The idea had crossed Greg Freiherr’s mind.
But he never actually thought becoming a head football coach in one of his favorite vacation destinations would become a reality.
“We’d come up here quite a few times,” Freiherr said. “When we vacationed in Sturgeon Bay, I had said to my wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could land a job here?'”
Freiherr got his wish in May when he was hired to replace Gary Rabach, who stepped down as Sturgeon Bay’s coach after nine seasons.
While this will be Freiherr’s first crack at being a head coach of a varsity program, expectations are high for a Clippers squad coming off their first playoff appearance since winning the WIAA Division 4 state title in 2004.
Those hopes are partly because the roster features a plethora of returning starters. There’s also anticipation because Freiherr served as an assistant for four years under Bob Hyland at Fond du Lac Springs, which has qualified for state three straight years and won titles in 2009 (D5) and 2011 (D6).
“The program that I was with down in Fond du Lac, I think can serve as a kind of template for a way to get the best from these kids,” Freiherr said. “There’s just a wealth of ability we can use in that template.”
The talent pool Freiherr has at his disposal in Sturgeon Bay includes nine players who earned all-Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference accolades last year as sophomores and juniors.
Meanwhile, the top three teams in the conference last season (Wrightstown, Brillion and Kewaunee) return a combined eight players who were named to the first or second teams or honorable mention.
While the Clippers have numerous skill position players coming back –like 6-foot-2 receiver Riley Schartner — Freiherr feels the squad is strongest on the line, where senior Casey Rosenthal and junior Casey Giesseman return as two-way starters.
“These are some big boys,” Freiherr said. “They’re very, very good as blockers, so it’s been very easy transitioning to what we did at Springs, where we ran veer and power effectively with much smaller linemen than what we have here.”
The first-year coach plans on using a pro-style set, a different look than the shotgun in a spread formation as the Clippers had been running.
Taking the snaps from under center will be senior Nathan Abrahamson, who threw for 574 yards and five touchdowns in conference play last year while splitting time with Alex Bailey. Together, the duo accounted for the second-most passing yards (1,192) in the league.
“He’s picked up our running offense very, very well,” Freiherr said of Abrahamson. “Last year they ran a version of spread that included a veer running game to it, so his transition has been very quick.”
Freiherr feels the same way about running back Junior Blucher, who rushed for 600 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in conference play last year.
Given how fast his team has taken to his coaching philosophies, the hardest part about the move to Sturgeon Bay for Freiherr might be being away from his wife, Mary, who will remain near Fond du Lac.
“I’m going to have to try and get Skype going so we don’t forget what we look like,” Freiherr said.