Warhawks to experience life on the road

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Tom Miller
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some graduation losses are more difficult than others to overcome.

Take UW-Whitewater’s football team, which has to find a replacement for graduated kicker Eric Kindler.

Forget about the 448 points Kindler scored in his four years, including 72 field goals. Or the fact that 51 of his 135 punts were downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. And that when he kicked off, 29 of his 79 kicks went for touchbacks.

While the three-time All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference kicker will be missed on the field, his presence might be missed more on the team buses.

Kindler, you see, had a primo movie collection.

So for the past four years, Kindler provided the movies for the team to watch on road trips.

In most seasons, having a vast movie selection wasn’t that big of a deal. Trips to La Crosse, River Falls or Eau Claire didn’t provide a true test for Kindler’s collection.

Last year, he was challenged. The Warhawks had an early-season nonconference game at Buffalo against Buffalo State.

This season, the Warhawk travel schedule requires a film festival.

Players might be halfway toward a minor in U.S. geography by the time they get back home.

On Sept. 13, the defending NCAA Division III national champions travel to Franklin, Indiana, to play Franklin College. That five-hour, one-way trip is just a buzz around the block compared to what awaits the Warhawks the next week.

The motors on their coaches will have barely cooled before the team travels to Ewing, New Jersey, to play the College of New Jersey on Sept. 20.

Estimated travel time: 14 hours, give or take a few minutes.

“Bring your pillow,” senior lineman Lucas Skibba said Monday of the upcoming U.S. tour.

Skibba is 6-foot-3 and weighs 285 pounds. Imagine all his linemates sitting in a coach bus for 28 hours over a span of a few days.

That’s why getting a seat by himself becomes a priority.

Why does UW-Whitewater have this schedule? When you have won four of the past five NCAA Division III football titles, nearby teams aren’t jumping up and down with their hands raised when the Warhawks look for nonconference games.

The College of New Jersey came through when the Warhawks were in danger of having just two nonconference games to go with their seven WIAC contests.

Coach Lance Leipold believes long bus trips are a way for a team to bond. You have to believe he would have settled for the back-to-back trips to Menomonie to play Stout on Oct. 11 and to Eau Claire the next week to accomplish that this season.

“It’s just one of those things,” Leipold said. “Things just didn’t fall right.”

Add a Friday night home opener Sept. 5 because Warhawk Stadium is booked the next day, and you can see why this year’s schedule—which has only four home dates—won’t be laminated and stuck on Leipold’s wall.

“It builds character, right?” Leipold said.

Things are brighter starting next season. The Warhawks have a home-and-home commitment with Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, the next two years. Hal Mumme, who was the head football coach at the University of Kentucky from 1997-2000, is Belhaven’s head coach.

Findlandia College, located in the Upper Peninsula community of Hancock, Michigan, is starting football this season and will play at Warhawk Stadium next season.

The College of New Jersey makes the 14-hour trip to Whitewater in 2016.

This season, the Whitewater coach buses are going to be tested, as will the Warhawks’ patience. At least one player is looking forward to the season.

“It’s fun to bring the show somewhere else,” senior defensive back Brady Grayvold said.

And he has a plan to make the road trips interesting.

“We’ll have to steal (Kindler’s) movie collection,” he said.

Tom Miller is a page designer/sports writer for The Gazette.

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