Polar Bears share UW Oshkosh experience
By Erik Buchinger
UW Oshkosh reached the Stagg Bowl to play for a national title game in NCAA Division III on Friday, Dec. 16 in Salem, Virginia but the Titans were defeated 10-7 by Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Oshkosh was helped along the way by four former Hortonville football players, including sophomores Tyler Powers and Jake Diedrich as well as freshmen Mitch Gerhartz and Jacob Guyette.
Powers starts at left guard for the Titans, and Guyette is a backup guard. Gerhartz is a reserve running back for the team, and Diedrich plays defensive back.
The players were asked a series of eight questions regarding their high school and college football experiences. Guyette was unavailable for comment at press time.
What does it mean to you to represent Hortonville football in college?
Tyler Powers: I have a lot of pride when it comes to Hortonville football and the school. The past few years a lot of good players have come out of Hortonville like Joey Sommers and Zach Vallafskey, and I’m very proud to say I’ve been able to play at Hortonville and got to play for Coach Andy and Tom Kolosso.
Jake Diedrich: It means a lot to be able to represent Hortonville in college. Oshkosh has been lucky enough to have multiple Hortonville players, which has been awesome. The best part is the ongoing support that we get from Hortonville. Me and Tyler have been gone almost three years now, and we still get tons of support from our old coaches and friends from Hortonville.
Mitch Gerhartz: I think it’s good for the Hortonville program because the younger kids coming through the program have something to strive for.
What was your favorite memory of playing high school football?
TP: My favorite memories were definitely from my senior year when we beat West De Pere in OT to win conference. And also were able to make a decent playoff run that year. It was an amazing season and one I’ll never forget.
JD: My favorite memories from Hortonville was getting to the third round of the playoffs our senior year. Also, the support we had that season was awesome. I will never forget how packed all of our games were with students and fans.
MG: Beating Seymour at their field and then having fireworks after the game.
Why did you decide to continue to play football after high school?
TP: I knew I wanted to play in college early in high school, and I knew I was gonna be good enough to play. I couldn’t have imagined going to college and not playing football ever again.
JD: I decided to continue playing after high school because I loved the game as well as the relationships I gained with people. Football taught me a lot of things I might have never learned. Playing football is a lot of fun, but doing it with some of my best friends is awesome.
MG: I decided to keep playing ball because it was the only thing that would keep me in school.
What was the experience like competing on a team that made it to the national title game?
TP: This past season was a great experience, and going to Salem was amazing. The outcome wasn’t what we expected, but it will give us something to keep us motivated this offseason and try to win it next year. The whole playoff run was crazy, and now that we made it to Salem, all we want to do is make it back and win it.
JD: The experience was awesome. It was extremely rewarding because we talked about making it to a national championship all the time. In the offseason, we put in a lot of extra work. It was awesome to see that work pay off. It was also a lot of fun because the whole thing seemed a little surreal. It is an experience I will never forget.
MG: It was great to learn from the older guys who made you compete for everything.
What were your biggest contributions to the UW Oshkosh football team?
TP: Our offensive line played great in the second half of the season, and in the playoffs, we were able to do a lot of good things with the run game. The O-line and myself just tried to give Brett Kasper time to make plays and give our running backs some holes to run through.
JD: I think the biggest contributions were that our team was led by the seniors. They made everyone feel like part of the team. I think that Oshkosh is unique in the overall feel of our team. We are legitimately like a family, which was awesome because that family feeling was one thing I loved about Hortonville football. Also, everyone as a team dedicated themselves to lifting, as well as footwork and things like that. Also, without Coach Cerroni we would not have made it to where we did. He made sure everyone knew what they had to do each week to win. He is extremely smart and genuinely cares about every person on the team and wants them to succeed.
MG: I think my biggest contribution was adding depth at the running back position.
What will you remember most from this season?
TP: Other than having a great season and making it to the national championship, I’ll remember the seniors and what they gave to this team. Seeing guys beat up and doing everything they can to get back on the field was amazing to watch. Guys like CJ Blackburn, who played with a torn ACL, really inspired me and made all of us younger guys wanna win for them that much more. I’ll really miss playing with Austin Haase and Vinnie Basile on the offensive line. They are great guys who taught me a lot and helped me a lot the past two seasons. It’s gonna be tough not seeing them around when spring ball comes around.
JD: I will especially remember the seniors. They were the leaders of the team and did so much to help us make it as far as we did. They were some of the best leaders I have ever seen and made our team feel like a family. I will also remember the feeling of making it to a national championship. I will also remember all the hard work that made it possible to make it there.
MG: The fun friendships I’ve made this year are my favorite part.
What are you hoping to get out of the rest of your football career at Oshkosh?
TP: My main goal in my last two seasons is to win a national championship. Now that we made it to Salem once, that’s all we wanna do now. And for me personally, I wanna try and be a leader like the seniors we had this year.
JD: I am hoping to hopefully get back to a national championship. Also, I hope to gain many more friends and enjoy the rest of the time I have there.
MG: Hoping to win that national championship.
What is your major/minor at UW Oshkosh? What do you plan on doing for a living?
TP: My major is criminal justice with a sociology minor. I plan on becoming a cop after college.
JD: I am an accounting and finance major and plan on becoming a CPA.
MG: Don’t know what I’m going to school for. Just taking it one day at a time.