|Today’s National Signing Day offers two Antigo High School Red Robin football players a “dream come true moment” as Blake Kirsch and Josh Hale pen their John Hancock on their respective Letters of Intent. |
Kirsch, a son of Steve and Jamie Kirsch, will become a Cougar for the Division Two University of Sioux Falls, while Hale, a son of Denise and the late Curt Hale, is destined to be a Coyote at the Division One University of South Dakota.
“These guys have worked extremely hard to reach their goals of playing at the next level,” Red Robin Varsity Coach Matt Weberpal said. “All the work they put in the past two years has put them in a position for such great opportunities. I wish them luck as they move on to great programs and represent Antigo in a positive way.”
Both families took similar paths to get to this point. For Kirsch, an offensive lineman, it was a seven hour trek to Sioux Falls.
“It was a great visit, the coaches were awesome, the city was great, as well as the university and its facilities,” Kirsch’s father, Steve, explained. “They really treat their kids right. It may be a Division 2 school, but they give them a Division 1 experience.
As the Cougar’s number one priority, Kirsch was offered a full ride. $32,500 a year scholarship for five years. He will be studying business.
The new Cougar said that actually putting the pen to paper today was a surreal feeling after a long recruiting period. And he added that the seven hour commute, intimidating at first, doesn’t concern him after his campus visit.
“After visiting the area and meeting the people I will be spending the next few years of my life with, I have no issue with the distance,” Kirsch said.
“What I will take with me most from my high school days is the guidance and morals taught to me by my coaches through the years,” Kirsch said, singling out coaches John Lund, Matt Weberpal, Mark Kautza, Tom Schofield, Tom Weix, Luke Nowinsky and Chris Lucas among others.
“I would like to specially thank Coach Steve Kohler for having the biggest impact on me as a person and a football player and instilling the mentality I have while on the playing field,” Kirsch added.
He also thanked his parents, grandparents, Ray and Bernice Kirsch and Denny and Marti Preboski, and the rest of his family and friends “for their love and support. I look forward to moving on to the next chapter of my life.”
Kirsch has lettered all four years in hockey, three in football and baseball. He was named Great Northern first team All-Conference in football and baseball along with carrying a weighted grade point average of 4.119961.
Hale’s route to Vermillion and the University of South Dakota had a few bumps along the way.
“This has just been a whirlwind,” his mother, Denise, said. “First the letters start pouring in, then phone calls. After that it was setting up the official visit. We learned very quickly that if they want you there the first week, they really are interested in you. The school visits turned out to be a sort of ‘wine and dine’ experience.”
Adding to the uncertainty was the death of his father, Curt, just days before the recruitment trip. The news was not unexpected, but still jarring.
“We just were not sure how to get him there, although the school pays for all his transportation, but who would go with him. As it ended up, I was able to drive out there with him,” his mother said.
Once the pair arrived, it didn’t take long to know that, “this was the one.”
“The minute they showed us the stadium, Josh got what I would call ‘Dome Eyes’. He knew this is where he wanted to play,” his mom said.
A versatile player, Hale was recruited as a tight end and may also be called upon for some punting duties.
“In all, I really feel that small town schools such as Antigo are able to provide more of an opportunity for their players to be diversified,” Hale’s mother said. “Coach Weberpal had Josh play different positions and that is one of the things that caught the South Dakota coaches’ eyes, his ability to play in more than one slot.”
The new Coyote will be studying physical education, extending his love of the sport beyond his days at Schofield Stadium.
“The recruiting experience was new and exciting and it’s flattering to know that a number of different schools wanted me and that I was good enough to play college football,” he said.
Hale has lettered three years in football, two in baseball and one in track and field. In addition to being named Great Northern Conference first and second team All-Conference his junior season in football, he was given the rare honor his senior year to be named to three first team All-Conference positions in football for tight end, defensive end and punter. In baseball, Hale received honorable mention for pitching.
He has been named All-Region tight end and punter, honorable mention All-State punter, Channel-7 All Star, Channel 12 Player of the Week, and has been selected to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game which takes place this summer.
Although South Dakota initially spotted Hale on the Hudl.com site, both parents attribute enlisting the help of recruiting site, NCSA Sports.
“You do have to pay to get this posted but it does get the kids names out there,” the elder Kirsch added.
SIGNING DAY—Two Antigo High School football standouts took the next step in their athletic and education careers today, signing letters of intent to play college ball. Seated are Blake Kirsch, who signed to play with the Division 2 University of Sioux Falls Cougars, and Josh Hale, who will play for the Division 1 University of South Dakota Coyotes. Standing from left are Athletic Director Matt Meronk, Jamie and Steve Kirsch, coaches Matt Weberpal, Tom Schofield and Steve Kohler, and Denise Hale.