Skip to main content

Bluejays lose close game to Hayward Hurricanes


Members of the Merrill Varsity football team carry a coffin flag and name tag honoring each of the 13 U.S. soldiers killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26. Photo by Tina L. Scott.

The Merrill High School varsity football team and coaching staff honored the 13 fallen soldiers who died on August 26, 2021, in an attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, in Afghanistan, in a remembrance ceremony ahead of Friday night’s football game, September 17. Soccer players and coaches lined up and carried a coffin flag and nameplate for each of the fallen service members to honor their ultimate sacrifice, ceremoniously hanging the nameplates on a white cross for each member and displaying flags at the far end of Jay Stadium. Each fallen soldier was honored, by name, age, rank and military service.
“These soldiers were killed while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Five of those killed were 20 years old and were just babies when 9/11 happened, ”said Jason Wadzinski, head college football coach, as he recounted the ceremony.

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui; Marine Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak; and the army sergeant major. Ryan C. Knauss was honored.

Those at Jay Stadium also honored the following alumni of Merrill High School, who served or are serving in the military, when the United States flag was hoisted:

• Trevor Pike, United States Navy, who graduated in 2013 with an honorable discharge. He played football for four years, is the son of Todd and Terri Pike, and currently works at Hetzels Plumbing and Heating in Tomahawk. He recently married Taylor Hudzinski and his younger brother is currently serving in the US Air Force.

• Dallas Kaufman, United States Army, graduated in 2017. He signed with the military in 2016 and is still serving. Son of Scott Hulke and Lori Kaufman, he currently works with Kwik Trip and is a member of the Maine Village Fire Department.

• Michelle Brown, United States Army, graduated in 2006. Currently serving in the Wisconsin Army National Guard Medical Detachment. She served in Operation Iraq Freedom in 2009. Daughter of Kim Johnson, she is currently employed as a nurse practitioner at the Marshfield Clinic.

• Gabrielle Hinz of the United States Army, who graduated in 2020, currently serves with the Golf Company 132nd. She is the daughter of Candace and Chad Hinz and currently works at Kwik Trip.

• Damian Moonen of the United States Army, who graduated in 2020, currently serves with the 132nd Golf Company. He is the son of Julie and Daniel Moonen and is currently employed at C-Tech Manufacturing.

“We remember, we will always remember, the thousands of lives who paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” Wadzinski said. “Especially for the families and friends who lived and are going through the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Wadzinski thanked VFW Post 1638 and the Auxiliaries for their continued support to all of our armed forces; MHS alumni who have served and still serve; Trista Rathke for contacting and coordinating Armed Forces alumni to raise the flag; Michel Handlin [Merrill Class of 1982 and MAPS employee for 24 years]; Michele Rathke, Senior Vice State Commander for the VFW for the State of Wisconsin, and wife of John Rathke [MHS graduate with the Class of 1982]; Bluejay staff and coaching staff; the director of the marching band and the members of the Marching Jays, as well as all those who helped make the night of remembrance possible.

An identity plaque representing each of the 13 fallen American heroes is hung from a cross by a member of the Merrill Varsity football team. Photo by Tina L. Scott.

“I would also like to thank the Merrill community for your patriotic demonstration and your continued support to our armed forces,” Wadzinski said.

Bailey Turenne in action in Friday night’s game against Hayward. Photo credit: Katie Hanson at KtK Photography.

“Let’s get ready to play football! The coach said as he wrapped up the ceremony and the teams prepared to go head-to-head.

The Hayward / Lincoln High School Hurricanes burst into Jay Stadium with force, and the Bluejays delivered the best they could, with both teams delivering an exciting game to an enthusiastic crowd on Friday night.

The Bluejays saw a lot of action in the first half of the game, with the Bluejays collecting all of their points in that first half.

The Hurricanes made a touchdown in the first quarter with a 72-yard pass. Score before half-time: Merrill Bluejays 12-Hayward Hurricanes 7.

The Bluejays played hard in the second half but failed to score any more points, while the Hurricanes went out of their way to land a second touchdown on an 18-yard pass in the third quarter, although they failed on the two points. conversion on that one.

“Last night our boys lost a close game against Hayward 12-13,” summed up coach Wadzinski. But “I can’t say enough about how they fought and held their heads up until the bitter end.”

MHS Bluejay quarterback Brian Ball throws a pass. Photo credit: Katie Hanson at KtK Photography.

# 10 Brian Ball had 104 passing yards, including a 29-yard pass to Bailey Turenne for the Bluejay’s first touchdown of the game in the first quarter. He completed 6 of 16 attempts and also racked up 38 rushing yards with 13 attempts and 1 punt. # 2 Cayden Diels totaled 76 rushing yards with 11 attempts in the game and 5 tackles and two kickoff returns. # 5 Bailey Turenne tallied for 45 yards (1 TD in the first quarter), with 1 rushing yard to nail another touchdown in the dying minutes of the second quarter for an exciting finish to the wire, and the city crowd s’ is unleashed. [Both touchdowns failed two-point conversions.]

“Bailey Turenne had an exceptional game, hitting a Brian Ball touchdown and scoring a ground himself as time came to an end in the first half,” said Wadzinski. “Bailey also put in that final half-time practice with a timely interception to build momentum.”

“Bradyn Pieper (1 Rec, 24 yds, 3 tk) had a good game playing three different positions defensively after an injury to AJ Vogel. Bradyn also had an interception in the game.

From left to right: Bailey Turenne, Abrehm Van Wie and Aiden Pehlke represent Merrill Varsity Football and are the pride of the Bluejays. Photo credit: Katie Hanson at KtK Photography.