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November 19, 2012 | 06:32 PMAs turkey day approaches Thursday, I would be remiss not to mention some of the things I'm thankful for.
OK, OK, I'm not going to bore you with the cliche things like family, friends, my job, all that stuff. Just kidding, I'm thankful for my beautiful wife, my energetic beagle, my ever-expanding, loving family and my exciting, exhilarating job.
I also don't mind working with people I can have fun with on a stressful deadline day.
But in terms of you, the people, I'm thankful for area Sports this past fall. Fans and students got so weird with it, they even created a fake Twitter account, titled "YA BOY RAMCZYK." There was so much excitement and support surrounding three unbelievable football teams. Students from Badger, Big Foot and Williams Bay were all over our Facebook page, Regional News Sports Check, and the @mikeramczyk17 Twitter account with feedback on the Bay's historic first win, Badger's unforgettable journey through the Division 1 playoffs and Big Foot's return to the state title game.
And let's not forget a first-ever team state trip for Badger girls tennis and Badger's first sectional title in girls swimming. Also, the Bay's girls volleyball squad returned to sectionals for the first time in six years.
It was a season of firsts, and for that I'm thankful. I'm thankful to the Badger and Big Foot student sections for their cooperation in our videos along with the occasional "Miiiike Ramczyk" cheer. Flattery gets you everywhere, or at least your picture taken. There's nothing like a shameless cheer of approval to temporarily mask my insecurities and allow me to relive my glory days.
All jokes aside, this fall reinvigorated my passion for football, and it was memorable to see entire communities rally around their teams. I swear all 2,000 people who live in Walworth were at Madison to see the team last Thursday.
And Badger traveled well, with a capacity crowd hollering and hooting at every play throughout the postseason.
While it's always nice to recognize everyone generally, it's time to be specific with the fall's best. Trust me, some of these were downright difficult decisions. But without further adieu, here are your winners:
Male athlete of the fall: Carter Hehr, senior, Big Foot football
This was by far the tightest race. Hehr edged, and I'm talking by percentages of a vote, teammate Mason Dixon, who was named WFCA state offensive player of the year, and Badger quarterback Peter Krien, who earned the Southern Lakes offensive player of the year.
Why Hehr? It's simple. The guy can flat out ball. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound quarterback can do it all. He is an accurate passer, he has a strong arm, he makes the right decisions with the ball, he runs like a running back, he can catch and he returns kicks and punts.
Defensively, he set the school's career interception record. This year alone, he picked off five passes.
"I think Carter played the biggest role in our team's success this year," teammate Garett Cary said. "He was a great leader, and he made smart choices and big plays for us all year."
More importantly, Hehr is a dynamite kid. He had to wait his turn at quarterback, seeing action at the position and excelling his sophomore season but backing up Jake Wedig as a junior. His head is in the right place, and he genuinely loves football and his teammates. Hehr's mother provides post-game meals for the big boys up front. Hehr says it is to make sure they're doing the right things.
"I was good this season as a result of my teammates, I could not do anything without each and everyone of them," Hehr said. "They pushed me to be the best and I strived for perfection."
Hehr totaled 2,360 all-purpose yards, including 1,269 through the air and 830 on the ground. He crossed the goal line 34 times, by air, ground and kick and punt return. At first glance, one may say he's a running quarterback with his speed. However, Hehr was deadly accurate as a passer, completing 67-of-88 tosses with 17 touchdowns. That's an out-of-this-world completion percentage of 76.1 percent. And the guy only threw two picks in 13 games.
Female athlete of the fall: Katarina Rotta, senior, Big Foot volleyball
Two years ago, the 5-foot-11 Rotta transferred from Harvard, Ill., and made an immediate impact on the Lady Chiefs.
At the time, Big Foot was in need of a quality setter to complement their talented outside hitters. Rotta, who like Hehr is a quarterback on the hardwood, took the transition and ran with it.
Her junior year, she helped lead the Chiefs to their first state tournament appearance in school history. This year, she was the unquestioned leader. In 46 matches (42-4) Rotta totaled a whopping 1,022 assists. She had the highest kill percentage and the most blocks on the team. For her efforts, she earned the Rock Valley South player of the year.
Big Foot coach Jen Koplitz said after the season it will be very difficult to replace the setter position. Rotta will play Division 1 college volleyball next fall at Southeast Missouri State. The Chiefs were 82-9 in Rotta's two seasons.
Coach of the fall: Glenn Biller, Badger swimming
You can sense his passion with the sport in every interview. The guy loves the water, and it rubs off on his team.
This fall, the Badgers made history, capturing a sectional title for the first time in school history and taking the Southern Lakes Conference title for the first time in 10 years. In the process, the Badgers dethroned four-time defending champion Burlington.
Biller said there was no drama with the girls this year, which only added to their talent and depth. It can't be easy for a male coach to keep a group of teenage girls focused on the prize at all times, especially when the girls come from five different schools. And Biller's hard work and dedication is appreciated by the girls.
After the sectional victory, the girls paid Biller's house a visit at 10 p.m. and covered the shrubs and trees in his front yard with toilet paper. Also, they poured a half pound of flour on his driveway to pay tribute. Biller didn't love cleaning up flour on a Sunday morning, but he took it in good fun. It's that kind of sense of humor and camaraderie that these girls will never forget. They may not remember their times later in life, but it's these quality relationships that tend to stick.
Team of the fall: Big Foot football
It's becoming overkill, but I can't say enough about this group. While nobody won state this fall, which is a very rare feat, Big Foot got about as close as humanly possible. A failed two-point conversion led to a two-point, gut-wrenching defeat Thursday in Madison for the state title game.
Overall, Big Foot finished 12-1. A powerhouse of a program, it was the Chiefs' third state finals appearance in five years.
The numbers were huge, but what made these kids special was their offseason work and chemistry. The boys prepared for a step up in competition this season, hitting the weight room 90 minutes earlier each day in the summer. The guys had more time to progress with the weights, and speed workouts happened each day instead of twice a week a year ago.
Also, these guys are close. Whether it's Subway or Sentry runs before games or a little home cooking from Carter Hehr's mother after games, the Chiefs were a team on and off the field. Coach Rodney Wedig was proud to emphasize he never had to worry about one of his players missing time for violations.
Not necessarily the best pool of talent the school has ever seen, the guys admitted they relied on hard work and dedication.