Pinnacle moment for West DePere football program

Today the West DePere football team will be playing for a state championship. As Scott Venci pointed out in yesterday’s paper, it’s a proud moment for anyone who’s been associated with West DePere football over the years.

Image via Wisconsin High School Helmets (

(Note: Today’s game is being televised by FSN Wisconsin – channels 40 & 309 for Time Warner customers.)

Update: The game can also be heard on the radio at 1070 AM or 100.5 FM or via the Internet – The Big 1070 or ESPNMadison.

But this isn’t just a pinnacle moment for the players and students at West De Pere High School.

It’s just as important for the ones that came before them, for everybody who has put on a uniform in the past 35 seasons under longtime coach Bill Turnquist.

It’s for all the people who have taught, worked or had kids who have attended the school.

Just consider it community pride at its finest.

It’s a unique situation when it comes to West DePere.

Current and former players are bonded because they all have played for Turnquist. Many of the assistant coaches have come and gone, but the man in charge has remained the same.

“I think what’s unique about the situation is that you have the same coach, as opposed to being a school that has had two or three coaches along the way,” said West De Pere principal Russ Gerke, who played for the Phantoms in the early 1980s. “What ties us all together, whether it’s my class or (Rick) Turriff’s class in the 1970s or (Ken) Wypyszynski in the early ’70s, we all have the same coach. It’s our brothers and cousins that have all played. We have the same connection.”

When you glance at a West De Pere roster every year, the last names tend to stay the same.

The football program has a rich, strong history.

Since the Bay Conference was formed in 1970, the Phantoms have won or shared 13 league championships.

They won three straight from 1981 to 1983, won two in a row in 1987 and 1988 and this season became the first Bay team to win a share of at least four straight.

An amazing stat those 13 conference titles when you consider that until the most recent conference realignment the Phantoms were one of the smallest schools in the conference.

Yet, despite being in four semifinal playoff games in the Turnquist era, this is the first time West De Pere has played for a state championship.

So, why was this team able to get past the semifinal hurdle when all the other great teams from the past failed?

The most agreed-upon theory is the program has more talent spread around, allowing players to concentrate on one side of the ball rather than having to play offense and defense and becoming tired by the end of games.

“They have always had a really good core group of guys,” Jason Berken said. “They (now) have a lot of guys playing one way. When it comes to later in the season or later in games, especially against bigger schools that have the ability to go one way. … I could tell early that they had a good team. It’s pretty obvious the program is headed in the right direction and will be for a long time.” (Source: Coach Bill Turnquist is tie that binds West DePere football community – GBPG)

Today the football program could attain the one thing that’s been elusive over the years – a state title. Good luck and bring it home!

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