FREEDOM — A year ago little attention was being paid to the Freedom football program.
The Irish was coming off a playoff appearance and was beaten in Level 1 of the postseason, but in some ways it was viewed as a successful season. The football tradition at Freedom has been modest, so what the Irish did last postseason was unexpected.
Riding the legs of Nathan Peters, Freedom extended its season more than ever, reaching Level 4 of the Division 4 playoffs before falling to Big Foot.
The loss ended a terrific run few expected and with Peters returning and more confidence Freedom is now one of those programs teams just might be shooting for.
"You hear that; that we're going to be a target,” coach Clint Kriewaldt said. “I don't know. I never looked at another team and looked at targets on their back. We try to give everybody our best shot and I think everybody's going to give us their best shot."
Freedom finished 9-3 last season and its Level 4 appearance was equal to a state semifinal. But the Irish wasn’t even expected to win one playoff game.
It was an eight seed in the playoffs and opened the postseason with Olympian-Packerland co-champion Chilton, but the Irish proved the seed was just a number and won its first three playoff games.
Freedom was a surprise team in the postseason, but this season the Irish won’t sneak up on anybody. Does that mean there’s added pressure?
"I don't feel it,” Kriewaldt said. “Our job is to try to get these kids prepared the best we can; to put the best quality team on the field every Friday night."
Peters, who had 2,249 rushing yards and 25 TDs last season, feels his team can pick up where it left off.
"I think we can duplicate that,” Peters said. “Our main goal is to go to state. As long as we stay together as a team and stay on a steady rise and get better and better every practice, I think we'll do alright."
Kriewaldt said it's important to build upon last season's success and mentioned contending for an Eastern Valley Conference is also high on the list.
"Now it's our job to make sure we're not that one-year wonder; we didn't make the splash last year and all of sudden just kind of fall back into the shadows again," he said.
Kriewaldt is entering his second season as coach and the former NFL linebacker who won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wants to experience a championship with Freedom. Until then, he won’t be satisfied.
“We still don’t have a gold football sitting in the trophy case in the high school,” Kriewaldt said. “That’s our number one goal and I think everyone’s goal every year, so until we have that and numerous ones after that we’re not going to get complacent.”
Time will tell if Freedom wins gold ball No. 1 this season, but one thing is for sure the Irish have more confidence now than maybe ever to do it.
"Last year, we had no idea what to expect,” Peters said. “Now this year, we kind of know what we can do. Our confidence in pretty high."
Peters didn’t start until Week 4 of the 2012 season when starter Bo Casper was injured. … The Irish play at Winneconne in Week 1. … Freedom hosts Division 3 state runner-up Waupaca in Week 2; the teams didn’t play last season. … Peters had three 300-yard rushing games last season, two in the postseason.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
Republican Governor Scott Walker addressed a controversial campaign letter Thursday while in Green Bay for a groundbreaking.
A local landmark, for good or bad, in Grand Chute could soon be coming down.
We're spreading a little holiday cheer to area military families this year.
An Allouez man who has not been seen in a week could be at risk without his medication, Brown County sheriff’s officials say.
The DNR says six private wells in the Manitowoc County town of Newton are showing signs of contamination.
Time continues to tick away as to whether or not Walmart can continue to have exclusive rights to a piece of property in Green Bay's Broadway District.