It’s time for fall football

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Evan Halpop

“I’m just looking forward to playing, ” said senior offensive lineman Kyle Gannon (55).

Nay Salter, Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater Warhawks are ready to get back onto the field and compete once again this fall. The WIAC football conference champs have been waiting more than a year to be able to tackle each other, and with the new year brings new and bigger opportunities. 

“Since we didn’t have games last year, our players and coaches are hungry to play our first game in two years on Sept. 4th in the Perk,” said Football Head Coach Kevin Bullis at Football Preview Day Aug. 25. “We play in the best division in the nation with Division III. The thing with Division III football is that anybody can beat anyone each week.” 

The last time fans saw these conference champs was all the way back in 2019. It’s been two years since the football team rolled out onto the field for a crowd, and the Warhawks are hungry to get back into the flow of things. Last year, the Warhawks had to adjust to COVID-19, which meant their practices were restricted and they had to accept the fact that they would not be able to play any games. However, this did not stop them from giving it their all. 

“I think one thing we can all hang our heads on is most of these guys took it as a challenge – as a positive thing. Coach Bullis always stressed not to take anything for granted. You know we had 100 practices with each other with no games. We all knew that in those coming days, or at any time, that could be taken away from us,” said captain and defensive lineman Mackenzie Balaganayi. “We’ve just been taking it all in and enjoying every second of it. And this next week is just going to be so exciting and it’s been so long.” 

The Warhawks posted a 13-2 record in 2019, including a 6-1 mark in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and won a share of their conference-record 37th league championship. UW-W also made its 10th appearance in the Stagg Bowl – the NCAA Division III national championship game – that season, and finished as national runner-up.
Following a year of training and practice that included the canceled 2020 season, UW-Whitewater is the favorite of the league’s coaches and sports information directors to make it three straight WIAC championships in 2021. The team is also ranked among the top four in three separate national preseason polls, including No. 2 in the Lindy’s Sports Division III Top 25 and No. 4 in the D3football.com and College Football America rankings.

This promises to be a huge year for Warhawk Football. Captains for the 2021 season include Mackenzie Balanganayi, Kyle Gannon, Mark McGrath, Ryan Ponick and Ryan Wisniewski. Multiple veterans will be returning to play and there’s also some hot talent in key players moving up the roster. 

“I think our defense is pretty hungry right now – the young guys too,” said captain and defensive back Mark McGrath. “It’s hard practicing in COVID when you don’t have something to look forward to. During COVID you would wake up at 6 a.m. and it’d be hard to find that juice, but we are hungry now and ready to go.” 

This year having a good season comes with having good practices and games. Last year the team didn’t get the full experience since they had to follow all of the COVID campus guidelines, but those guidelines are a lot more at ease, which is great news for the football team. They will go back to having normal practices while following the set rules for the season, which include wearing masks indoors and social distancing indoors. They will also have the opportunity to compete in football games and compete in conference games this year. 

In non-conference play, the Warhawks host Carthage next week Saturday before visiting eighth-ranked Salisbury (Md.), a 2019 national quarterfinalist, on Sept. 11. UW-W returns home Sept. 18 to host No. 25 Berry (Ga.), a 2019 NCAA qualifier.

UW-Whitewater begins the seven-game WIAC schedule with back-to-back home games on Oct. 2 against UW-Stout (Alumni Day) and Oct. 9 against UW-Platteville (Family Fest). The team hits the road for the next two weeks at ninth-ranked UW-Oshkosh on Oct. 16 and at UW-River Falls on Oct. 23.

The Warhawks’ Homecoming game will be played against UW-Eau Claire Oct. 30, and the team closes the regular season home slate Nov. 6 against UW-La Crosse on Shriners and Military Appreciation Day at Perkins Stadium.

The regular season concludes Nov. 13 at UW-Stevens Point.

Click Here for the complete 2021 Football Schedule

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