Eight-Player Football: Florence looking for 4th straight win

Eight-Plater Football

Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo Florence head coach Kent Walstrom, left, and assistant Joe Ferris have the Bobcats off to a 3-0 start in eight-player football.

FLORENCE, Wis. — Florence’s first foray into varsity eight-player football has so far been successful.

The Bobcats, who didn’t win an 11-player game last year, have started this season with a 3-0 record. They aim for a fourth victory Friday when they face Carney-Nadeau at 7 p.m. at Landry Field.

Florence forfeited the final three games of 2018 due to injuries. This year’s varsity roster contains about 15 players.

“With our roster numbers there was no guarantee of a better season this year even with the switch to eight-man,” said Florence head coach Kent Walstrom. “They committed themselves because they understood improvement had to come from every individual for us to turn the corner. So we have some talent and we’re healthy this season, which makes all the difference in the world.

“But player attitudes and willingness to be coached and work hard has put this team in a good position, and that’s humbling to me, but not really surprising.”

Walstrom credits Eric DeCremer and Joe Walstrom along with others for the turnaround. During last season’s struggles, the Bobcats coach pulled aside his team captains and reminded them of their roles with the team.

“I told them that if they kept working hard, good things would happen, not just for them, but for our team, and to encourage the guys they could reach to commit to making our team better in the off-season,” said Walstrom, noting that DeCremer and Walstrom train daily year-round. “It’s not a coincidence they are our two strongest, pound-for-pound players and the two players in the best shape.”

By the start of the season, most of Florence’s varsity players were at practice a full hour early.

“They were anxious to get started and their talk was all football talk,” Walstrom said. “Those two did what every coach dreams their players will do — fully commit to their program and spend parts of every day determined to improve and they also got other players to follow their lead and commit themselves to football more than they ever had before.”

Walstrom also cited Toby Wheeler for his team leadership and hard work in rehab returning from an ACL injury. Gary Liebergen, Coleton Armstrong and Will Liebergen are “core team members who also were willing to put in a lot of work in the weight room in the off-season to improve themselves and their team,” Walstrom said.

Florence also benefitted from the junior varsity playing eight-player football for the past two years.

“I’m humbled and very proud of the direction our team has taken,” Walstrom said. “Now that they’ve had success, they’re desperate not to let that momentum get away from them or the team, and a desperate team is usually a dangerous team.”

The Bobcats, who could wind up qualifying for the state eight-player tournament, have scored 130 points and allowed 16. They rank second in the state in points allowed behind Prairie Farm’s 14.