Kaukauna’s Mason Van Zeeland talks about his big TD reception from Kimberly’s Cody Staerkel in the North’s 19-11 victory over the South All-Stars
Ricardo Arguello, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
OSHKOSH – Football is a game for the tough and with some of the hits that are delivered on the field, it is occasionally not a game for the faint of heart.
As the players in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Small Schools All-Star Classic discovered, what they do on the football field is a piece of cake compared to what some deal with.
“My own cousin was a patient at one of the hospitals for a couple of months,” North running back Bryce Huettner of Iola-Scandinavia said. “Thanks to them, she is still with us today. It really feels awesome to not only play football, but to do it for a cause like no other. To be able to help these kids and the way they tell their stories is so awesome and brave. They just want to have a fun life like everybody else.”
Huettner rushed for a game-high 70 yards and one touchdown to help lead the North to a 21-14 win over the South at J.J Keller Field at Titan Stadium on Saturday.
Stratford’s Kade Ehrike rushed for 58 yards and two scores, including the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Ehrike said. “Just a whole new group of guys and I had full trust in everything they did and just knew that we could keep pounding the ball.”
At the beginning of the week, there were probably some doubts about how the pound-the-ball offense would work.
“It was tough at the beginning of the week learning a whole new playbook and a whole new line learning how they like to block,” Ehrike said. “It was a grind this week with the heat to just learn how everyone blocked. We started clicking on Wednesday and Thursday and then I knew it was going to be a good game.”
Ehrike’s first score on a 9-yard run in the first quarter tied the game after the South squad came out on fire.
South running back Darios Crawley-Reid of Greendale Martin Luther and St. Mary’s Springsâ€™ Mitch Waechter marched the team down the field on a 78-yard drive following the opening kickoff.
After that, things kind of went south for the South, which managed just 87 yards of offense after the opening drive.
“I think we kind of lost our composure a little bit,” Waechter said. “I’ve got to give the North credit. They played a great game. It’s kind of tough getting a team together in less than a week. That kind of stuff took us apart.”
Waechter finished 11-of-23 for 118 yards and one interception. Crawley-Reid led the South with 39 yards rushing on eight carries.
While much of the focus was on the kids of Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Wisconsin, it was also the opportunity for one more football game for those who won’t be playing at the collegiate level.
“I will miss it so much,” said Berlin’s Bradon Gulch. “But I know I left everything out there on the field.”
Adam Sobieski of Berlin said he will miss it as well.
“I’m going to wrestle at UW-Oshkosh,” he said. “But I’m gonna miss it so much, playing this game with all these great players.”
But it was still a game about the kids, and Waechter said there was a greater thing at play.
“We take it for granted what these kids go through,” he said. “I had a speech Friday where I said that there is just so much more to life than football. These kids really showed us they’re the true warriors. It’s crazy playing for a bigger purpose than just football.”
Said Huettner, “You think playing football is tough. Imagine what they have to go through every day. They are tougher than any football player.”