The Messwood football team will be rejoining the Woodland Conference this year due to the rapid growth and improvement of the team. Messwood previously left the Woodland Conference in 2007, played independently in 2008 and joined the less prestigious Midwest Classic Conference from 2009 to 2013.
“I am excited to prove to everyone that the program has come a long way,” said Riley Sellinger, senior. “It’s going to be tough. But we have the right bodies, and I think it is going to be all right.”
Last year, Messwood won the Midwest Classic Conference championship with a 7-3 record. Every year since joining the Midwest Conference, the team’s record has steadily improved.
This year, Messwood will be playing in Woodland’s East Division, which includes South Milwaukee, Brown Deer, Greenfield, Whitnall and Cudahy.
One of the highlights of the season will be Shorewood’s homecoming game against South Milwaukee on September 26.
According to Drake Zortman, head coach, the team is also facing the loss of 16 seniors, many of whom were Messwood’s best players, in addition to tougher competition this year. Despite these challenges, Zortman is optimistic.
“We have a great incoming freshmen class — 27 freshmen coming to practice every day. The future is bright,” Zortman said.
Nick Joers, freshman, can’t wait to play high school football this year.
“It is much harder than middle school football,” Joers said. “You have to remember where to go and what to do. But I am excited for the challenge.”
Along with playing in a new conference, the players will be wearing new uniforms.
“We were lucky enough that the Shorewood Booster Club agreed to pay for half of our new game jerseys,” Zortman said.
Messwood was formed in 2001 when Milwaukee’s Messmer High School, without a facility in which to play, merged with Shorewood, which by then had a 63-game losing streak, to become a co-op team. However, even after the merger, Messwood was not recruiting enough players to win in the competitive Woodland Conference. Because of this, the team played independently in 2008 before joining the Midwest Conference.
By 2011, Zortman’s first year coaching Messwood, the team managed to take third place with four wins.
Overall, the merger “has kind of been a perfect fit,” Zortman said. “I think [in] wins and losses we may take a step back. But we will be a better football team, and the growth of the program will be much better.”
Winning isn’t everything to Zortman. It is more important to him that the boys on his team are good people and have good morals.
“I think the success of this team will be judged in five or ten years from now when we see what kind of degrees they have and what kind of husbands and fathers they become. That’s more important to us,” Zortman said.
The new conference has already brought the team closer together, according to Sellinger.
“All our bonds grow and grow everyday and it just becomes a real, big family thing,” Sellinger said.
by Katie Eder