Foot Notes: Commendations surprise Wildcat fan, all rightSeptember 20, 2012
From Herald Staff Reports
Friday night at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper certainly didn’t mark the first time Frankie Ebenkamp busted out his signature saying.
But it was unlike any of the previous cheers he led over the last three-plus decades.
That’s because it came within minutes of the 87-year-old Jasper resident receiving a key to the city from Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz and having Sept. 14 named “Frankie Ebenkamp Day” in the town.
The pregame ceremony was a total surprise to Ebenkamp, who didn’t have any inclination of the award given for his dedication to Jasper High School athletics despite seeing and talking to Seitz earlier at the stadium.
Seitz didn’t have to worry about letting anything slip during the conversation. He did all of the listening, as Ebenkamp playfully razzed him about a city ordinance.
Shortly after, Ebenkamp and the mayor shared a different discussion.
“There were times people got honored for different stuff and you don’t know if it’s ever going to be you,” Ebenkamp said. “You see people get the key to the city and different things but you never thought that you’d get it.”
Seitz and JHS athletic director Andy Noblitt each briefly addressed the crowd, followed by Ebenkamp, who finished his remarks with his familiar refrain.
“It felt awesome, it really felt awesome,” Ebenkamp said of leading his patented, “All right, all right, all right” cheer in front of the thousands who attended Class 4A No. 6 Jasper’s victory against Vincennes Lincoln.
Ebenkamp plans to hang the key in his self-described “awards room” in his house — he received a proclamation in 2001 from former mayor Bill Schmitt for his 56 years of work at Jasper Wood Products as well as several other honors throughout his life.
Among those in attendance Friday night were his son, Scott, daughter-in-law, Shannon, and three grandchildren: Abby, Sam and Kayce. Noblitt invited them, giving the family a heads-up on what the night was to include.
They made an already special evening unforgettable for Ebenkamp.
“It made me feel so good that my family was there, that you’re being honored for something and your family is included,” he said.
Seventy-six cups of blue Gatorade were poured and ready for Forest Park’s players at halftime of last week’s game at Pike Central.
The cups were stationed on a picnic table outside the locker room. And the Ranger coaches and players were gathered elsewhere.
“We heard the (halftime) buzzer and we’re waiting, waiting, waiting,” said Kristine Braunecker, the mother of sophomore player Noah Braunecker who leads the halftime Gatorade routine with the help of a few other volunteers. “And I’m like, ‘What in the world?’ Before the game, (the team) had sat on the hillside, and I looked at (husband) Brian and I go, ‘You don’t think...”
The halftime drinks have to operate at grab-and-go speed, and with time ticking away as coaches addressed players at halftime, the group of volunteers improvised.
It turned into a delivery service thanks to the Brauneckers, volunteer Eric Uebelhor, and Jennifer Lusk and Paula Wendholt, whose both have sons on the team. They hoisted the giant wooden picnic table and lugged it about 200 feet down a hillside, balancing it all the way to where the team gathered.
“We only spilled one cup,” Braunecker said. “That was because there was a knot in the top of the picnic table. Otherwise it would have been a 100 percent job.”
The Brauneckers have provided the halftime sustenance of Gatorade and peanut butter crackers for the last four years, starting the tradition when older son Ben, who graduated last spring, always claimed the third quarter was his worst one. So the volunteers help the team refuel — and Kristine gets to enjoy the fringe benefit of being close the team’s inner workings, too.
“My sons both say, ‘Mom, it’s not (the movie) The Blind Side, you need to stay in your seat.’ But I sit by the team, and I have to hear what’s being said by the coaches during the game, or I go a little spaz. At halftime, it’s still the best seat in the house,” Kristine said. “Sometimes I bite my tongue; I want to yell along with (the coaches) and go, ‘Come on!’ But it’s been perfect. ... It’s been really enjoyable.”
Once a QB, always a teammate
Following Friday’s contest with South Spencer, Southridge coach Kelly Murphy spoke about his two quarterbacks, praising each for his efforts in the 42-18 win. A bit unusual, considering sophomore Luke Stetter (6-for-7, 100 yards, two TDs) was the only Raider to take snaps during the contest.
Without engineering a touchdown drive or even completing a pass, Murphy commended the positive influence of Jake Hildebranski, who now focuses solely on his defensive back role after being the Raider signal caller in the team’s first four games and all of last season.
“He gets pulled out of the quarterback position, you know, that’s the position that everybody wants to play,” Murphy said. “And he was the first one out on the field to congratulate Luke after that first touchdown pass. … That’s a teammate.
“It’s one of the things that just warms a coach’s heart.”
Hildebranski admitted the change was a bit tough on him at first, but recognizing the collective mission kept things in perspective.
“At first it was a little difficult, but you’ve got to do what you can to help the team,” Hildebranski said. “(Stetter) came out and played great. He came out and handled it real well and did what he needed to do.”
Stetter — the younger brother of former Raider three-sport athlete Mitch Stetter, who pitches in the Milwaukee Brewers organization — started taking snaps in the second quarter of Southridge’s 31-point defeat to North Posey two weeks ago. Since then, he’s pegged 12 completions, including four TD passes.
The two became good friends during camp this summer, and while Stetter will be the quarterback going forward, Hildebranski plans to assist any way he can.
“You’ve still got to lead the team,” he said, “whichever side of the ball I’m on.”
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