GLENWOOD CITY — Legacy and Love.
Both were spoken about at the “Welcome Home” ceremony held Thursday night, November 21 at the Glenwood City High School gymnasium in honor of the Hilltoppers football team, who had just ended its season earlier that day with a runner-up finish to Black Hawk in the WIAA Division 7 State Football Championship at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Unbeaten Black Hawk (14-0) captured its first state title in any sport with a 44-22 victory over Glenwood City (12-2), the defending D7 state titlist.
Glenwood City players and coaches were greeted with cheers, applause and well wishes from several hundred parents, students, and fans when they returned to the high school that evening.
Those in attendance showed their love and appreciation for their Hilltoppers, who had just finished competing in their second straight state football championship game. Two years of dedication have yielded 23 wins and a pair of state trophies – a 2012 state championship and this year’s runner-up finish.
What began as a love for the game of football and for one another has begotten a legacy that will stand for a lifetime alongside the 1985, 1997, and last year’s state championship football teams and the 2001 state champion basketball squad.
“I am very blessed to be here and very blessed to work with everyone of these kids,” Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong told the “Welcome Home” audience. “I am extremely proud of them and proud of this entire town.”
“We love them and I know they love each other,” continued Strong. “That is one of the lessons that we talk about when we made this helmet last night (Wednesday night). All the parents and family wrote letters to the players and we dedicated the game to you.”
Players wrote the names of those people that have had a special and lasting impact on their young lives on this helmet and then dedicated the championship game to them. The helmet sat on the sideline at Camp Randall and was a touching stone for many players before, during and after the contest.
“We talked about, in our lesson last night, we talked about the number one word ‘Love’ and what it means and what it means to love other people,” Strong stated. “I think they have shown that and are very good about that with one another and are a very devoted team as well.”
“I hope your proud of them, I know you’re proud of them!” concluded Strong. “They’ve built a legacy that will be remembered for a lifetime. Thank You!”
Seniors Richard Ross, Nick Mrdutt, and Isaac Tuttle spoke of what this season has meant to them and how thankful they are to have been a part of this special team. Each were also thanked the community for the tremendous support they have shown.
Nick Mrdutt may have put it best when he summed up the lifetime bonds the players have cemented the two seasons when he said “I am going to miss my brothers in blue!”
Fellow senior Damian Multhauf read a letter that Coach Strong had written to the players recalling the times they had spent together and the memories and friendships that had been forged – ones that would last a lifetime.
Assistant coach Jon Mrdutt echoed the opening comments of athletic director Gordy Hierlmeier saying that this was a group of good kids and that nothing, not even a championship game loss, would dim the accomplish of this group of special young men.
“If this is the worse thing that happens to you,” Mrdutt told the players of the loss to Black Hawk earlier that day, “Then you will indeed have a blessed life.”
Mrdutt concluded the remarks by telling the team that they have created something that will last a lifetime.
The players their appreciation to the fans one last time, as they have after every game, by going to the stands and giving handshakes to their fans and supporters.