Wrenshall football aims for success – on and off the fieldThe Wrenshall football program is alive and well, thank you very much – and has even landed in the win column for the first time in more than two years.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Wrenshall football program is alive and well, thank you very much – and has even landed in the win column for the first time in more than two years.
Just over two years ago, the varsity program was suspended due to a lack of players. Now, however, the Wrens are playing in the Great Northern Conference and two weeks ago posted a 49-8 win at Northland-Remer.
“It feels good to be back under the lights again on Friday nights,” Coach Jeremy Zywicki said. “It’s fantastic for the kids. We’ve waited a long time for this opportunity.”
The Wrens are 1-3 heading into Friday night’s game at Isle, but the fact that the program is again playing at the varsity level means the season is already a success.
The Wrens have 21 players on the roster – and no seniors.
“They are very young,” Zywicki said of his players. “They are all in grades 9-11. We hadn’t played a varsity game in two and a half years before this season, so the kids are going from last season’s junior varsity team to varsity football without game experience.”
That has meant a learning process for the Wrens.
“Other schools have been able to sub in ninth- and 10-graders at the end of games to give those players experience,” Zywicki said. “These kids haven’t had that opportunity. They have been thrown into it.”
However, the Wrenshall players got that opportunity against Northland-Remer in a contest they led 42-0 at
“We got our non-starting players into the game for almost a full half,” Zywicki said. “We do start a couple of freshmen and we have juniors and sophomores playing too, but the kids who don’t see much time on the field got a chance to play in that game.”
While the Wrens find their varsity legs, Zywicki has had to shift players into and out of various positions during the season.
“We’ve had a few injuries so we have had to move kids around,” he said.
One such instance is at quarterback. Junior Jack Dolter started the season at that position but Zywicki was forced to switch to sophomore Dustin Shelton when Dolter hurt his ankle in the season opening game against Onamia.
“The idea was to give Jack time at running back,” Zywicki said. “Jack has returned to the field since then but his ankle wouldn’t let him play running back against Floodwood last week so now he’s back at quarterback again.”
This season’s captains are Dolter and fellow juniors Derek Duncan and Austin Ferguson.
“It makes it difficult when you don’t have senior leadership on the team,” Zywicki said. “But the players are expected to show leadership on and off the field, by what they are showing our young athletes in the classroom and around the school.”
Zywicki is trying to build a program based on the “student” in “student-athlete.”
“Interacting among peers, teachers and faculty is very important to me and my coaching staff,” he said. “The boys have to carry themselves with integrity, discipline, pride and respect on and off the field. They are students first and athletes second.”
That philosophy will make Wrenshall’s return to varsity football a success.
“We have had some struggles this year, but we continue to improve every week,” Zywicki said. “To finish the season will show a lot about the commitment and dedication of our players. We hope for a couple more wins but if we don’t get them, we don’t get them. That won’t mean we haven’t had a successful season.”