Even after his death, grandfather inspired Elkhorn soccer team's run to state
ELKHORN The legend of the 12th man started with the Texas A&M University football team in 1922, and many manifestations of the tradition have been displayed at athletic venues at all levels of competition between teams and their fans ever since.
Elkhorn Area High School’s version of that story has played out the past several years with three families and the boys soccer program.
Senior Tyler Walter and juniors Erik Papenfus and Jon Stopple are first cousins and three major reasons why the Elks qualified for the WIAA Division 1 state tournament a week ago, giving the school its first state appearance to go along with its first conference, regional and sectional titles in the program’s 23-year existence.
And while it could be argued that their grandmother, Sandy (Walbrandt) Walter, was the bigger fan, the trio’s grandfather, Donald Walter, provided them and their teammates with the extra incentive and inspiration during their magical and unexpected postseason run.
Donald Walter died Oct. 18 after a long battle with heart disease. The cousins grieved along with family and friends, and two days later showed their heart and fortitude in knocking off Kenosha Bradford in a shootout.
The boys attended their grandfather’s funeral the morning of Oct. 22; and that evening they and the Elks avenged their only regular-season setback with a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Kenosha Tremper to reach the state tourney.
And even though Elkhorn ended up falling to Neenah (3-0) in its state opener Oct. 27, the cousins and their coach are convinced that their 12th man, Donald Walter, was with them every step of the way ... CONTINUED