Sometime in the future, let’s say in the year 2030, there will be a football team in Wisconsin that barely squeaks into the playoffs.
That team’s record will be unassuming. Possibly 5-4. Perhaps even below .500, at 4-5.
No one, including the town’s very own citizens, will give the team much of a chance to go far in the playoffs. The naysayers will look to teams with unblemished records and No. 1 seeds to advance far in the playoffs.
Heck, that’s human nature, isn’t it?
But the team will believe in itself. The players will look to each other for strength. The long odds won’t look so insurmountable because an inspiring precedent has been by the 2013 Winneconne Wolves.
Yes, the Wolves team that started 0-3 this season. The same Winneconne team that lost to Xavier 42-0. And the same Winneconne team that barely made it into the playoffs.
That same Winneconne team proved everybody wrong in reaching the Division 4 state championship game and reached state football immortality by beating Platteville 28-14 to claim the D4 title.
“We just set the legacy,” Winneconne senior Riley Kallas said. “And we played this game for our past generations (at Winneconne). They’re the ones who set this foundation for us.”
Winneconne senior quarterback Mitchel Fenrich said the team believed. When asked about the team’s overtime victory against Berlin in which Winneconne converted a two-point conversion to win 29-28, Fenrich said that it was one of many close plays that Winneconne made to keep its season alive.
The will never to give up was something he hoped future teams in the same situation would accept as their mantra.
“We talked about it every day,” Fenrich said. “We talk about how the inches around us are everything and how we have to win those inches. That’s something we did. It’s great when you could do something like this so people know not to give up and keep playing.”
Winneconne finished fifth in the Eastern Valley , but this was a strong year for the conference. Of the four teams that finished ahead of Winneconne, Waupaca was coming off a Division 3 state title game appearance last season and finished as the conference champion, Xavier reached the Division 3 state semifinals this year, Freedom reached Level 3 of the playoffs and Little Chute reached the second level.
“I don’t think they understand the history yet, but I do know that they understand that they can get it done,” Winneconne coach Clint Peters said. “The first thing I did when we got in was thank the WIAA for expanding the field, because it gives teams like us that plays in a tough conference, a chance. This was a team that found themselves late in the season and got on a roll.”
And the Wolves used that late-season surge to make history and win a state title while also providing inspiration to a score of teams in the future.
“We didn’t crumble,” Fenrich said. “We fought back and here we are.”