Senior quarterback and three-year starter Joe Wolf must have felt like the last man standing by the time a frustrating football season came to an end in Freeburg.
The Midgets lost several starters to injuries, including one of the best athletes in the Cahokia Conference, Keegan Baxmeyer, who was knocked out for the season in Week 2.
They lost their last four games, missing the playoffs for the first time in three years and just the fourth time in the last 10.
"At times we were two or three down on the depth chart and playing guys out of position just to fill spots," said head coach Ronnie Stuart. "From an offensive coordinator’s standpoint, it sometimes felt like going back to the drawing board to bring guys up to speed with things they weren't familiar with.”
Somehow, though, Wolf managed the best season of his career, even with starting running back Bobby Tedesco, receiver Will Hogan and other key weapons on the sideline as well.
It’s been a tough year, so it’s bittersweet; the personal success is nice, but to go to the playoffs with this group of guys would have been huge.
Joe Wolf, Freeburg senior quarterback
Wolf completed 63 percent of 215 pass attempts for 1,826 yards and 14 touchdowns, setting five school records and tying another along the way. He set new marks for yards passing in a season, yards in a career (3,591), and career completions (307). In a Week 7 loss to Wesclin, he set the school record for pass completions in a game (30).
His final performance as a member of the Midgets Friday night against Salem may have been the best of his career. His 418 yards passing is the new school record and his five scoring strikes of 70, 75, 16, 72 and 15 yards matched yet another Freeburg mark.
Senior John Hilpert caught three of those record-setting touchdown passes and had 197 receiving yards — also a school record — in honor of his grandfather, who died earlier in the week.
The Midgets still lost, 45-39, and finished a disappointing season at 3-6.
“It’s been a tough year, so it’s bittersweet. The personal success is nice, but to go to the playoffs with this group of guys would have been huge,” Wolf said. “In the end, though, the seniors did a good job leading and keeping the team together, the offensive line did a great job all year, and the receivers were great, whenever they were able to play.”
Wolf, who also rushed for 554 yards and eight touchdowns this season, has been fielding recruiting calls from around the NAIA, NCAA Division II and Division III. He says he’s drawn to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he’s considering an attempt to walk on to the D-I FCS Salukis. With an ACT score of 29, he would be counting on an academic scholarship to pay the way, he said.
418 Wolf’s new Freeburg record for passing yards in a game
1,826 Wolf’s new Freeburg record for passing yards in a season
3,591Wolf’s new Freeburg record for passing yards in a career
“I attended about all their camps and just really liked (quarterback) coach (Nick) Hill,” Wolf said. “My first choice would be able to go down to SIU, but I’m still kind of undecided because I want to be open if something else comes along. There are other options.”
Stuart credited his quarterback with the playoff berths each of the last two seasons and says he’ll be hard to replace next season.
“We put him in against Breese Central early his sophomore year and I truly don’t believe we would have made the playoffs that year without him. I think it’s become of him that we finished 8-1 last year, too,” Stuart said. “He spoils you with his ability to pick up and run an offense. As a coach, I’ve been accustomed to having him and it’ll be hard moving forward next season without him.”