FOND DU LAC — When the Fond du Lac Cardinals lost to Kimberly 22-21 to fall to 0-4 on the season – after the the game Papermakers head coach Chad Michalkiewicz said the Cardinals just might be the best 0-4 team he has ever seen. Safe to say, he was right. Going from winless four games into the season to Level 3 in the playoffs, Fond du Lac has fought their way back to be a contender.
“Started off 0-4, which is not what we wanted to be and that’s not the team we knew we were, so we came in every day and we busted our butt and we’re here,” said senior QB/DB Connor Klapperich.
After that loss to Kimberly, head coach Sam Plucker sat down on the bench with his seniors.
“He's like, ‘it’s either we can all pack it up now and play some football and just let it be worth nothing or we can decide to flip the switch and turn this thing around’,” said senior RB/DB Tanner Dalske. “And that’s what we all wanted to do, we knew the decision right away.”
With some key pieces returning from injury during that time and being so close to beating the 2023 state champ, the seniors knew they could turn their season around.
“This senior class is really special and I think they really carry the team and they had the confidence once everyone was put back together – the team was ready to roll and they could accomplish it,” Plucker said. “There really wasn't anything that fazed them and I think that’s what impressed me the most about them.”
Those key senior pieces that returned after missing a few games were both team captains. Wide receiver Kalvin Mullins and running back Tanner Dalske. Both have the most yards and touchdowns at their respective positions.
“Kalvin's a dynamic playmaker who completely controls our passing game and Tanner controls the team and our energy,” said Plucker. “He’s an extremely confident individual – works hard and he brings a lot of motivation and confidence to the team that we did really have when he wasn’t there.”
Plucker is in his fourth year coaching the Cardinals, starting when the now seniors were just freshmen. They embraced him when he came in and he just wanted to see them have success.
“To have this type of result has been nothing short of a – really a miracle," said Plucker. "For our coaching staff, we’re just really happy the (players) get this experience."
No matter what happens this Friday, this run has been a dream.
“I thought about it ever since I was watching it since I was a little kid, this was the run I wanted to have as a senior and it’s become a reality and it’s just awesome,” said Dalske.
The No. 5 Cardinals play at No. 2 Marquette on Friday night.