Playing the game is not always about the scoreboard
By Lily Mottet, Current Staff
With the end of the football season approaching, West senior Mason Wallschlaeger is putting everything he can into each game.
The senior class of West Bend West High School’s varsity football team still awaits their first victory since they first began playing the sport together in fifth grade. With only three games left in the season, which ends Oct. 18, the players hope to notch a win and avoid the dubious record of going winless for eight straight seasons.
That’s right: This year’s group of West seniors have never won a football game at any level.
Wallschlaeger, a wide receiver, finds there are more important reasons to play the game than just the final score, however.
“I play for my brothers on the field, I play for one of my teammates who got his season taken away, and I play for the people who get hurt out there because that’s the worst thing in the world to me,” Wallschlaeger said.
Head coach Mitch Draxler teaches at Holy Angels Elementary School during the day, but for the past 11 years he has spent his evenings coaching high school football. For the past four years, Draxler has served as the varsity head coach. It is the same team chemistry Wallschlaeger notices that helps Draxler keep the players motivated.
“We talk about life lessons involved in football, but the biggest and most important thing is that they have they leaders right now that keep them focused and keep them motivated,” Draxler said.
Despite the losses, West students remain loyal to their football team. Peyton Weckworth, West senior, often finds herself leading chants to rile up the student section.
“Even if I start cheering and I try to start a cheer and nobody joins in, I will just keep going and be doing it on my own,” Weckworth said. “I don’t really stop, because one person makes a difference.”
Social media, especially the student-run West Spartans Spirit Instagram account, highlights upcoming games and the related dress up themes. While this account is highly supportive of the players, others have not been as kind.
“Social media can be kind of nasty, and it’s a shame,” Draxler said. “These guys are doing something they love to do and putting everything they can into it.”
“These guys are doing something they love to do and putting everything they can into it.”
– Mitch Draxler, West varsity head coach
That is not where the criticism ends. Wallschlaeger and other players have heard comments made by students while in class. However, despite the harsh words, Wallschlaeger just listens to the coaches’ advice.
“They say ‘Keep going,’” Wallschlaeger said. “Don’t let anything get you down and move on from losses.”
Three years ago, West Bend High Schools athletics switched conferences from the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference to the North Shore Conference. Although the change resulted in new competition, Draxler believes that has not affected the team’s performance.
“Back when we were in the Little Ten, Wisconsin Lutheran was the cream of the crop,” Draxler said. “Wisconsin Luthern in their heyday and Homestead, now, are sort of on that same physically-elite level of football team.”
The team has also seen a number of players decide not to return to the team.
“I think with any program, you have a natural progression,” Draxler said. “It’s pretty rare for your numbers to increase a ton.”
However, despite the Spartans’ track record, six new students who have never played football before are now a part of the varsity football team.
Despite the hardships the team has faced, the support of the community and students has been recognized by the players and coaches.
“Thank you for supporting us, and for always having our backs,” Wallschlaeger said.
The coaches also recognize the pressures faced by the players and the hard work the players put into every game.
“I’m speaking on behalf of all the coaches, I’m really proud of (the players) for the amount of work that they put into it, the kind of people they are,” Draxler said. “We appreciate them and they mean a lot to us.”
The Spartans face the West Bend East Suns 7 p.m. Friday for their homecoming game.
Edited for clarity.
(Top image: West varsity competes against Port Washington Sept. 13. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Luksd.)