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Wildcats look to add numbers

By Joshua Staloch

GREEN BAY – There aren’t a ton of bodies on the Green Bay West football field this summer, but the athletes who have shown up to take part in the Wildcats’ 2019 campaign are all working hard – and they’re doing it with smiles on their faces.

There’s something to be said for that – it’s been years since the program has seen a victory, and there’s no reason to believe this season will be any easier on the Wildcats.

West has lost 28 straight games – including going 0-9 in each of the past three seasons.

The Wildcats last victory came in week 8 of the 2015 season.

The team was outscored 439-32 last season and shutout six times.

Still, the group of purple-clad footballers shows up every day, and there’s a lot of learning going on.

They’re attentive, quick to act on instruction and having fun.

“We’re working on it – we’re getting bigger,” said West head coach John Saharsky, now in his second season with the Wildcats after making a cross-town move from Green Bay Southwest. “We’ve been down for the last few years, so we’re putting in a simple system. They’re going to have a couple of plays on offense and a couple of plays on defense to start with – we’re really working on a system for them to learn on.”

While simple is the theme at camp this preseason, expectations are trending upward.

This current group of young athletes, featuring a strong presence of juniors that gained a lot of experience last season, is gaining confidence as opening day approaches.

“For example, on defense, rather than saying we’re a 3-4 or a 4-3, we’re showing them an alignment,” said Saharsky on the basic approach to developing a system for his team to work within. “When the ball is snapped and you’re on the line, go forward and react to what’s happening. Offensively, we’re going to tell them to be assignment and alignment sound. That’s your technique for your first two steps. After this, play football. We think once they get into those first two steps with a solid technique and then you go, something good will happen.”

The tone of practice is serious, but a lighthearted moment is never far off.

Open lines of communication are clearly a valuable asset for this young team as it hopes to make 2019 a turnaround year.

Players are quick to come forward with suggestions for teammates, and coaches aren’t having any trouble getting through to their players.

“The other thing happening is our kids are starting to commit to the weight room,” Saharsky said. “We’ve got players who are looking more athletic, stronger and can get lower than they could before. It makes a big difference when you’re getting off the line with proper form.”

Coach’s Spotlight 

Name: John Saharsky

School: Green Bay West

Years coaching at West: 2

John Saharsky

Other football coaching gigs: Green Bay Southwest, Green Bay Blizzard, De Pere

Hometown: Green Bay

Most memorable coaching moment: “It’s everyday things with the kids – there are awesome moments there. As an example, we had a kid named Caleb – awesome kid. When you took the time to talk to him, you found out he was afraid of playing defense – he felt like the defensive coach always yelled at him. This was starting to make a talented kid not want to play football anymore. So, I took this to the defensive coach and said, ‘Hey, this is something this kid is really hung up on. How can we get him around it?’ It’s moments like this when you can work through things which really impact me.”

Coaching mentor: “Rich Bessart – he’s in the state Hall of Fame, and he’s the reason I got into coaching. He was at Notre Dame when I was there, and I had him as a teacher. He was a coach who didn’t get after you all the time. I try to keep that with me, especially when the players start to make mistakes. I always try to keep in mind that they’re here to have fun. The other guy would be Tony Seidel, who was at Southwest along with Pat Wallace and Tim Birr. Those three guys as a team were so adaptive to the kids’ needs – it was awesome.”

Best high school player you’ve coached against: “Probably Bay Port’s Alec Ingold.”

Goals for 2019: “One of our biggest goals is to continue to grow our participation numbers. Also, my goal every year is to make this a good experience for all of the kids. We want to be successful, but we also want to have fun. If you lose one kid because he’s not having fun, the coaching staff has done something wrong.”

My style of coaching is: “In two words – positive coaching. We have to create an experience for the kids they will use for the rest of their lives. They need to see athletics as healthy and fun. There are discipline and order there, but it can be fun, and you can learn some things from it.”

Green Bay West 2019 regular season schedule

8/23 – @ Xavier

8/30 – @ Seymour

9/6 – West De Pere

9/13 – @ Denmark

9/21 – Green Bay East – 1 p.m.

9/27 – New London

10/4 – Menasha

10/11 – @ Waupaca

10/18 – @ Shawano Community

  • All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
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