Knights fall again at state; senior leadership sets future precedent

In the team huddle after the game, wide receiver Clifford Roepke ’20 listens to head coach Greg Wunderlich. Roepke was the team’s leading receiver this year, catching 34 passes for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The scene was a familiar one. Chants of ‘Thank you seniors!’ rained down during the postgame handshakes, the team gathered at the end of the field while parents and spectators stood on the track, and many tears were shed and hugs shared once the huddle broke.

After failing to qualify for the playoffs for fifteen years, the Mount Michael football team returned to state tournament play for the second straight year, and, for the second straight year, they were ousted in a crushing loss.

This year, it was the Norris Titans who took it to the Knights, winning 38-10. While the Knights ended their season on a low note once again, this season was much more than its concluding game.

“I’m just so proud of what they’ve accomplished,” head coach Greg Wunderlich said. “This is a disappointing loss, but everything we’ve asked them to do as coaches they have taken it on plus some more.”

After key players from last year’s team graduated, including starting quarterback Sid deMayo ‘19, top receiver Matt Zarbynicky ‘19, and leading tackler Garett Hustedt ‘19, few people thought before the season that this year’s team would be better than the previous one.

“We knew losing those guys was going to hurt,” quarterback Ben deMayo ‘20 said. “But we were ready to step up, and we were ready to take on that challenge.” 

The team started the year 5-0 before finishing the season at 7-3, compared to the 6-4 record from the 2018 season. They also claimed the ninth seed for the state tournament, one spot higher than the year before.

However, that higher seed was not enough for the Knights to pull out the victory. Norris quarterback Aiden Oerter totaled 188 yards through the air and 114 on the ground to go along with three touchdowns in the game.

“Our plan was to stop the triple option and force their quarterback to make plays,” linebacker Ethan Meduna ‘20 said. “For the first half he didn’t do that, but in the second half he started making plays.”

The game was a tale of two halves. Norris went into halftime up only 14-10, but three Knight turnovers allowed the Titans to score 24 unanswered points in the third.

“We came out with energy that we needed to hold for the entire game,” deMayo said. “[In the third quarter] we fell apart. Individually, with the mistakes that I made, I think I was trying to do too much.”

deMayo threw three interceptions, accounting for all but one Knight turnover in the second half. It was not the ideal last game for himself and his 22 fellow seniors, but he had nothing but positives to say about their growth as people and football players.

“Our goal was to keep building,” he said. “The leadership of last year’s senior class rubbed off. We just kept continuing to work hard and get better.”

Along with finding success on the football field, Meduna also noticed a growth within himself as an individual.

“Football taught me a lot about how to become a man and how to be a leader and set an example for the young guys,” he said.

After the game, linebacker Ethan Meduna ’20 contemplates his final season as a Knight. He had four tackles and a sack in the playoff game.

The seniors’ improvement on and off the field was not something ignored by the coaches, who noticed the growth over the years.

“They were sophomores when I came in,” Wunderlich said. “They weren’t that big of a group, but more guys have come to be a part of it. They have really pushed themselves to not accept being mediocre, and that’s how I will remember them.”

Now for the Knights, it is time to look toward next year. However, that does not mean Wunderlich wants to forget this class’s hard work and determination.

“They have raised the standard of Mount Michael football to the point where we expect to go to the playoffs, and we expect to have winning seasons,” Wunderlich said. “Everything that we’ve asked them to do, they have taken that on, plus some more. I will miss the way that they gave me headaches and made me laugh all at the same time. They’re an awesome group of guys.”

The Mount is produced by the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.