Warhawk Football looks forward after coming up short in 2019 Stagg Bowl

Program proud of playoff run, turns sights to 2020

The+Warhawks+kept+the+Miner%E2%80%99s+Axe+again+this+season%2C+beating+UW-Platteville+to+earn+the+ceremonial+trophy.+

Dane Sheehan

The Warhawks kept the Miner’s Axe again this season, beating UW-Platteville to earn the ceremonial trophy.

Carter Secor, Assistant Sports Editor

As the clock hit 0:00 in Shenandoah, Texas and the North Central College Cardinals rushed onto the field celebrating their first ever Stagg Bowl win, the UW-Whitewater Warhawks National Championship hopes came to a disappointing conclusion. Their season came to an end on a different note: one of pride. It concluded Kevin Bullis’s most successful season at the helm, but also provided determination and conviction to get another chance to reach to the top of the college football mountain, having observed its peak this season.

The Warhawks have every reason to be proud of how the 2019 season went. They won 13 games, cantored to a share of the WIAC conference championship, and earned the right to play for the D3 National Championship for the first time since Lance Liepold was still coaching in Whitewater.

“Everything we do is process driven,” said head coach Kevin Bullis, whose 2019 appearance in the Stagg Bowl was the first of his head coaching career.

“Our process is the day-to-day work in developing the football team. Getting to the Stagg Bowl is a byproduct of the improvement we made in those areas and that to me is really exciting,” he said.

To drive this point home, Bullis used the one regular season loss his team had against UW-Oshkosh to exemplify how the personal improvement of each player can have a noticeable impact on a team.

“We made it the best thing that happened to us all season,” said Bullis. “We made it the greatest for us. It was really exciting to me to see our level of intensity, energy rise up another notch, a significant notch a week after Oshkosh.”

The increase in intensity around the team translated to success on the football field. Whitewater would go on to rattle off four convincing wins in the playoffs, including a dominating win against defending D3 Champion Mary Hardin Baylor to make it to the final four and a  close 35-32 thriller against St. John’s in the semifinal game to win the Warhawks a shot at a seventh Stagg Bowl win.

Along with this increased energy and intensity,  an addition of a new facet to the offense in the shape of Quarterback Max Meylor. Meylor, a transfer from Lindenwood, was named starting quarterback during the loss to UW-Oshkosh. After the game, the coaching staff determined that Zach Oles, who was the starting quarterback through the regular season, was too banged up to give the team the chance it needed to win a title.

“Max was doing a hell of a job,” said Bullis. “Even when Zach was starting, Max was always right there. Ultimately it comes down to at the end of the season, we had started to notice that Zach wasn’t quite as strong with his arm. He was beat up, he was dealing with an injury. It really came to fruition in that fourth quarter of that Oshkosh game.”

The fact that Meylor did make some appearances during games that Whitewater was comfortably in the lead meant that he wasn’t completely new to the offense. But a quarterback change on the eve of the playoffs is still something that can shake up an offense, and not necessarily for the better. However the Warhawks offense and especially offensive line, dealt with the change seamlessly.

“If you look at the O-line, it’s essentially the same goal,” said Quinn Meinerz, the Warhawks Junior left tackle.

“It is stopping him from getting hit. And if I’m sitting here blocking my defensive lineman and I see Oles or Meylor take off running, I need to start running. The main job is to protect the quarterback, you just gotta really adapt because every play is different.”

While ultimately Whitewater would fall short in the Stagg Bowl, being able to get to that “second season” as Bullis calls it was a success from a program standpoint.

“We do set a big picture goal at the start of the season, and everyone knows what that goal is,” Said Bullis. “That goal is to win a WIAC conference championship.”

Bullis also was emphatic in pointing out that even sharing part of that championship meant that they achieved that big picture goal

“A conference championship is a conference championship,” said Bullis. “I will never frown at a co-conference championship, that is something special. We play in the best league in the country. I don’t like sharing it, but I’m not going to degrade being co-conference champions.”

The outlook for the 2020 football season is good for the Warhawks, as many players on the offensive side of the ball will be returning to continue their quest for personal and team excellence. While the defense is losing many leaders to graduation, the program has always focused on a tradition of leadership by example and teaching those after to become leaders themselves. For the team this includes workouts during the off-season organized by the players themselves. Whether it’s working out in the weight room together, studying film at someone’s house, or honing technique, the work never stops even when Perkins Stadium is covered in a Valentine’s Day snow. When they come back together for  organized team activities in April, the players and coaching staff will return to their goal to improve every day as they look towards the 2020 season.

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