015 WIAA Division 5 State Championship football team, died in a motorcycle accident in the Town of Buena Vista Thursday, June 21.
Heck, 20, of Almond, broke into the starting lineup for the Amherst football team as a senior, when the Falcons finished 14-0 and won the State Title with a 42-0 win Spencer/Marshfield Columbus in the State Championship Game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
“It’s heart-breaking, and not just for myself and the team, but the whole community,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic. “It’s a terrible thing when you lose a 20-year-old kid to a tragic accident.
“He’ll be really missed by everyone,” he said.
Heck transferred to Amherst High School for his freshman year, after he previously attended Almond-Bancroft, and was a reserve on the Falcons’ 2012 State Championship team.
“I came in freshman year, I was 5-10, 130 pounds, and Spud (Amherst defensive coordinator Doug Spadoni) got me in the weight room, got us all working,” said Heck after the 2015 State Championship Game. “And over the years, you can just see yourself getting better.
“It’s not even that slow of process, if you work hard, you get better,” he said.
After the Falcons lost in the 2014 State Championship Game to finish 13-1 during his junior year, Heck earned a spot as a starter at outside linebacker as a senior.
“He had a great smile, great work ethic, and he really turned himself into a player in the off-season going into his senior year,” said Lusic. “That position that he filled was kind of a question mark, and by mid-season and especially at the end, there was no more question mark, he definitely solidified it and turned himself into a helluva player.”
In the Falcons’ regular-season finale, Heck intercepted a pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to give top-ranked Amherst a 28-0 lead in the first quarter of its 69-0 win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood that clinched the Central Wisconsin Conference-8 Title outright.
He also saw time at tight end on offense and caught a pair of passes late in the season, while he finished his senior year with 34 tackles, and was part of a starting defense that allowed a total of only 49 points in 14 games.
“(Dylan) came in this year, he hadn’t started before, he got better each week, and I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Amherst defensive coordinator Doug Spadoni after the 2015 State Championship Game. “And I trusted him, which to me, is one of the greatest compliments I can give a player.”
“It’s always been like a family for us,” said Heck of his senior class, following the 2015 State Championship Game. “Freshman year I was new to the school, I came here and they’re accepting and it’s crazy, just the amount of friendship that happens.
“And we always work together, like we can read each other,” he said. “You don’t need to say words all of the time. It’s really neat.”
In the 2015 State Championship Game, Heck tackled All-State running back Hunter Luepke for a four-yard loss on the opening drive of the game to help force a punt, and also broke up a pass on the second series of the game.
Meanwhile, the Amherst offense scored a touchdown on its first six possessions of the game to go up 42-0 on the way to the 42-0 win.
Heck was part of a defense that limited Spencer/Columbus, which came in averaging 42.7 points per game, to 124 yards of total offense in the State Championship Game, as the Falcons recorded their fifth shutout of the season.
“This game, obviously, I’m going to remember the best, just being able to shut out a team in the State Championship, it’s just insane,” said Heck after the game. “And I’m never going to forget these guys.
“I’m not expecting to play at the next level, but it’s just these guys, ‘the family,’” he said. “It’s just amazing feelings.”
“He worked his butt off, he’s smart and he became the player that we always thought he could be,” said Spadoni after that game. “It’s a wonderful story and he should be so proud.”
At 6-4, 200 pounds as a senior, Heck was also a reserve forward on the Amherst boys basketball team, and averaged 1.8 points and 2.2 rebounds off the bench as the Falcons reached the WIAA Division 4 State Tournament, before they lost in the State Semifinals to finish 25-2.
After graduating from Amherst, Heck was studying electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and was also a member of the Wisconsin National Guard.
“I actually saw him in the gym, he came back to play hoops one afternoon probably this past May when he got out of school, and he was excited,” said Lusic. “He was doing what he wanted to do, he really loved the National Guard and he really enjoyed boot camp.
“And he was excited to continue with his life,” he said.
Lusic also taught Heck in AP U.S. history in high school and served as his position coach on defense in football, and said that besides being a great player, Heck was a great kid and very smart.
At times during the last two seasons, Heck made it back home for Amherst football games, where he joined some of his former teammates to watch the Falcons from the team’s sideline.
Lusic said that last Sunday night, current and former Amherst football players met at the football field for a throwing session, ahead of the funeral services Wednesday, June 27.
“We just talked about what’s going to happen on Wednesday, but just kind of be together,” said Lusic. “I had about 20 ex-players show up and we just threw the pigskin around for an hour, I love it when those guys come back and I really enjoy seeing what they’re doing past high school, and you always wish the best for them.
“A lot of those guys are close, they’re a pretty close knit-group, so I’m sure Wednesday will be a rough day for everybody,” he said. “Dylan was a great kid, he was driven and hard working, and it’s a shame that his life had to come to an end too damn early.”