OSHKOSH – It was one last opportunity for Little Chute’s Mike Ehlke and Shiocton’s Garrett Gunderson and Riley Wood to put on the helmets of their high school football teams.
The trio was part of the North all-star team that defeated the South all-star team 10-3 in overtime in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Small Schools game at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium on Saturday.
The three football games between the large schools (Divisions 1-3), the small schools (Divisions 4-7) and eight-on-eight schools benefit Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“One last chance,” Ehlke said. “It felt really good for the hometown.”
Gunderson, who knocked down a pair of passes thrown to receivers he was covering, said it was great to represent Shiocton in the game.
“Shiocton tradition is just unreal and to play for Shiocton was a lifetime experience,” Gunderson said. “Not many teams are as fortunate to win that many games as Shiocton. We were just fortunate enough to get in the program and learn from the coaches and other players. Hopefully, the tradition carries on.”
For Wood, it marked the last time he’d be putting a football helmet on. He will be majoring in physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“It feels great to represent my community one last time,” Wood said. “I don’t plan on playing football anymore, so this last time really meant a lot to me and we came out with a ‘W.’ ”
Neither squad was able to mount much of an offense, which could in part be attributed to trying to install an offense with a group of players whose teams ran different offenses.
“It was interesting, too, because some of my teammates were rivals,” Wood said. “We ran different offenses, but our coaches were very, very talented. They taught us all the plays. We have a ton of plays on our wrist coach. They taught them to us in a quick fashion and we executed them.”
The North squad, which finished with 186 yards of offense, probably had its best display of offense in the overtime period when it moved the ball 25 yards in six plays, capped off by Mitch Neubauer’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Tony Britton.
It was the defense that did it for the North, holding the South to a meager 91 yards total offense and limiting the South to just a field goal on a fourth-quarter drive that started on the North’s 30-yard line and got down to the eight before forcing a Zach Hintze field goal.
Ehlke was one of the leaders of the defense, finishing with five tackles and 11/2 quarterback sacks for a loss of 15 yards.
“I was going to help my team get a win,” Ehlke said. “I was doing it at all costs because I knew I had a whole bunch of awesome skill players beside me.”
It was not easy holding the South in check.
“Our defense was phenomenal,” Ehlke said. “We played really well to hold them to three and that’s saying something for an All-Star Game.”
Gunderson credited the coaches with letting the players know what to expect from the South.
“Their receivers were great,” Gunderson said. “We knew they were going to try to pass. Our coaches just put us in great position and we executed.”
The North’s defense put the exclamation point on the win in overtime when Zach Wolf recovered a fumble forced by Cole LaLiberty to end the game.
“The ball squirted out and what you do is you dive on it,” Wolf said. “If it’s loose, you go all out and dive for it.”
South 20, North 15
Hortonville’s Mitchell Gerhartz rushed nine times for 63 yards and had a 22-yard touchdown run for the North in the loss.
Menasha standout Emanuel Jenkins caught five passes for 44 yards for the North team, while Xavier’s Matt Kinderman had two catches for 14 yards.
Menasha’s Isaac Erdmann made five tackles, including a sack, and Xavier’s Tom Johnson also had five tackles for the North defense.
Menasha’s Austin Behm (3), Tyler Johnson (2) and Kelvin Medrano (1) also contributed tackles for the North defense. Seymour’s Gunnar Roberge and Kimberly’s Connor McCormick both had one tackle, and Kaukauna’s Derek Hansen had one tackle and broke up two passes.
North 20, South 14
Samuel Jeffers of Stockbridge played for the South and had two tackles, including one for a loss, a pass broken up and a fumble recovery.
— Jim Oskola: 920-993-1000, ext. 319, or firstname.lastname@example.org