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Middle school program gets Kimberly students involved in football, prepares players for the high school stage

Posted at 9:44 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-09 22:44:27-05

KIMBERLY, Wis. (NBC 26) — Before Kimberly High School football players had the chance to play in a state championship game, many of them started out in middle school.

"Playing the same teams, same players that we're playing now in high school," senior cornerback Ty Lotten said.

But as a middle schooler, Lotten used to play for the Kimberly Bulldogs as part of the Papermaker Gridiron Association (PGA).

"The coaches do a really good job down there in setting you up for success and setting you up for the big stage at high school," he said.

"I think, without question, we deliver numbers," PGA President Corey Wiegel said. "At the end of the day, the more numbers they have to work with, the better their teams get."

The club has been around since 1991. Wiegel says the program takes children from 6th to 8th grade, and there are two teams per grade.

"Our goal is to get as many kids in our community involved in football, learn to love football, and get them to keep coming back," he said.

Last year, more than 200 middle schoolers were in the program. And they have to be in the Kimberly school district. The players face off against teams around the Fox Valley.

"Our secret recipe is every kid plays," Wiegel said. "One of our goals is to get every kid in every game, every kid to start a game."

Playing for the Bulldogs is free of cost. And the staff is made up entirely of volunteers.

"Without it, I would definitely not have the experience and knowing all the drills that you get started off with; the very elementary," Lotten said.

Wiegel says parents who don't even have kids in the program are involved.

"The community is so supportive," he said. "That's huge."