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LEADER OF THE EDGAR WILDCATS

Prelude:

Friday night, September 30, 1966, was the start of the of the longest game in state history.  I’ve found teams that played each other twice in the regular season back in the early days of Wisconsin High School football.  The state record book shows that Wauzeka vs. LaFarge on October 9, 1981, and Waukesha South vs. West Bend East on September 5, 2008, all played six overtime periods with each game lasting nearly four hours.  Yet, these are not the longest game (s).


In the third quarter St. Croix Central’s Don Riley picked up a “fumble” that went through the legs of an Elmwood player on a punt.  Riley ran 15-yards for the only score of a scoreless matchup of two undefeated Dunn-St. Croix Conference teams. Central failed to convert the extra point and the score ended 6-0.  The ball appeared to have touched the leg of the Elmwood player and that constitutes a “muff”, something that cannot be advanced because he never had possession of the ball.  After the game one of the officials contacted WIAA official Lew Ansorge for clarification of the rule.  On October 24 the WIAA ruled that the officials were in error and the game needed to be replayed from the point of the muff.


There had been sometimes, previously, when the game, ruled by the WIAA, had to be replayed from the start but this time the game would be played from the middle of the third quarter and moving forward.  William Shay, superintendent of St. Croix Central, had filed a counter protest with the WIAA saying that the Board of Control violated the spirit of the constitution in making a hasty decision.  St. Croix Central’s protest was overturned, and the game was tentatively scheduled for November 3 to be played in Elmwood, where the game from September had started. 


On Thursday, November 3 at 1:45pm the game resumed.  Elmwood, a village of about 750 people, was nearly deserted.  Few cars were on the streets.  It seemed that everyone in town was at the high school football game.  An afternoon game on a Thursday was an unusual time to play.  Many St. Croix students and team fans made the 27 miles to watch the game.  St. Croix Central was undefeated with an overall 7-0-0 record, (6-0-0 in conference play) not counting the earlier battle with Elmwood.  They had just won their second consecutive conference title, but this would be a battle.  Elmwood was 5-2-0 and in second place in the Dunn-St. Croix conference with a 5-1-0 posting.  If Elmwood won, the championship would mean that the two schools actually tied for the title.


First, the game officials had to determine where to place the ball.  It had gone through the legs of the Elmwood punt returner, glanced off of a leg and was picked up on the 15-yard line.  Was it the 22 or the 23-yard line?  Even the two head coaches differed as to where the ball should be placed.  The officials compromised and put it on the 22 ½ and it was St. Croix’s ball. With six minutes remaining in the third period history was being made. Nearly five weeks after the first game it finally resumed.  St. Croix Central drove the distance in seven plays, picking up two first downs as fullback Norm Ross crashed over from the one for the touchdown.  On the try for the extra point Ross was again given the ball but defensive back, junior Jerry Sinz came up and tackled him behind the line and the score stood 6-0.  With less than two minutes left in the final period Elmwood’s quarterback Jeff Fischer tossed the ball to Jeff Nelson who made a fingertip catch between two defenders in the end zone for an Elmwood score. Fullback Jim Bock fought his way over the goal for the extra point and then Elmwood hung on to win 7-6 and a tie for the conference title.


Edgar:

The 1966 game was the first-time defensive back Jerry Sinz got major recognition, but it wouldn’t be the last.  Jerry graduated from Elmwood in 1968 and went on to attend UW-Stout where he was a three-year letterwinner and started at safety and as a punt returner for two years.  Upon graduating in 1972 he took a teaching/coaching position at Edgar, and he’s been there ever since. 


Edgar started playing football in 1962 and after thirteen seasons and five previous head coaches, Edgar offered the position in 1975 to the young coach and he has built a powerhouse.  The first season was a learning process for Sinz, his small staff of assistants and the players as Edgar went 3-6.  A member of the Marawood Conference the Wildcats won the conference title in 1976 and 1977. A sort of down year followed in 1978 (5-4) and then 1979 came along and the team went 12-0 and won the WIAA Division 4 title with an 11-6 win over Iowa-Grant. 


After the 1979 title, things just got better for Edgar and Jerry Sinz.   Through the decades:


What a great record!!!


The first Edgar high school opened in 1909.  The students played intermural sports like basketball and baseball for several years.  In 1926-27 the boys played basketball had their first  official school vs. school competition and they made it to the district tournament and posted an 11-5 season record.  Other sports came along in the 1930’s…boxing, softball, track, volleyball and tennis, to name a few.  But no football until 1962.   Prior to Jerry Sinz taking over as head coach Edgar had only posted a 43-57-1 record (1962-75).


I had a great talk with Coach Sinz back in February.  He said that after being an assistant for three seasons that there had been some talk of the sport being shut down following a combined 5-13 record for 1973-74.  The previous coach had left and Sinz stepped in.  Moral was low among the players and he was determined to turn things around.  It wasn’t an instant success as the team posted a 3-6 season in 1976.  But since then, the program has grown.  


But how has Sinz and Edgar been so successful?  First, he wanted to make things fun for the players.  He began to get the team involved in the community as a way of building relationships.  One of those programs is helping make the community more aware of breast cancer and how to prevent it. Another way that he has been able to build cohesiveness in his squads is trying to get his players to show marked improvement in their on-field performance as well as in the classroom.  He stresses good rest for his players and, with his assistants coaching other sports, build their speed, quickness, agility and strength.  Music is a way to build team spirit in the locker room.  The players love to sing along and mug it up.


