WALWORTH, Wis. - Greg Enz beat them. Now, he's going to join them.
Enz, who served as Big Foot's head football coach for the past five seasons, is headed to Manitowoc Lincoln to take over the WIAA Division 1 football program there.
Perhaps his greatest victory as a coach ("my claim to fame," Enz says with a chuckle) was while he was at Sheboygan North, and he defeated legendary Lincoln coach Ron Rubick in what would turn out to be Rubick's final loss as a head coach.
Enz said it was a difficult decision to leave the Chiefs.
"It's certainly not something I was out there searching hard for," Enz said. "I was going to be extremely selective if I ever left Big Foot. I thought maybe that if it happened, it would be down south somewhere, and the odds of that happening weren't great. But I am very familiar with that school and have always been impressed with what they have to offer. Had there been any hesitation from my wife or our kids, we wouldn't have done it. But we all went up there and we are excited about the opportunity."
Lincoln's tradition ranks up there with any in the state. In the 1980's, Rubick led the Ships to three straight state titles, becoming the first coach to accomplish that feat. A 48-game winning streak led to a feature article in the Chicago Tribune. After Rubick retired, his assistant John Dixon took over.
Dixon was one of Enz's coaches at UW-Platteville, and the two formed a tight bond. Dixon would pass away suddenly after the 2014 season, leaving the job open again.
Though Lincoln reached out to Enz, the timing wasn't right. He'd just finished his first year at Big Foot, and he wanted to see the job through.
When the Ships struggled for the next four seasons, they again made a change. This time, Enz was ready to take on the challenge of a program that hasn't been to the postseason since 2014.
"Obviously if things up there were perfect, there probably wouldn't be an opportunity," Enz said. "They've had some struggles. That happens. You've got programs who have success and programs who have struggled. I fashioned an email to the staff up there, and my point was that we want to honor the tradition, but keep our eyes on the horizon. I want to focus on moving forward, and not so much on what's happened. My hope is that I can bring some energy and direction to the program and establish a baseline of communication to the kids, clearly explain what they need to take care of, and do the same thing to the coaches and the community.
"I want to put the kids in a position to enjoy the game. At the end of the day, if kids enjoy it and they're inspired by the opportunity to play, they are going to give you what they need to be successful. The whole idea of culture eats strategy for breakfast is so true. You have to create an environment that kids want to be a part of."
Enz said he will treasure his time in Walworth. "The first thing I'll think of is the quality coaches that I worked with," Enz said."They are just great people. So supportive, so open. With the success that Rodney (Wedig) had, to come in and not have any preconceived ideas that was 'Well, we didn't do it that way with him.' That was incredible from this group. They are so loyal, sincere and supportive of kids. There's a reason why the program had so much success for so long, and it's because of the people that were working with the kids. That stands out to me.
"The other thing is the relationships that I was able to build with the kids. It was a pleasure for five years. I can't thank everyone enough for their support along the way."