It all starts at football camp
Comets preparing for season
By Greg Seubert
The season doesn’t kick off for another month, but the Waupaca Comets are hitting the ground running, catching and blocking.
Third-year varsity coach Bennett Hansen and his staff are working with more than 60 players at a camp at Waupaca High School that began July 17 and wraps up Thursday, July 21.
“We want to give our basics to the kids,” Hansen said. “Do they know how to tackle? Do they know how to block correctly? You can build on those foundational skills.”
The camp is a tradition for the program.
“Some coaches like to go to colleges or spread them out, but putting it all together in a week gives them a feel of what practice is going to feel like,” Hansen said. “They understand the structure of it.”
The camp also allows players to come to the first day of practice in early August ready to work.
“I’m not huge on post-practice conditioning because I like to move while we’re playing,” Hansen said. “That’s how football is played. You get momentary breaks and bursts of energy and that’s how you have to practice.”
The Comets will open the season Friday, Aug. 19, by hosting Luxemburg-Casco. The Spartans ended the Comets’ season last year by handing them a 49-7 loss in the second round of the WIAA playoffs.
Waupaca will compete in the Bay Conference with New London, Shawano, Seymour, Xavier at Winneconne and will open the season with four straight nonconference games.
Besides the camp, Hansen and his assistants are also stressing the importance of lifting weights.
He said it’s hard to convince kids to come to the school and lift weights at 7 a.m. before returning to practice or camp later in the day.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “You twist a few arms here and there, but the nice thing is enough of our guys bought into it and they’re walking advertisements. You can probably walk out here and say, ‘He lifts and he doesn’t.’ You can tell. They like flexing in front of the mirror and the bigger that muscle gets, the better the football player they’ll be.”
Waupaca posted a 5-5 record last year, with one of those five wins a 35-8 victory over Portage in the opening round of the playoffs.
“The playoff win from last year is something to build on,” Hansen said. “It was a big shot in the arm. With the weight room, I’m thankful to the Waupaca Foundry and our administration for getting us that awesome facility that’s only going to allow us to grow and get that much better.”
Hansen isn’t surprised with the camp’s turnout, despite having only seven seniors.
“There are a bunch of ninth graders that are at a baseball tournament, so we’ll probably have over 75 guys by the end of camp,” he said.
Only five of the Comets’ seven seniors at the camp have game experience, but Hansen isn’t too concerned.
“We have the right guys coming back,” he said. “Owen (Smidt), Carsten (Gile), Parker (Krcmar), this’ll be their third year as varsity players. With Devin Minton and Aidan Eisentraut, we have a solid crew of five guys that have really good playing experience. Last year, Sawyer Wehmeyer, our starting center, and Trayse Hanson, an inside linebacker, were sophomores. We’ve had some younger guys playing and that actually helped us with a light senior class.”
One big hole the Comets will have to fill is the graduated Luke Schwenn, the Comets’ quarterback in 2020 and 2021.
“I think we have a guy who’s in the lead to take that over,” Hansen said. “Parker took a few snaps last year in games because he has some speed. We run the option, so that makes him a threat and he’s been the JV quarterback in the past. Luke was a great quarterback and had all the tools. It was hard to play Parker at quarterback because he was our best receiver last year.”
The playoff win over Portage helped give the Comets a boost heading into this season, according to Hansen.
“Our guys had been putting in a lot of work and they went through a lot of hoops,” he said. “Covid wasn’t easy on anybody. There were a lot of restrictions and guys were putting in a lot of extra effort in the weight room in the off-season. Those guys wanted to celebrate because they earned it.”