Youth will be served for N.E.W Lutheran co-op United team
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Richard Hasseler is quick to admit that last year was tough for his N.E.W. Lutheran football team.
The longtime coach had to endure an 0-9 season with his young squad.
But after taking their lumps with their 8-Player schedule, Hasseler is hoping his returners — who are a nice nucleus — can take a step forward this season.
“They’re still young — they’re going to be sophomores and juniors,” Hasseler said. “We’re very simple from the get-go, because a lot of our kids come in their freshmen year and they’ve never played before. You start at, ‘This is how you get in the three-point stance,’ and then we have three weeks to get the ready for a game. We keep it simple, but I know this year we’re adding a little more right away, because we have a year or two of just running our offense and hopefully getting the basics down that we already have. Now we can move forward with some misdirection stuff and option stuff.”
With practice just starting on Aug. 8, one week later than the 11-player teams, Hasseler is still trying to learn his team.
There will only be two or three seniors on this year’s squad.
“The last couple of years we’ve been senior light,” Hasseler said. “Three-four years ago when they were freshmen, we knew this was going to happen, so that’s why we co-oped with Oneida Nation.”
Hasseler isn’t worried about what the scoreboard reads at the end of a game, he’s more concerned about the character and choices made by his young men.
“What I’m hoping for with the young guys is that we get a couple leaders to step up,” Hasseler said. “I know we have a lot of potential, it’s whether or not they take that step. We’re coaching them up on that. Captains and leaders on our team isn’t typically what other teams are like. Our captains get the water ready, the equipment, they put away the equipment. … Not every kid is cracked up for that.”
With the team named United for the co-op, the offense put up just 34 total points a season ago.
“We’ll definitely put up more points for sure,” Hasseler said. “It was a big-time transition last year for many reasons, one being we didn’t have any leaders. That’s the key to every team to have some leaders step up. We’re going to have that this year.”
Quarterback Reid Nelson was thrown into the fire as a starter. Hasseler is hoping he takes the next step forward in Year 2 after maturing and hitting the weight room hard in the offseason.
“We expected a lot from a freshman, so I think just a year in the trenches, I think he’s gained confidence,” Hasseler said. “He’s gone to some quarterback camps this year, so that’s all going to help him out.”
Nelson, who worked with nationally recognized quarterback coach Jeff Trickey over the offseason, finished last season 41-for-92 through the air for 518 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
United will have to replace its leading rusher from a season ago, Johnny Ponfil.
Bryce Liebzeit was hurt the majority of last season, but he’s back this year. He could step into the tailback spot.
“He’s looking good,” Hasseler said. “Then Jedi would probably be our next guy up in the fullback spot.”
Jedi is a son of former Packer defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. The Gbaja-Biamila family moved to California in the offseason, but Jedi decided to stay in Green Bay for his education and to play football.
United’s receivers include Griffin Steffel and Sam Hillmann.
On the offensive line, Logan Nichols and Vernon Stevens — who will both go both ways — will be relied upon. The third line spot is open at this point.
Defensively, Nichols will be the team’s middle linebacker, Stevens will be at defensive end and Gbaja-Biamila is set to play outside linebacker.
Hasseler is taking over again as the team’s defensive coordinator this season, so he has some tricks up his sleeves. United will be running 31 Monster, with the monster player — who has yet to be determined the first week of practice — playing a vital role.
There is a lot that excites Hasseler heading into this season. In particular, he was encouraged by the summer workouts from his guys.
“We carry weightlifting four days a week and then we have a speed and agility camp that all these guys are in and the attendance was fantastic,” Hasseler said. “That in itself is encouraging, they’re taking it seriously.
“I think they were shocked last year. A lot of these kids had never played varsity football before and they’re very young.”
N.E.W LUTHERAN’S REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE
Aug. 26 @ Algoma
Sept. 1 @ Lena/STAA
Sept. 9 @ Wausaukee
Sept. 16 vs. Sevastopol @ Oneida Nation
Sept. 23 @ Suring
Sept. 30 vs. Algoma @ N.E.W. Lutheran
Oct. 7 @ Gibraltar
Oct. 14 vs. Gillett @ Oneida Nation
Note: All games begin at 7 p.m.