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East looking for program-changing season in right direction

By Rich Palzewic
– If the Green Bay East football team is to have better success this season, it will have to be more explosive offensively and take care of the ball.

“That’s what it boils down to,” East coach Levi Nelson said. “If we can improve in those areas, that will also help our defense — we put them in too many bad positions last year. Offensively, we didn’t have many explosive plays last year.”

The Red Devils, who were shut out five times in 2021, finished 0-9 and averaged only 3.8 points per game while giving up 46.3.

“Football is simple,” Nelson said. “It’s about blocking, tackling and taking care of the ball — three things we didn’t do well last season, and our record showed that.”

Nelson said his staff isn’t overlooking special teams, either.

“There were too many times last year (when the opposition) was starting at the 40- or 50-yard line,” he said. “We’ve got to improve on that.”

In the last six seasons, East has gone a combined 6-47.

“This is the third season I’ll be working with the senior class,” said Nelson, who grew up in Ohio. “I’m blessed to be at Green Bay East — I don’t take it for granted. I’m excited about the season.”

Although Nelson said it’s hard to gauge how the year will go in terms of wins and losses until his team starts playing games, he still focuses on his LEAD (Love, Effort, Attitude, Discipline) philosophy.

“As a staff, we’ve tried to get the kids to focus on the here and now,” he said. “You don’t get better by just going to practice. Just like school — it doesn’t mean you’re going to learn anything simply by going to school and sitting at a desk. You have to be disciplined to put forth the effort and be present.”

Nelson said the program’s numbers are up but not where they need to be.

“We brought 47 individuals to our team camp this year,” he said. “When you build relationships with kids, that improves numbers. With me being present within the school and being there for a few years now, that’s helped.”

Nelson has a few new coaches on staff.

“(The new coaches) are doing a great job from a relationship standpoint,” Nelson said. “Kids start playing football — and sports in general — because it’s fun. They go in the backyard and pretend they’re Reggie White getting a sack in the Super Bowl. Somewhere along the line, sports get organized, and sometimes that takes the fun out of it. Practice has to be disciplined, but it also has to be fun.”

Nelson noted the kids and the football staff don’t take it for granted they get to play at East, the former home of the Green Bay Packers.

“We were practicing earlier this summer, and a bus pulled up,” he said. “Out walks (Packers President/CEO) Mark Murphy and Super Bowl champions Scott Wells, Tramon Williams, James Starks, Mike Neal and a few other Packers. Not every school gets to experience that. Growing up where I did in Ohio, I didn’t get to say, ‘Eighty-seven Hall of Famers played on this field.’ We constantly have people drive up to the field and take pictures.”

Nelson said the game vs. intracity rival Green Bay West on Sept. 30 is a big game, but it’s not the only game on the schedule.

“Because they beat us last season, it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” he said. “I don’t go back any more than a year. The rivalry is great, but I’m more focused on Week 1.”

Aug. 19 vs. Marinette
Aug. 26 @ Kingsford, Mich.
Sept. 2 @ Notre Dame Academy
Sept. 9 vs. De Pere
Sept. 16 vs. Menasha
Sept. 23 @ Sheboygan North
Sept. 30 vs. Green Bay West
Oct. 7 vs. Manitowoc Lincoln
Oct. 14 @ Sheboygan South
Note: All games begin at 7 p.m.

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