While the UW- Whitewater football program has been a national power in NCAA Division III football for nearly 20 years, winning six national championships in that time, it hasn’t had a nationwide roster.
The Warhawks have gone 210-19 since the 2004 season with rosters comprised mainly of players from Wisconsin and Illinois.
There are 106 players on the 2022 Warhawks roster. Seventy of the players are from Wisconsin and 29 are from Illinois.
“We’ll typically have a few kids that from outside of Wisconsin or the Midwest,” UW-Whitewater head coach Kevin Bullis said. “We’ve always had a few Iowa kids, Minnesota kids.”
This year’s roster does feature some players who are truly away from home.
Lucas Sadler, a freshman defensive lineman, is from Willoughby, Ohio.
Ty Poorman, a freshman quarterback, is from Orlando, Florida.
Jackson Chryst, a sophomore quarter- back, is from Orinda, California.
Julian McPhail, a junior defensive back, is from Palmer, Alaska.
And there’s Jeff Isotalo-McGuire, a freshman placekicker, who is from Phoenix.
Last Saturday, Isotalo-McGuire kicked a 39-yard field goal with :03 left in the game to give the Warhawks a 34-31 victory at La Crosse.
Isotalo-McGuire has converted all 10 of his conversion kicks and three of seven field-goal attempts as Whitewater has a 3-1 record after a grueling four-game start of the season.
So how does a kicker from Phoenix end up going to school in Wisconsin? Bullis said it was through a pipeline his coaching staff has developed.
The source this time was John O’Grady, who is in his ninth season as a Warhawk assistant. O’Grady, who was a well-known head coach at UW-River Falls from 1989-2010, is the Warhawks special teams coach.
“It was a friend of coach O’Grady’s who reached out to him,” Bullis said. “He’s a retired coach who helps coach kickers. He lives out in the Las Vegas area.
“He said he had a guy (Isotola-McGuire) who was looking for a home,” Bullis said. “We watched some film of him and was impressed, so we invited him to fall camp this year.”
And that’s how a young man from Phoenix helped Whitewater beat La Crosse on Saturday.
Now Bullis and his staff will have to figure out a way to convince Isotola-McGuire to stay after the kicker experiences his first Wisconsin winter.
On to Eau Claire
The Warhawks look to go to 2-0 in the WIAC on Saturday when they travel to UW-Eau Claire for a 1 p.m. game that will again present a party atmosphere among the home fans.
Last week, the annual Oktoberfest celebration was going on in La Crosse.
This Saturday, Whitewater is Eau Claire’s homecoming opponent.
“With a lot of people there, Carson Park will be loud on Saturday,” Blugolds receiver Nick Kudick told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
The Blugolds are recovering from a 73-29 pounding they took in the “War on I-94” against rival UW-Stout last Saturday.
Eau Claire allowed 10 touchdowns, and the Warhawks will be looking to quiet that homecoming crowd with several touchdowns of their own.
Bullis said the Blugolds played two ranked nonconference teams tough. Eau Claire lost to Central (Iowa) 31-13 and to Albion (Michigan) 28-20.
“I don’t think that’s indicative of the type of team they are,” Bullis said of the Stout game.
Eau Claire has allowed an average of 455 yards and 39.5 points per game this season.
Quarterback Evan Lewandowski has led the Warhawks offense that has averaged 388 yards and 22.5 points per game, despite playing the toughest D-III schedule in the nation.
The 6-foot-4, 194-pound quarterback has completed 90 of 132 passes for 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns.
Bullis said one of the bright spots for the team is how well a young offensive line has come together despite playing three teams that were ranked in the d3sports.com top 10 when they played the Warhawks.
“Coming into the season, none of those guys had started for us,” Bullis said. “They had played in games, but none of them had started for us.
“All of them have really progressed and developed so far this season.”