The first three matches to be played in Manawa
By Greg Seubert
Football fans in Manawa will have plenty of opportunities to see their favorite team in action this season.
That’s because six of the Wolves’ nine regular-season games, including the first three and five of the first six, will be played at the team’s home field.
Manawa will open the season with non-conference home games against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser and Green Bay West and open its Central Wisconsin-Grand Conference schedule on Friday, Sept. 2, hosting Stratford.
“It all got mixed up with the change of opponents from week two and week one,” coach Brad Johnson said. “Chetek-Weyerhaeuser did not want to have a home game because they would have six games at home and three away. It’s a great opportunity to get out and show what we’ve been working on. We’re excited for six home games, but that means we’ll have three home games next year. It is what it is. We just want to play football.”
Johnson, who played high school football at Manawa and has coached the Wolves since 2016, said he used to have more than 40 players for the sport. All this changed with the covid pandemic.
“We were in the mid-40s when covid took over a few years ago and now we’re in this low 20s,” he said. “We have 17 eligible kids from freshman to seniors. It’s tough, but if you look at the high school field right now, we have 30 kids to play seventh- and eighth-grade football. We know the numbers will come back.”
Avoiding major injuries will be a key to Manawa’s success this season, Johnson said.
“I had four or five years in a row where we didn’t have a major injury to a varsity player and last year we had three broken ankles, an Achilles tendon and a broken wrist,” he said. “We know what it’s like and what it can be. We just focus on taking care of our bodies and going 100% all the time. A lot of times, you get hurt when you’re not going 100%. It’s not worth holding back. Somebody gets heck, the next man up is what we’ve got. The kids are pretty resilient and are willing to step up whenever they’re asked to.”
The Wolves lost honorable mention players Alex Meidl, Isaac Westphal and Grant Bristol to graduation, but Manawa’s other all-conference player from last year, senior Tanner Nienhaus, is back.
“Tanner looks great and is a workaholic,” Johnson said. “We have (Brandon) Bierman and (Brady) Zemple on the offensive line and Thomas (Bartelt) and Nathan (Gorman) at receiver.”
Another returning player is junior Dakota Stroud.
“Dakota took a year off last year to play offense or defense and had a couple of injuries that forced him to do that,” Johnson said. “He just focused on kicking.”
The CWC-Large also includes Amherst, Nekoosa, Shiocton, Spencer/Columbus Catholic, Stratford,
Weyauwega-Fremont and Wittenberg-Birnamwood. Amherst won the conference championship last year, but Wittenberg-Birnamwood handed the Falcons their only playoff loss and reached the state semifinals before falling to eventual Division 5 state champion Aquinas.
“There’s no program that can’t be tough right away,” Johnson said. “We really wouldn’t have it any other way. When I was in high school, we played some team in the first round of the playoffs 9-0 and crushed them because our competition was better.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to come out and compete,” he added. “We know if we can protect the football, force a couple of turnovers and keep it close at the end of the game, we give ourselves a chance to win. It’s about the next play. You’re not going to get 20 points in one game.”
Manawa Football Schedules
Friday, August 19 – vs. Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, 6 p.m
Friday, August 26 – vs. Green Bay West, 7 p.m
Friday, September 2 – vs. Stratford, 7 p.m
Friday, September 9 – at Nekoosa, 7 p.m
Friday, September 16 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 7 p.m
Friday, September 23 – vs. Shiocton, 7 p.m
Friday, Sept. 30 – at Spencer/Columbus Catholic, 7 p.m
Friday, Oct. 7 – vs. Amherst, 7 p.m
Friday, Oct. 14 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 7 p.m
Tuesday, September 6 – at Stratford, 4.30pm
Monday, September 26 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m