Mroczynski reflects on 2007 state season
By Erik Buchinger
The New London football team reached its biggest achievement in program history with a run to the state championship in 2007, and the Bulldogs returned to the field 10 years later.
New London honored the 10-year anniversary of its state team during the football team’s regular season finale in October.
In 2007, New London lost its first game of the season but went on a 12-game winning streak, beating Clintonville in the WIAA Division 3 semifinals to reach the title game.
New London lost to Wisconsin Lutheran 49-6 in its lone championship appearance at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Nov. 16, 2007. The head coach for that season was Pete Mroczynski, and he answered some questions after the team was recognized on the field at halftime.
What do you remember most about the 2007 team?
It was a really great mix of kids, and I really shouldn’t say kids – young men. They did what they needed to do. They prepared themselves, and they were focused. We were laughing about it in the tent that we were always worried about the next game when we were done and couldn’t even put it away and enjoy it. We were looking at the next one. It was just a fun group of guys to be around and hardworking. We asked them to work hard, and those kids set the bar and set the pace for what it’s supposed to be. It was a great year. The playoff run was awesome. We played some teams on the road. Obviously we couldn’t play here, so those were some neat things there being able to travel with the kids and the highlight to play on the last day of the season, that’s a pretty cool thing.
At what point of the season did you realize this could be a pretty special team?
We were a Division 3 school, and we had scheduled a non-conference game late in the year against a Division 2 team ranked in the top 10 of the state, and we beat them at home. It was against Lakeland. They had a good football program – a perennial powerhouse. At that point, I thought, ‘Holy moly. We’ve got something really good here.’ As a coach, you never want to think that way because you’re always looking ahead to after the game’s done, and at this point it made me think here we go, and winning 12 games in a row is phenomenal. I talked to Mark Tauscher from the Packers, and he asked what that felt like. Here’s a guy who played for the Green Bay Packers. He had never won 12 games [in high school] and played for Wisconsin with a great football program. We lost our first game by a missed extra point and got beat in overtime. Then we won the 12, so once we lost the first game, I never thought about winning 12 in a row. It just seemed like the job we had to do – it’s to go out there and take care of this one, take care of the next one.
What was it about New London that made the team so good in 2007?
We had, which was unusual in high school football, we had some depth, which doesn’t happen a lot. We were able to bring in a couple younger kids that filled some holes. A lot of kids had experience. We had played some kids when they were younger before coming out, and they had taken their lumps. We maybe won six games in the two previous years, and those kids were hungry. We just had a good mix of hardworking kids but also kids with great attitudes and kids you had fun with. When we went out to practice, it wasn’t like work at practice. It was fun, and it was enjoyable to out there. They felt the same way, and it kind of hurt when it ended.
What was the feeling like when you won the seminal game to get the team to state?
It was kind of funny because we went into halftime and it was six or seven to nothing. When I was walking off the field at halftime, I said to my assistants – we normally ran the Wing-T, and we had put in some Power I and some Offset I, and we were going to switch that – I said ‘We’re going to run to Madison with it or run home.’ And I don’t think you could ever imagine the week here after at school, which was fantastic with all the coverage and all of those things. It’s an experience that you hope every kid who plays sports gets a chance to experience and every coach who coaches gets a chance to experience. It’s just something you can’t really describe. We had a tough day that day in Madison, but I told the kids that every day that goes by and every year that goes by, it’s going to feel good no matter what happened in the finals. It’s going to be better and better. Tonight, these young men are having a great time out here. They’re laughing and having fun and telling stories. That hurt walking off in Madison, but it felt to get prepared and know we were one of two teams – the best team in the northern part of the state, and that was a pretty cool thing.
How does it feel to have everyone back?
It’s very neat. I think we had somewhere in the mid-40s, and I think 26 kids were able to come back tonight. Unfortunately we did lose one player along the way we’ll miss tonight, thinking about Jerry Domrzalski. Other things come up and it’s tough, but it’s nice to see these guys. It would be nice if everybody could be here. Even with the coaches, most of my former coaches are coaching out here, so they weren’t able to take part in this. But it’s awesome, it’s awesome seeing people you haven’t seen in a long time, and those memories put you back to where you were at that moment.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It takes you back. It’s nice to walk on the grass and walk on the field. I think these guys are really proud of their accomplishments. As a matter of fact, the jerseys they’re wearing were the jerseys they wore at Camp Randall. We saved them, so that’s very cool. When they came back, we gave them those jerseys, so we’ll see if we can get the jerseys to the rest of the guys also.