Jerry taught math and technical education & engineering until 2014 when he retired.  He interacted with students in the classroom as well as on the football field and spent time as an assistant in both basketball and track.  In building a large coaching staff, eleven people listed in the 2023 WIAA State Championship program (Many of whom are former Edgar players) Sinz’s staff also coach other sports as well.  By doing so, they, under the goals of the football program, mentor their players in staying in good health, build comradery and reaching out to help other students and athletes.   There is no doubt that the interaction of Sinz and his assistants has been crucial in building a program that in the 2023-24 season only had 201 students in the school.   Some schools that have low student numbers like Edgar have moved to 8-player football but not the Wildcats.  The state championship program listed 42 players on the roster, a great accomplishment in school/team involvement.


Coach and I talked about a a number of things. He likes working with new coaches, spends time speaking at clinics and teaching religious classes.  I had asked Bob Hyland of Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs a few years ago if he had been approached by other schools to move to different program.  Afterall, he had been having great success and the head coaching spot at Fond du Lac Goodrich High School had become open several times over the years and he said that he had not been officially approached about that job or any other which surprised me.  I asked Coach Sinz the same question and he said there had been a few feelers a while back but he couldn’t see the need to make a jump.  It seems that these two coaches’, who have played against each other a few times over the years in the playoffs simply love the school and the town where they are at.  A good comfort zone.  And why not stay when you have a great coaching staff and students who are proud of what they have accomplished.


Speaking of the Edgar staff, it was Troy Andreshak who responded to my request for some additional school statistical information.  Thanks, Troy.  What he sent was, well, a boat load of material.  Like Patrick Foran at Milwaukee Marquette (See links to that school’s athletic records in my blog… EARLY UPDATES ON THIS SEASON SO FAR (wihifootball.com) and Travis Winkers at Darlington who has built a very good file on that school’s all-time win/loss records as well as some player statistical records, Troy sent me a terrific file on Edgar’s history… Edgar Football Records - Google Sheets.  Then, he followed up several emails on stats that were missing from the state records book.  At this time, I asked if he could intercede and ask Coach Sinz if he would talk to me and I got the positive reply I had hoped for. 


On the football field Troy works with the wide receivers and linebackers.


Another assistant is Andrew Lukasko who I met while visiting my nephew, Eric Kossoris, in Madison after a Badger football game.  Andrew and Eric were both walk-on’s and ended up being roommates.  Again, Andrew and I only spent a few minutes talking about Edgar football but it weas fun.  Andrew is the head wrestling coach as well as an assistant track coach and he is the Special Teams Coordinator and works with the defensive backs and running backs.


The other assistants, and not to be slighted as they do a great job are Greg Streit is the defensive coordinator and works with the linebackers and the offensive line.  Greg teaches technology education as well as being head coach for both the boys and girls track teams.  Chris Trawicki works as the offensive coordinator as well as being the quarterback and defensive back coach. Chris is the Technology Coordinator instructor and serves as the assistant boys’ basketball coach.  Nathan Dahl is a science teacher at the high school and middle school football head coach as well as working with the varsity on the offensive and defensive lines.  Adam Decker works with the offensive and defensive lines and teaches Physical Education.  Earl Rau coaches the quarterbacks and linebackers and teaches high school social studies.  Eric Hafferman and Kaleb Hafferman are volunteer coaches who work with the defensive backs and running backs.  Zach Paul, another volunteer coach, deals with the tight ends/slots and the defensive line.  John Peterlik, the fourth volunteer is the middle school co-head coach and helps with the varsity linebackers and running backs.  The volunteer coaches attend most practices and all games.  Other than Coach Sinz and Coach Streit and the two middle school coaches the others rotate coaching the JV and JV2.  Why mention all this?  Because the coaches also work as a team.  They deal with multiple teams besides the varsity, overlapping responsibilities and work as a unit to develop a strong program in a small community that is proud of what has been accomplished. 


One of the final questions I had for coach Sinz was how much longer will he coach?  He had thought of retiring a few years back but after the 2020 COVID season he decided to stay on.  With 470 career wins is he thinking of going for the magic number, 500?  Two years ago, I wrote a blog about the 1976 Antigo team and their coach, Gordy Schofield who retired with 199 career wins.  Two years before the Antigo story, Dave Keel of Homestead High School retired after 30-years with 292 career wins.  Schofield could have coached one more season to get to 200 and Keel could have coached another as well to get to 300 wins.  When I asked Bob Hyland of St. Mary’s Springs how much longer he was going to coach…he had 493 wins at the time, he said that he was going to retire but his grandson asked that he stay on until 2024 so he, Hyland, could coach him.


Jerry Sinz told me that when it was time it was time.  Like Gordy Schofield and others, it’s not about the numbers but the lessons you teach.  The lives you touch.  Edgar’s Coach Sinz has done that over the years and he and his plyers and assistants have done it well:


49 Seasons/48 Consecutive Winning Seasons (1975-2023)

470 Career Wins   An .836 winning percentage

37 WIAA Playoff Appearances (96-28 Record)

25 Seasons of 10+ Wins

20 Undefeated Regular Seasons

8 WIAA Championships/5-Time Runner-up/Titles in Five              Different Decades


Thanks, coach, for your time.

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