FNF Coaches Talk — Wisconsin Coach Goes for 2, Wins Championship; Pennsylvania Coach Makes Pitch to Keep Job, End HS Football on Thanksgiving

Good afternoon, Coaches. We hope you’re gearing up for Thanksgiving. We’ve got three stories for you.

1. Wisconsin coach goes for 2 in final minute seals 8-7 win for state championship (Wisconsin State Journal)

Have you ever thought about what you’d do if your team had a chance to go for the win with a 2-point conversion in the final minute of a state championship game?

It takes guts to put your team at risk of losing everything with a failed 2-point conversion attempt, and DeForest High (Wisc.) coach Mike Minnick certainly has guts.

Friday’s big finish meant much more than a state championship to Norskies coach Mike Minick — a player on Jerry Roelke’s 1982 state championship team and a coach who took over the program when Roelke stepped down after the 1999 season.

Roelke passed away early last month, not long after Minick announced this would be his last season as coach.

All of that provided quite an emotional backstory to the climactic finish on Friday — an all-or-nothing championship drive that will never be forgotten by Norski Nation.

DeForest (14-0) covered 63 yards in six plays and 43 seconds, with junior running back Gabe Finley catching a dump pass from senior quarterback Trey Schroeder and willing himself through two defenders for a 13-yard touchdown with 32 seconds remaining.

That touchdown, though, only made victory possible. The journey wasn’t complete until sophomore Nolan Hawk took three steps around a Menasha defense that was packing the box and caught a wide-open pass from Schroeder for a 2-point conversion that brought home the championship trophy.

“I was very nervous. My legs were shaking,” Hawk said when the play — Left Wide 29 Packers 4 Pop — was called. “I just thought, ‘You better catch this ball.’”
“It was like a Tim Tebow jump pass,” Schroeder said. “We tried that in practice and it looked good. We were saving it for a good time.”

What a good time it was.

“We dialed it up (and) it couldn’t have been more perfect,” Minick said. “(Schroeder) is quite a competitor. … We’ve got an amazing group of seniors who are going to fight till there are zeroes on the clock.”

What play would you call on a 2-point conversion attempt with a state championship on the line?

2. Pennsylvania coach speaks at district meeting to try to save his job (Tri-County Sunday)

You can certainly say this about DuBois Area High (Pa.) coach Justin Marshall: He cares about his job.

Marshall, who said he was told recently by district officials that they were going to look for a new coach next season, spoke on his own behalf, at Thursday night’s board meeting.

He argued that he has achieved the No. 1 goal set before him when he was hired three years ago.

“Three years ago I was hired to come in and change the culture from a program that was beaten into the ground by the way that the players were treated and the way things were run,” he said. “I was entrusted with that task, and I feel that we have made great strides in changing that culture — the things that our student athletes have done, community service projects that they volunteer to do.
“We got our team involved in the alma mater, which is, you know, for football players, the last thing that they want to do. And yet after every home game this year I stood in the middle of our team and heard these kids proudly sing a song they didn’t know existed before that, with our chorus and our cheerleaders and our band, to bring school unity and pride.”

It’s a classic decision for the district officials. What’s more important? Wins and losses or molding student-athletes into better men.

“I was commended for the way that I work with our student athletes,” he said. “I was told that what we needed in a coach three years ago when I was hired, I have brought that.”

What would you do to save your job if you heard the administration was leaning toward moving in another direction?

3. Is it time to end Thanksgiving High School football games? (The Press of Atlantic City)

We understand that not every state has high school football games on Thanksgiving, but many do, so we thought this was an interesting read.

This columnist, Michael McGarry, argues that high school football coaches don’t even like playing on Thanksgiving.

Ask high school football coaches about Thanksgiving rivalries and they will wax poetic about the history of the games.
They will talk about how much the contests mean to the community, the alumni and current players and coaches.
Get those same coaches alone, and they’ll tell you a different story.

McGarry argues that discontinuing Thanksgiving football is a matter of safety and convenience. He claims some high school players even miss the Thanksgiving games, although that’s the first we’re hearing of that trend.

The crowds on Thanksgiving aren’t as big as people make them out to be. Some players even miss the game because they’re traveling with their family during the holiday.
But the biggest reason for ending these games is the health of the players.
Thanksgiving makes the football season too long. Basketball and wresting tryouts began Monday. Football players missed those tryouts because of Thanksgiving.

How would you feel about ending the tradition of playing high school football games on Thanksgiving?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk