West players compete in Quarterback Challenge at Lambeau
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – With every step Jack Hemery took walking down the stairs at Lambeau Field, his nerves made him rattled.
He has attended a number of home Green Bay Packers games, but this was different.
This time, Hemery was going to be on the field – and even cooler, he was going to be throwing passes to two of his friends.
Hemery, the junior quarterback for the Green Bay West football team, along with Damion Henrichs and Trey Stevens-Broadnax, were representing the school in the High School Quarterback Challenge at halftime of the Packers-Minnesota game Sept. 15.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Hemery said. “You dream about being at Lambeau, and it was cool to be out there. I was surprised at how loud it was being down on the field.”
An announced crowd of 78,416 packed the stands for the early-season matchup between the division rivals.
Those in attendance were also more rowdy with the looming ceremony in honor of late Packers quarterback Bart Starr at halftime.
West took on Kaukauna in the Quarterback Challenge.
The two programs were chosen for the competition because they won the Packers +1 Challenge, which awards area high schools with the highest increase in the number of students participating in football since last year.
West had the best percentage increase from 34 to 54 players.
The players received tickets to the game, and all the guys got to sit in the stands together.
When the second quarter began, the high school athletes made their way to the field to be part of the halftime show.
The West players, along with their coach, John Saharsky, stood in the corner of the end zone for the majority of the second quarter watching the action unfolding not too far away.
Once halftime started, each team had two opportunities – with alternating throws — to see which could complete the longest throw and catch.
Saharsky had a little advice for his players before starting the competition.
“I told them they’d already won,” Saharsky said. “Having us grow our program is so big. I said, ‘Go out and have fun.’ Normally, you have to tell a kid not to be nervous, but they weren’t nervous at all. They were having fun.”
West went first, as sophomore receiver Stevens-Broadnax narrowly missed hauling in a pass from Hemery.
Kaukauna converted on its first throw to put the pressure on.
“He threw me the ball when I was pretty deep, so I had to make a body catch to secure it,” said Henrichs, a senior who is one of the top receivers in the Bay Conference.
The ball traveled about 45 yards in the air.
“Jack overthrew Trey a little bit, but he wasn’t going to overthrow Damion,” Saharsky said. “It was cool to see him get out there and catch it.”
With its final throw, Kaukauna completed a longer pass to win the competition.
“You always want to win, but in the end, we received free tickets to a Packers game – it was a great game, too,” Hemery said. “There was nothing to be disappointed about.”
Henrichs was excited to haul in a pass on the grass at Lambeau.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “Catching the ball in front of thousands of fans. It’s crazy to be down on the field and hear all the noise.”
Getting to participate in the Quarterback Challenge created a lot of buzz around the West program.
When it was announced the school was going to compete, Saharsky thought the best way to decide which three players would be picked was to have a competition within the team.
“The kids had a lot of fun after practice one day,” Saharsky said. “We were lining up like they were on the sideline and throwing those 50-yard bombs. It was fun to see them all running around.”
Once the day of the competition arrived, Henrichs, Hemery and Stevens-Broadnax said they were excited.
“It was a great opportunity,” Henrichs said. “It will be something I’ll look back on for the rest of my life. Making a catch in front of all those fans was a dream come true. I loved it.”