Wolves forced to count on youth
Manawa team must overcome lack of experience
By Greg Seubert
Last year, the Manawa football team stayed in the hunt for a WIAA playoff spot until the final week of the regular season.
A 49-13 loss to Bonduel ended the Wolves’ season with a 3-4 mark in the Central Wisconsin-8 Conference and a 5-4 overall record.
Fast forward to this season and the team just hopes to be competitive.
“Numbers are definitely a problem,” coach Bob Sell said after Manawa’s Aug. 15 scrimmage with Ozaukee and Milwaukee Washington in Fredonia.
“We have 26 people suited up here today for varsity and about 13 that can play ball right now,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do and we have to count on about three positions to be filled by freshmen this year.”
Manawa will open the 2015 season with a pair of nonconference games against Tigerton/Marion and Coleman before hosting Bonduel Friday, Sept. 4, in the CWC-8 opener.
Bonduel, along with Shiocton, Amherst and Iola-Scandinavia, expect to contend for a conference championship this season.
“We’re a tough football team,” Sell said. “We play with some toughness. Most teams say, ‘Boy, you guys hit us harder than any other team in the league,’ but we just don’t have the numbers to compete with those guys.
“The kids are prepared every week,” he said. “If you don’t show up, you’re going to get your butt wiped every week. We are going to need to play A-plus ball with no mistakes just to stay in the game with these teams.”
The roster includes only four seniors, which means that fans can expect to see some unfamiliar names in the starting lineup.
“We actually had three starting linemen that we were expecting to play, but for some reason or another aren’t playing this year,” Sell said. “That hurts a little bit. We just have to play with what we have and make the best of it.”
He expects juniors Ethan Hass and Zach Kreklow to lead the team this season.
“Hass and Kreklow are playing at the outside linebacker spots for us,” Sell said. “They started as freshmen a couple of years ago and are just so mature right now and well-rounded football players. They’re like coaches on the field, but they’re working with freshmen next to them. I’m really impressed with the way they’ve brought it.”
The Wolves have to replace second-team all-conference players Jake Kaczorowski, Dusty Beyer and Adam Langman and honorable mention selection Matt Radloff.
“We brought some coaches in from Minnesota to work with our new option offense,” Sell said. “We’re not there yet, but it looks a whole lot better than when we tried doing it a few years ago. We’re going to get shut down occasionally, but we’re going to get some big plays, so we do have the potential to score some points.
“The problem is we can’t see the kind of speed in practice to make it real when you get into a game,” he said. “You get into a game and the speed is so different. You’re doing things right and it’s looking good, but all of a sudden, we’re a step behind and we miss a block because they’re faster or our linebackers and guards don’t get down the field as quick.”
The Wolves will open the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, at home against Tigerton/Marion out of the CWC-10.
“Marion’s usually a good football team, but they’re a weaker team,” Sell said. “We have to win the games we expect to win. I try to prepare these guys to win every week, but sometimes, teams are just better than you and you have to accept that. I hope the season isn’t really long with losses, but we’re going to try to have some fun. We’ll try our best and hopefully, we can win a couple games.”
• Greg Seubert covers Waupaca, Iola-Scandinavia, Weyauwega-Fremont and Manawa sports for The Waupaca County Post. He can be reached at [email protected] or 715-258-4346.