How Williamsville football ended up with a Wisconsin school as its Week 1 opponent
WILLIAMSVILLE — Williamsville athletic director Adam Eucker had to think outside the box — and the state — to find a Week 1 opponent.
Eucker and the Bullets football team found out on Tuesday that their first opponent, Petersburg PORTA, had to forfeit the season opener due to COVID-19 protocols.
Eucker immediately went to work and was able to set up a neutral site game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Union Grove of Wisconsin, at LaSalle-Peru's Howard Fellows Stadium.
North of the border
Suffice to say, it took some phone calls to pull it off.
Eucker petitioned on social media and reached out to Sam Knox of the Illinois High School Association. Knox pitched in with a list of possibilities that included several schools around the state, as well as Union Grove.
Eucker contacted the IHSA schools first, but none worked out. After hearing positive feedback from a former colleague in Wisconsin, Eucker then got in touch with Union Grove. The Broncos have about 1,000 students, about double the enrollment of Williamsville. Yet Eucker said both schools believed it would be a competitive matchup.
Williamsville has gone 20-0 over the last two seasons and claimed the 2019 Class 3A state title.
"If this wouldn't have worked, then we would've taken the forfeit," Eucker said after making the announcement on Wednesday. "But we felt like we owed the kids the opportunity. I think it will be a great experience."
Why play in LaSalle-Peru?
It was just a matter of meeting somewhere in the middle.
The schools mulled over different options, but a connection led to LaSalle-Peru. Eucker said the athletic director there, Dan Le, invited them with open arms to its historic stadium, which recently installed new turf.
Eucker said the world of ADs is very small in Illinois and that everyone is willing to help.
"At this point, you don't know what this pandemic is going to bring," Eucker said. "We just felt it was the best opportunity to give the kids an ability to compete and have an experience on Friday night."
Eucker said it wasn't the most difficult challenge for him. Athletic directors around the state have become quite accustomed to scheduling changes since the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. He previously replaced the 2021 spring football opener against Pittsfield with a road game at Du Quoin.
Keeping a cool head
Eucker credited his wife, Hannah, for keeping him grounded during this tumultuous period.
"We had a whole year's worth of stuff to figure out in a short amount of time, and my wife saw how panicked I was and stressed I was, she basically said, 'You can only do one thing at a time,'" Eucker said. "Obviously we have all of our schedules built for this year right now and things can change and I'm working on next year's schedules at this point, so this is what was right in front of us and what we had to do deal with today."
It could be the first of several obstacles to come this school year.
"This is going to be something I think that is going to be ongoing," Eucker said. "We just don't know. We just have to adapt and look at things differently.
"Right now we're extremely thankful we have a game on Friday and we'll get through that and we'll prepare for Athens next week. Hopefully we can play that game and if not, we'll figure out a plan at that point."
Contact Bill Welt: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter.com/BillWelt