Even though Manitowoc County won’t have any teams participating in the WIAA State Football championship games, the area will still be represented on the field, just wearing a slightly different uniform.
When Hartland Arrowhead (12-1) and Franklin (12-1) clash in the Division 1 title game today at 4 p.m., a local refereeing crew will be making its’ third appearance at a State championship but first in D1.
“The D1 championship game is the jewel of the WIAA,” said back judge Dave Nickels about being chosen for the game. “Only seven crews are chosen so being selected is a great honor with a lot of prestige. Reaching a state championship is the pinnacle to play, coach or ref in.”
The crew consists of Nickels, referee and crew chief Steve Sanders, Rick Roedell (line judge), Rick Schwarz (head linesman) and Curt Vandersteldt (umpire). While Nickels has only been a member of the crew for two years, Sanders has been involved for over 20 years and last reffed a title game in 2008 when Colby defeated Cedar Grove-Belgium 42-13 to win the D5 championship.
Nickels says being chosen is reward for a lot of hard work and preparation over the course of several years, not just one stellar season.
“We’ve worked hard all year,” Nickels added. “We’re going to enjoy the game but we’re also there to work. We need to give both teams the opportunity to play they best they can.”