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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • New coach looks to reverse fortunes

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  • The biggest challenge for incoming Newton High School football coach Nate Wollenberg may be getting wins in one of the toughest football leagues in the state. Wollenberg was named the Railer coach earlier this week. A former head coach at Minneapolis and Hesston, he takes over a Railer team that finished 3-6 last season, 1-4 in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I play. One advantage Wollenberg has coming into the program is a year as an assistant, coaching the defensive line last season. "I really enjoyed working with the players," Wollenberg said. "We have really good support from the community. It was a really good experience." Wollenberg led both Minneapolis and Hesston to playoff berths in his head coaching tenure. He also spent time as an assistant at Bethel before coming to Newton. He inherits a team that returns about 50 players from the freshman to junior level. "We had some really good seniors on the team that helped," Wollenberg said. "Depth will be a concern for us. We're going to have a lot of players who will get the opportunity to play more varsity. We're going to have some guys who will need to step up. We'll know a lot more when the kids put on the pads in September. I'm excited about this, and I know the kids are excited about getting it going." Wollenberg said the key to a winning team is the work put in during the off-season. "It all comes down to conditioning and weight training," he said. "You look at the successful teams around the state like Conway Springs, Topeka Hayden, Hutchinson and the Salina teams, they all do different things on the field. But what they all have in common is their commitment in the weight room." Newton's last winning season and playoff berth came in 2009. The following year, the Railers moved up to AV-CTL I play, taking on perennial state condtenders such as Hutchinson, Salina Central and Salina South. A last-second field goal by Andover in the season finale kept the Railers out of the playoffs last season. Newton was in the game in about four of the six losses from last season. "In division I, you're going to have a tough opponent every week," Wollenberg said. "Sometimes, you have to find victories even in the losses. You have to work to get better every week. Even though we're at the bottom level of the league, you have to show the kids that there is a way to get to the top level. It doesn't happen overnight. When I started as an assistant at Minneapolis, we weren't very strong. Beloit was the perennial power. They were the ones getting to the playoffs. Our kids worked hard and we were able to beat Beloit and get to the playoffs. We became the team to beat. We beat Beloit in four of the last five years I was there." Wollenberg played his college football at Bethany College under College Football Hall of Fame coach Dr. Ted Kessinger. "When I was at Bethany, we were very successful," Wollenberg said. "The one thing Dr. Kessinger brought to the program was integrity. From the coaches to the players, all of the guys tried to do it the right way. He made a mark on a lot of men who are now coaching in Kansas and throughout the country
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