Warhawk Football looking for more in 2022

Ryan Baker, Men’s Sports Assistant Editor

Hoisting the trophy at the end of the season is every team’s goal, and Head Coach Kevin Bullis makes sure his team knows that during the first day of camp. However, that’s the last time the team mentions this goal until it happens. While UW-Whitewater took home the WIAC championship trophy last season, they fell short of the Division III title, losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Mary Hardin-Baylor. 

The Warhawks are looking to new starting quarterback senior Evan Lewdanowski to be at the helm of the offense. Following him in the backfield are the talents of sophomore Tamir Thomas and senior Jaylon Edmonson. 

“We’re excited about Jaylon. We’re excited about Tamir. You lose an All-American in

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Alex Peete, but I’ll tell you that the tailback crew is talented now,” Bullis said. “Evan Lewandowski, I mean goodness gracious, we’re really excited about Evan. Tyler Holte’s a guy that you heard his name a lot, but you’re going to hear it a lot more.”

While some may think that having an entire new backfield could create issues, especially considering the extra year of eligibility all NCAA players acquired last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coach Bullis takes pride in his coaching strategy to make sure all of his players get game action throughout the season.

“You build a program of development. You build a program that you are developing every player every day. You aren’t just developing your first and second team players. That’s where it starts,” Bullis said. “Philosophically we’re not trying to run up the score on anybody and one of the ways we control that is by getting as many people on the field as possible because those reps you get in the game are really the best developmental reps a player can get. We had a lot of opportunities last year to play a lot of players in games and we will see the payoff in that this coming year.”

That payoff will be tough to maintain, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Whitewater had one of the most astounding defenses in all of college football last year allowing an average of only 12.2 points per game. However, coach Bullis is confident trusting players such as Justin Allen, Roy Pantheir, both juniors, Nehemiah Lomax, and Teagan Christiansen, both sophomores. All of whom headline that stout defensive line. 

“Those are the names you are going to see even that much more and they are going to be in more of leadership roles,” Bullis said. 

A rematch of last year’s semifinal is slated for Sept. 10. Both as favorites in their conference, Mary Hardin-Baylor will come in as the top ranked team in the nation, while UW-Whitewater walks in as the fourth ranked team. The Warhawks hope to have a different outcome after getting eliminated by a score of 24-7.

“There’s a sense of unfinished business. We got to get ourselves better. Being more intentful of our details has been really the primary emphasis for our team ever since that game in December,” Bullis said. “We’re not fixated on them, to be honest. That game will come. We’re looking forward to packing the Perk, see if we can get 20,000 in that place.”

Following the game between two of the top teams in the nation, the Warhawks will travel to

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Georgia to play Berry University, who they played last year, winning by a score of 39-7. After a bye week, the road trip continues for two more weeks with WIAC match-ups against UW-La Crosse and UW-Eau Claire before returning home over a month after their last home game. The rest of the season brings five more WIAC games, with UW-Stevens Point coming to Perkins Stadium to wrap up the season. The Warhawks play three teams who made the playoffs last season and five preseason top 25 teams throughout the season schedule. 

Throughout the season each player and each coach will look to get one percent better, something that coach Bullis emphasizes greatly throughout every practice, every game, and every single day.

“You focus on the process. Every player on this team whether you’re a freshman or a three-year starter. It doesn’t matter,” Bullis said. “We all have the same objective and the same standard that we hold for ourselves and that’s to push ourselves to get better. It doesn’t sound fancy and it sounds canned, but it’s what we do.”

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A marathon in which crossing the finish line means lifting two pieces of hardware in the WIAC championship trophy and the Division III trophy. Something that coach Bullis looks to lead his team to do for the first time since 2014.