Bronco offense flourishing under first-year starter

After an injury forced him to miss the early season, Wolf has led the Broncos to two straight victories. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Tim Wester

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

The character John Forbes Nash Jr, played by Russell Crowe in the critically acclaimed 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind,” was a mathematical prodigy that triumphed over tragedy to finally win the Nobel Prize late in life.

Crowe’s masterful portrayal of the character impacted many, including the parents of Union Grove quarterback Nash Wolf, who named their son in honor of the character.

The sophomore Wolf is already living up to his birth name as a rising talent for the Union Grove football team.

After the Broncos lost two of their first three games, Wolf has led a resurgence with two straight victories over Wetosha Central and Delavan-Darien by a combined score of 73-2.

In those games, Wolf threw for a combined 329 yards and four touchdowns to push the Broncos to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Southern Lakes Conference.

Suddenly the Broncos are just two wins away from becoming playoff eligible.

“Nash is 150 pounds soaking wet, but as tough as they come mentally and physically, which is something you have to have at quarterback,” said Union Grove coach Craig McClelland, who starred at quarterback for the Broncos in 2007. “For a sophomore, he takes constructive criticism in practice and in games very well, which is very important for a young quarterback.”

McClelland, who admittedly is a perfectionist with quarterbacks, admits not every signal caller can handle his demanding expectations.

“I’m definitely a lot more critical when it comes to the quarterback position,” McClelland said. “A kid could just shut down if coached hard, so you need someone who has thick skin and needs to take the messages and learn from them to make sure they don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Despite the high level of scrutiny in the quarterback role, Wolf enjoys the pressure.

“It’s really nice playing for a coach that’s a former quarterback,” Wolf said. “He’s really hard on me and Luke (Hansel), and I like that because I know he wants what’s best for us.”

“I like being criticized because it’s telling me what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do to get better.”

Wolf’s maturity in part comes from having a strong role model in his father, Joe.

“My dad and I have always been close,” Wolf said. “We’ve played whiffle ball in the back yard together and he’s taking me hunting and fishing, and so I’ve always had an interest in what’s he’s doing, whether it’s sports or working on the car together.”

 

Big brother

The experiences Wolf shares with his dad are something he’ll get to pass on to his three younger siblings that range in age from 5 to 11 years old.

“Since I’m the oldest, I’ve taken care of my siblings to help my mom and dad around the house,” Wolf said.

Wolf’s maturity has served him well in baseball and football. Wolf’s first love has been baseball, but somewhere along the line football won him over.

Wolf has been a quarterback running McClelland’s system since the seventh grade, while also playing shortstop in baseball. Wolf spends his springs playing shortstop for the Broncos and is now spending the fall running the offense for the football team.

“Nash is not as vocal as I want him to be yet, but he leads by example,” McClelland said. “But guys know he commands attention in the huddle.”

Wolf’s journey to the starting quarterback spot had a few bumps along the way.

He sprained his wrist on the second day of practice in early August and later missed the team scrimmage.

With the loss of practice reps, the starting quarterback job essentially went to senior Luke Hansel with Wolf getting two to three series in the season opener against Greenfield.

Hansel helped direct the Broncos to an 18-12 victory and earned a second start against Racine St. Catherine’s.

But Hansel struggled against St. Cat’s, and Wolf got most of the snaps in the fourth quarter of the blowout loss.

 

Quarterback change

Hansel then missed the Burlington game, allowing Wolf to get his first career start. Although the Bronco offense struggled against Demons, Wolf did enough to earn the starting job with Hansel still getting a small percentage of the snaps.

“The Saturday after the Burlington game, we had a film session and coach pulled Luke aside and told him that they were going with me as a starter,” Wolf said. “Coach then called me, and we talked about the job.

“Luke and I are good friends, and we agreed that whomever gets the job will get the congratulations from the other.”

The rest of the Broncos have been congratulating Wolf after two strong performances yielded two Southern Lakes Conference victories.

“As a starter, I would give myself a solid B grade,” Wolf said. “I’ve done some good things, but also have done some bad things and made mental mistakes that just can’t happen.”

Overall, Wolf has done more positive things for the improved Broncos, who face a tough test tonight at Wilmot. The Panthers, who survived a grueling battle against an improved Elkhorn team, 17-15 last week, have Southern Lakes Conference championship aspirations.

Wolf, however, probably won’t be intimidated by the big moment.

“I try not to think about all the possible outcomes of what’s going to happen in games,” Wolf said. “It helps me not overthink and get nervous before the game.”

Wolf will certainly need his strong poise tonight against the Panthers.

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