First three games to be played in Manawa
By Greg Seubert
Manawa football fans will have plenty of chances 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 on the team’s home field.
Manawa will open the season with nonconference home games against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser and Green Bay West and will open its Central Wisconsin Conference-Large schedule Friday, Sept. 2, by hosting Stratford.
“It just got all messed up with the week two and week one opponents switching,” coach Brad Johnson said. “Chetek-Weyerhaeuser didn’t want to have a home game because they’d have six home games and three away. It’s a great opportunity for us to get out and show what we’ve been working on. We’re excited for six home games, but that means next year, we’ll have three home games. It is what it is. We just want to play football.”
Johnson, who played his high school football in Manawa and has been the Wolves’ coach since 2016, said he used to have more than 40 players out for the sport. That all changed with the covid pandemic.
“We were in the mid-40s when covid took over a few years ago and now, we sit at that low-20 mark,” he said. “We have 17 eligible kids freshmen through seniors. It’s tough, but if you look up on the middle school field right now, we have 30 kids out for seventh- and eighth-grade football. We know the numbers will be coming 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 there where we didn’t have any major injuries to a varsity player and then last year, we had three broken ankles, an Achilles tendon, a broken wrist,” he said. “We know what that looks 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 doesn’t pay to hold back. Someone gets hurt, the next man up is who we have. The kids are pretty resilient and willing to step up whenever they’re asked to.”
The Wolves lost all-conference 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 from playing offense or defense and had a couple of injury things that made him 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 loss in the playoffs and made it to the state semifinals before falling to eventual Division 5 state champion Aquinas.
“There is not a program that couldn’t be tough immediately,” Johnson said. “We really wouldn’t want to have it any other way. When I was in high school, we played some team in the first round of the playoffs that was 9-0 and we just crushed them because our competition was better.
“We’re just thankful for the opportunity to get out there and compete,” he added. “We know if we can protect the football, force a couple of turnovers and keep it close late in the game, we give ourselves a chance to win. It’s about the next play. You’re not going to score 20 points on one play.”
Manawa Football Schedules
Friday, Aug. 19 – vs. Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 26 – vs. Green Bay West, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 2 – vs. Stratford, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9 – at Nekoosa, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 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, Sept. 6 – at Stratford, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 26 – at Shiocton, 4:30 p.m.