Bottom (left to right): David Klink, Ben Murphy, Jack Breese, Jason Mangin, Mike Chalupny, John Malin, Pete Greeninger, Ryan Hinske, Brad Hoerth
2nd Row (left to right): Ryan Bandt, Tyler Merckx, Chris Biolo, Josh Heisler, Mike Weyer, Aaron Hank, Dean Matsche, Steve Jones, Mike Verstegen, Mike Hardy, Nic Peters, Collin Kandler, Jason Jochimsen, Matt Hoh
Steve Jones of Kimberly High School has been named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA)/Green Bay Packers Coach of the Year for a third straight year.
Jones' seventh season as the head coach of Kimberly High School ended with a fifth straight state championship. On Nov. 17, the Papermakers completed a perfect 14-0 season with a 27-7 victory over Sun Prairie High School to claim the WIAA Division 1 State Championship at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
"I thought that the Sun Prairie game was a microcosm of how our season went," Jones said. "We fell behind early, but our kids continued to be resilient and fought really hard, especially in the second half. Our assistant coaches did a great job of making halftime adjustments, and our kids did an unbelievable job of applying that coaching to the field."
With another perfect season, Kimberly continues to hold nation's longest active winning streak at 70 straight victories. While each team over that five-year stretch is different, the Papermakers' core values remain the same.
"I think it's a credit to the culture that has been created in our program," Jones said. "To win 70 games in a row, it's not just one good team. It's a culture that's been established through the leadership of our players and our entire coaching staff. I think the past state championship teams have set the standard on how we do things in our program. Our kids are extremely hard workers, they're committed, and they're great leaders on and off the field. This year we had a lot of close ball games where we were behind or had to score in the last minute of the game to win, and I think that this group's journey was special in that they had to fight and claw through a very tough schedule and had to continue to embrace the large target on their back."
Jones grew up in Stevens Point, Wis., where he graduated from Stevens Point High School in 1997. While in high school, Jones played football under WFCA Hall of Fame coach Jerry Fitzgerald. Jones went on to attend UW-Stevens Point, where he played wide receiver for WFCA Hall of Fame inductee John Meich. Jones graduated from UW-Stevens Point in 2002.
Jones began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UW-Stevens Point in 2002, later taking a position as an assistant coach at Baraboo High School from 2003-05. Jones came to Kimberly in 2006, where he held an assistant position for five years before being promoted to head coach in 2011. He is also the high school leadership teacher at Kimberly.
"To me, this is a coaching staff award," Jones explained. "Nobody does it by themselves. I'm surrounded by great coaches and obviously great kids. We have a lot of kids that if you would have saw them as freshman or sophomores, you would have never guessed how they turned out as seniors. As freshman they were 3-5, and they continued to focus on the process, and to see them grow and change has been a really fun part of the season for me as a coach."
Jones and his staff oversee a program of 180 players, including a varsity roster of 90. His assistant coaching staff is Dean Matsche, Pete Greeninger, Josh Heisler, Ryan Hinske, Mike Verstegen, Chris Biolo, Mike Chalupny, Jason Mangin, Aaron Hank, Jason Jochimsen, Jack Breese, Brad Hoerth, Ben Murphy and Mike Weyer.
Jones and his wife, Carrie, have one son, Cooper.
In recognition of the honor, the Packers will award a $2,000 donation to the Kimberly football program. Jones will be presented with the award at the Packers home game against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 23, and honored Jan. 28 at the WFCA All-State Banquet in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
This marks the 20th year both the Green Bay Packers and WFCA have awarded the honor together. The WFCA has awarded a Coach of the Year since 1976, while the Packers have presented the same award since 1998, in addition to the Coach of the Week program that has honored 206 coaches and programs statewide since its inception. More information regarding this award, the All-State team and the WFCA is available at www.wifca.org