Chargers seeking 2nd straight playoff berth

Wittenberg-Birnamwood must replace 13 seniors

Leader photo by Morgan Rode Wittenberg-Birnamwood is coming off a 6-4 season and fourth place finish in the CWC-Large.

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood football team is coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory.

The Chargers posted a 6-4 record, including a fourth place finish in the tough Central Wisconsin Conference-Large Division. The 4-3 record within the division helped Wittenberg-Birnamwood snag its first postseason berth since 2006. The Chargers could not hang with top-seeded Stanley-Boyd in a 42-0 first level playoff loss.

Despite the team’s breakthrough season, the Chargers have plenty of questions to answer heading into the 2018 season as the team lost seven players to graduation that made an all-conference team last year. Witt-Birn has just four total starters back from last year’s team.

Jack Stewart, a running back that made the all-conference second team as a junior, is the lone returning Charger player that earned all-conference honors last year. He and senior Mike Gibson will form the team’s backfield duo as the team looks to ease a new starting quarterback into the fold.

Juniors Allen Uttecht and Luis Rodriguez and senior Jose Torres will be asked to holes left by departed seniors on the offensive line.

Stewart, Gibson and senior Pedro Cervantes will anchor the defensive side of the ball from their linebacker positions while Torres and Uttecht help fill out the line. Senior Shane Herb will lead the secondary.

Even though Witt-Birn lost several impactful players from last year’s team and 13 seniors in total, coach Bernard Holsey and the Chargers are making no exceptions.

“I expect our team to pick up where we left off last year,” Holsey said. “I do not consider this a rebuilding year even though we lost 13 good seniors.”

“Our expectations this year will be to make the playoffs as one of the top three seeds and play into November,” Stewart said. “Our mentality to reaching this goal is no one works harder than us in anything, whether it’s conditioning or lifting.”

“In order to fill those voids we are going to need to really push ourselves and work hard this season during practice and in the weight room,” Uttecht said.

Playing in a conference against the likes of Bonduel, Amherst and Iola-Scandinavia would leave most teams scrambling to try and rack up enough wins to obtain a playoff spot. Despite losses to all three teams last year, Witt-Birn does not lack confidence heading into this year’s difficult schedule.

“After making playoffs last year, the bar is set pretty high. We had a tough loss in the first round of playoffs last year, so as a team we definitely would like to go farther,” Herb said. “We definitely would like to win conference, and if we keep hitting the weights and the studying the playbook, and pay attention to detail, I think we could do it.”

The team believes its preparation will be key for a successful run through the conference portion of the season.

“We really prepare ourselves mentally and physically by watching film and studying and breaking down what the other team does offensively and defensively,” Uttecht said.

Along with having to replace several starters and playing in a tough conference, the Chargers will also not have the help of home field advantage on most weeks. Wittenberg-Birnamwood plays just three of its nine games at home and starts the season away from home in three of the first four weeks.

The Chargers open the season with nonconference games against Northland Pines and Crandon before playing their conference opener against three-time defending Division 5 state champion Amherst at home. Witt-Birn will travel to take on Iola-Scandinavia, Shiocton, Bonduel and Manawa during the conference season.