Triton Football Off to 3-0 Start: Fresh Team, New Head Coach


Photo by Andrew Schaut

Payton Van Pelt, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

On a brisk Friday night, the Notre Dame Tritons opened up the season with the first home football game against Ashwaubenon. After an impressive win against Sheboygan, closing with a clean 42-0 on the board, the Tritons were ready to start the season 2-0.

“It was a home opener, so that always gets you excited,” said Coach Chris Nowak.

The team was nervous, but felt confident after a week of good practice led by new head coach Mike Rader. Although he’s been with the team since 1998, he knows he has big shoes to fill as head coach.

The team and community lost long-time head coach John Nowak in July of 2016. Coach Rader had not only played for Nowak but coached with him for years.  He was previously the offensive line coach, so the kids were all confident about his taking charge of the program.

The new head coach took the team to the Abbey for team bonding.

“The kids got together and were able to talk about different items that didn’t revolve around football,” explained Chris Nowak.

The elder Nowak announced his retirement at the end of last season, but had planned to be around and support the team.

“We owe him,” said running back Mikey Gregoire.

The Tritons started off strong with a 14-0 lead against the Jaguars. On the back of their helmets, they wore a “JN” sticker in honor of their late coach.

Coach Chris Nowak’s main focus was on the game.

“That’s what he’d want. Worry about football when you cross the lines,” he said.

The team lost their lead, eventually finding themselves in a tiebreaker in overtime.

“We did stick together. We did find a way to win the game,” added the coach.

And the Tritons pushed on. Notre Dame won their first home game without John Nowak with a 42-yard field goal by senior Andrew Gruesen. Their season opened with a 2-0 record.

“It’s really cool having him in the back of our minds,” Gruesen said.

Coach John Nowak led the team to back-to-back state games, winning the championship in 2015. But with a new team, the Tritons don’t want to get ahead of themselves.

“Each year is different. Can’t just expect ‘Oh we made it last year, we’ll make it again!’” explained Chris Nowak. “We’re focusing on conference first.”

Obvious conference rivalries like Bayport, Southwest, Pulaski and Preble stand as some of their biggest challenges.

“Every team has their own personality,” he said.

The Tritons now hold a 3-0 record after a blowout against Sheboygan South. They plan on pushing on with a good head coach, fresh team and a legend in the back of their heads.