Whitewater welcomes home its champions

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Monday, December 21, 2009
— Fans were scarce but enthusiastic Sunday night as the NCAA Division III football champs rolled into town, fresh from their victory in Salem, Va., the day before.

The team was treated to a crawl through the streets of Whitewater atop three fire trucks. Lights and sirens announced the victors.

“Small Midwest town does well,” said Whitewater resident Dan McCrea with a proud smile as the parade passed.

“There’s nothing like Division III football—no scholarships. Everybody plays for the love of the game,” said UW-W alumnus Don Holewinski of Fort Atkinson.

“It’s the way the game was meant to be played,” agreed Whitewater resident David McIntosh, who moved to Whitewater two years ago and hasn’t missed a home game since.

The two men were among the scatterings of people standing on Main Street as the parade rolled past, the players holding up their index fingers.

One young man, naked from the waist up, waved his appreciation from a second-story window.

Eleven-year-old Sarah Schiltz and her father, Ron, turned out. They attend all the home games.

“There’s always a lot of people there, and they always win,” Sarah said.

Deb Williamson, director of the chamber of commerce, was there with her husband, Phil.

“It’s just wonderful publicity for the community,” Deb said. “It generates so much excitement, and it brings us all together as a community. … We can forget about the economic troubles for a minute and have a good time supporting the students.”

“This street should be packed,” Deb commented.

It wasn’t.

“We have 10,000 people in this town, and that’s not including the university,” added Phil, a UW-W grad twice over.

Maybe everyone is going to the Williams Center, where a rally was planned, Deb said hopefully.

But with most students away from the university for winter break, the gym was not even half full with perhaps 200 fans and university officials.

Sophomores Ashely Staley and Kelsey Kober were in the stands. They had driven east and were among those who turned back. They watched the game with those from the fan buses, who stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wings in West Lafayette, Ind. They said it was a great party.

“This was huge for us,” Staley said, especially after losing the title game last year.

“It’s a big confidence builder next year that we can do it,” Kober added.

Kober said they plan to drive east for the title game again next year.

“That’s our goal,” Staley said.

The team entered the gym, hoisting the trophy high.

“It was a great year,” team co-caption Garth Coats told the fans. “I couldn’t ask for a better ending, as a senior, and this team got what it deserved.”

The speeches were full of thanks for everyone involved.

Coach Lance Leipold thanked the people of Whitewater: “You’ve been unconditional Warhawk fans for many, many years. That’s what makes this so special.”

UW-W Chancellor Richard Telfer told the team that he had received congratulations from around the state and around the country.

“There are a lot of people proud to be Warhawks after watching you,” Telfer said.

Last updated: 12:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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