Friday afternoon the Eleva-Strum High School football players showed off their new hardware to the loyal Cardinal fans. The boys returned home state champs after an impressive showing in Madison and they were greeted by a sea of red. If you want to see some excited people, head to Eleva. Cheering, chanting, honking and sirens filled the air as Cardinal faithful waited for their champs to return and many were still in shock.
It's a victory most high school athletes never get to taste.
Senior Fullback and Linebacker Nick Zander says "it still hasn’t set in that we've won a state championship."
Friday fans treated the team like royalty with a fire engine escort through town and a pep-rally.
"We do it for the community that's why we go out there every night and play our guts out" says Nick.
Head coach Warren Behm says it's that attitude that makes these boys great.
"What a true team attitude that is. You're not just playing for yourself; you're playing for each other" says Behm.
"They knew what they had to do and they weren't doing it just for themselves" says parent John Zander.
This year's motto, “finish with a win,” and that's just what they did.
Behm says "football doesn’t build character, it reveals it."
And these players have character coming out their ears. During the pep rally one player ended his speech with “I love you mom,” triggering a chain reaction of cheers and “awes.” Everyone was all smiles when the trophy arrived.
"I was like a kid before Christmas" says Superintendent Ken Rogers.
And after falling short last year, they held their heads high Friday.
Nick says "it feels very much like redemption."
And players say it is a perfect ending to a perfect year, but there's still one disappointment.
"It went too fast, but that's the way life goes" says Behm.
For the seniors and their parents, it is bittersweet.
"Now it's like it over, so it’s kind of hard but what a way to end a year" says parent Karen Gullicksrud.
Nick says "we try to make the most memories that we can throughout the week."
And the players and coaches say this is the best experience of their lives.
Behm told the players "you guys just won the Wisconsin Super Bowl for high school football."
"It’s a feeling that I still can’t yet describe" says Nick.
This was Eleva-Strum’s first State Championship and they only trailed an opponent once this whole year. Coach Behm says he couldn’t be more proud.