DE PERE, Wisc. (WJMN) – The St. Norbert Green Knights picked up where they left off in 2022 in their first game of the 2023 College Football season over the weekend, avenging their loss to Ripon last season with a 23-7 win.
Among the Green Knights roster are eleven former Upper Peninsula high school football players, hailing from schools across the U.P. from Wakefield to Sault Ste. Marie.
Among those making a big impact in the the team’s first game, Sault Ste. Marie’s Daylan Lujan with 2 sacks and a tackle for loss and Kingsford’s Lucas Tappy on the offensive line who helped St. Norbert close the game with 23 unanswered points. Kingsford’s Michael Meneguzzo also saw the field, coming in at quarterback during the game’s closing minutes.
“Their D-line just got a little tired. And you could see it once we gashed them on that long pass there,” Tappy said. “Their D-line wasn’t getting set right away, so we already had that jump there. And then it was just game-time from there. We just did what we’ve been practicing.”
“It felt really good. We were all hyped up to go into the game,” Lujan said. “You know, started off a little slow but, you know, at the end of the day we got the job done.”
“It was really nerve-racking first going out there,” Meneguzzo said. “My first college game in real-time, so it was cool. It was really fun.”
The path for each player is different, and for some, the adjustments can be bigger than others, including switching from 8-man football in high school up to 11 at the college level.
“It was different. It was definitely different learning a completely new offense with three more people on the field,” said Griffin Flath, a former Rapid River Rocket. “It’s definitely a change but once you dig into the playbook, you do your work, you do everything right. You’re going to get used to it pretty quickly.”
As a popular destination for U.P. players looking to continue their playing career beyond high school, they agree the culture of the program helps them make the adjustment to the college level.
“I love it here. It’s like Griffin (Flath) said, it’s like a second home to me,” said Adam Willette, a former Escanaba Eskymo. “And all the people I’ve met here and all the people that have helped me, I can’t be happy enough and I’m excited to finish my four years here.”
“It’s really good,” said former Iron Mountain Mountaineer Eli Lofholm. “It’s weird coming into school and having to make friends right off the bat, but everyone on the football team just kind of meshes together really well.”
As the Green Knights look to replicate their success from last season, the players are determined to continue to grow and look to contribute as much as they can to the team’s ultimate goals.
“Just keep on working every day, you know, keep my head down, grind, do all that in practice,” Willette said. “Do what I can to get better every day and just, you know, hopefully learn and keep on improving.”
“People think it’s just natural talent but it’s almost 95% hard work,” Flath said. “And you have to have a voice. You have to be, like I said, you have to be a leader on the team no matter what grade you are. You have to try to get your voice and you just have to be the hype guy and eventually you’re gonna move up.”
Other U.P. players on the team are Bryce Buzzo of Ontonagon, Joey Kositzky of Escanaba, Hayden Makela of Wakefield, Riley Murk of Munising, and Lane Nehring of North Central.
The interviews used in this story were provided by Radio Results Network.