Hortonville promotes Stumpf
New football coach hopes to build on success
By Greg Seubert
After four seasons as an assistant football coach at Hortonville High School, the time was right for Ben Stumpf to move up in the ranks.
The Hortonville School Board hired him April 27 to replace Tom Kolosso, who recently stepped down as varsity football coach and assistant boys’ basketball coach.
Stumpf, a physical education teacher at the school, also coached the Polar Bears’ freshman football team and runs Build-A-Bear, the Hortonville Area School District’s summer strength and conditioning program.
He takes over a Polar Bear team that finished 9-2 last year and made it to the second round of the WIAA playoffs.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Stumpf said. “It’s a great community with a lot of parent involvement and great, hard-working kids. Facility-wise, we have a beautiful stadium and we’ve done a lot of renovation with the weight program. It’s been very successful the last four of five years, so it’s a good situation to come into as a new head coach.”
Last year’s 9-2 record included a 7-1 mark in the Valley Football Association South Division. Hortonville shared the division championship with Fond du Lac in a league that also included Neenah, Oshkosh North and Oshkosh West.
Fans will notice a difference this season as the Polar Bears compete in a new division with other VFA teams.
“It’s been a challenge the last few years, as the level of competition has really been on the rise,” Stumpf said. “This year, we’re moving into another new conference. We’re going to be playing Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Wausau East, Wausau West, D.C. Everest and Stevens Point. There are some changes there, but it’s still very good football.”
Uncertainty going forward
Like other coaches around the state, Stumpf and his staff of assistants are dealing with the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“I’m in the process now of having multiple contingency plans: planning if we come back in June, planning on if we come back in July, planning if August is the first time we get to work with the kids with no-contact days and that type of thing,” he said. “The teams that are able to adapt to this challenge of not being able to be in front of the kids, they’re going to have a big leg up on the competition.”
Even the Build-A-Bear program is on hold for now.
“If we’re allowed back in in June, we’ll have well over 500 kids in 6-12 in all sports,” Stumpf said. “Four years ago, it was 100 kids at most. Most of the athletes are there. They want to work hard and there’s tremendous support from the community. It’s been fairly easy to get those kids to buy into it. It’s great to be able to work with kids that are that motivated and determined to put themselves in the best situation possible.”
Minor changes on offense
Fans won’t notice major changes on offense, although the Polar Bears to have to replace first-team all-conference players Jayqon Owens (wide receiver), Jose Concepcion (running back), Dylan Schmidt (fullback), Max Sullivan (lineman) and Kyle Allen (quarterback).
“We’re not making wholesale changes from what we were doing,” Stumpf said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball more effectively. We’ve had a very good pass game with some good skill guys coming back, but we have to be able to run some power football in short-yardage situations and pick up those first downs.
“We’re going to stick with the same defensive scheme, partly due because of the unknown of the summer and we’re not sure if we’re going to have those contact days,” he added. “The 4-2-5 works well for us. I’ve noticed we don’t have naturally big kids. With the 4-2-5, we’re able to get a little more skilled guys out there in space and play to their strengths.”
One returning player is Parker Lawrence, an all-state wide receiver.
“He’s going to be big focus of our offense and we have to get the ball in his hands,” Stumpf said. “He can really stretch the defense.”
The Polar Bears are scheduled to host Appleton East in the season opener Friday, Aug. 21.
Before that happens, however, Stumpf has plenty of work to do and is up to the challenge of running his first varsity program.
“A tremendous amount of work goes into it,” he said. “My wife’s very supportive and she knows what’s going to go into it and that’s important, since we have a couple of young children.”
His plan is to build on what Kolosso and his father, Andy, started.
“Tom really did leave the program in a great situation,” Stumpf said. “He did some great things the past few years making some changes that will certainly make it easier for me coming in. A lot of the smaller pieces are already in place, but we’re hoping to make a few small changes that will really increase the level of our game going forward.”
That includes competing for a state championship, which the Polar Bears have never won.
“We’re looking to stay consistent from year to year,” Stumpf said. “We’ve been a good team the last couple of years, but we want to be a great program year in and year out at all levels, be highly competitive and try to push deep into the playoffs.”