BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) -The Black River Falls football team is not only beginning the season with a new head coach, but with an unexpected new look.
Head Coach Adam Yirkovsky says the team’s helmets had been neglected for many years and were in desperate need of reconditioning.
The helmets were sent away in the spring, with the expectation that they would be back by mid-July, but delays in the process have kept them from being returned to Black River Falls.
Despite not having any helmets for his team to use, Yirkovsky was determined to keep the Tigers on schedule.
“Pushing back practice was never in my mind, as a first-year head coach I wanted to get the ball rolling,” Yirkovsky said. “We built a lot of excitement prior to the season with the offseason program, and the kids were excited to try and change the culture here.”
Seniors like Brent Bue have played a key role in building that new culture, as Bue and his fellow classmates tried to keep the team focused even without having helmets to start the season.
“As an older guy, we had to be role models for the younger kids to show that we’ll get helmets eventually,” Bue recalled. “We’re going to play no matter what, we’re going to do what we do on the field no matter what.”
To get the Tigers out on the practice field, Yirkovsky and Athletic Director Andy Osegard put out the call for help.
“We basically reached out to any school that we knew maybe had extra helmets,” Yirkovsky explained. “That included Wautoma High School, St. Croix Central, and then Ellsworth, our scrimmage opponent for Friday.”
Those schools and others responded by supplying the entire team with properly fitting helmets, which came as a shock to senior Evan Voss.
“I was kind of surprised to hear that the helmets were coming from other schools,” Voss expressed. “That’s a great thing that they stepped up, and that’s something I feel like Black River Falls would do if another school reached out to us.”
Yirkovsky is hoping the helmet hardships the team has experienced will set the tone for his freshman campaign as head coach.
“We’ve already faced adversity this year, so there’s not really any other challenge that these kids should be afraid of in the season,” Yirkovsky added.
The Tigers are hoping to have their helmets back in time for the season opener, which is set for Aug. 19 against Nekoosa.
If need be, Yirkovsky says Black River Falls has enough black helmets with black facemasks to get by for the time being.