Wittenberg-Birnamwood football charges on in the wake of tragedy

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 9:41 PM CDT
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WITTENBERG, Wis. (WSAW) -The Wittenberg-Birnamwood Chargers football team sits at 1-1 on the season. But this year, they’re playing for something much bigger than wins and losses.

Sam Egging was killed in a tragic accident last December just ten days shy of his 17th birthday. He would have been a senior starting offensive lineman for the Chargers this year. Even if he isn’t physically part of the team he loved so much this season, his teammates carry him with them every day.

“To get his life taken at such an early age, it was such heartbreak,” said Wittenberg-Birnamwood head coach Bernard Holsey.

When the team started summer camp this year and #66 wasn’t there, it took some getting used to.

“I would say the first couple of days, you know I would always kind of look for him to be here, coming out of the locker room,” Holsey said.

“You know you don’t really think about it until you’re out here,” says Larken Betry, a senior Witt-Birn football player. “And then like, wow, it kind of hits you.”

“It just always felt like you were missing somebody,” said John Stewart, a junior Witt-Birn player.

Chargers offensive coordinator Jason Rieck knew he had to come up with a tribute for Egging.

“Immediately as soon as it happened, I said we’ve got to do something on the first play,” Rieck said.

Before a snap was taken between Witt-Birn and Stratford to open the season, both teams took a knee, with their helmets off, in memory of Egging.

“Honestly, it just kind of gave you the chills,” Betry said.

“You got goosebumps, you got chills just thinking about it,” said Riekc. “You know remembering Sam for what he would’ve been on our team and remembering him for the kid that he was.”

The Chargers took a five-yard delay of game penalty, but Stratford gave it right back.

“(Stratford) Jumping offsides the very next play on purpose, just to make it first and 10, you know that’s commendable,” said Holsey.

The pregame moment, and everything the Chargers do this season, will be in memory of their fallen teammate.

“You know it was definitely a little bit of motivation to work harder every day,” Betry said. “This season is for him.”

“In my mind, I dedicated this season to him,” said Holsey. “I tried to make myself a better coach, and coach my kids a lot better.”

#66 will forever be a part of this program, but it will likely never be on the back of a Charger uniform ever again.

“Nobody else will wear it as long as I’m coaching,” Holsey says.

Every year for Witt-Birn’s senior night, coach Holsey writes something for each of his seniors. Even though he won’t be there, Sam Egging will have his moment as delivered by his head coach.

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