Five days after raising the Class A state title trophy at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, the West Hancock football team received a warm welcome home on Tuesday afternoon.
The teachers and the student body gathered in the school gym to cheer their state champions, and to give one last show of appreciation to a team that will live on in school history.
“It feels good,” coach Mark Sanger said. “The season that we’ve had, and the work that the guys have done. It’s a good feeling. It’s relaxing for hard work paying off. You finally reap what you sow after awhile.”
Sanger gave a short speech in front of the packed gym, thanking his team and their supporters for a memorable season. Longtime head coach Bob Sanger then walked up and took the microphone, to deafening cheers.
“There is a responsibility that goes along with being a champion,” Bob said to the players. “People are watching all the time now to see how you carry yourself and how you do things.”
Bob has been the head football coach at the school since 1968, and won two state titles, in 1973 and 1996. Getting the chance to see his son Mark take home a title for the school was extremely special.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Bob said. “It’s devastating not being on the sideline, but I’ll tell you, I have no doubts about the people. Every one of these people that are coaches, are West Hancock people. They played West Hancock football, and they know what it’s about.
“They brought it home. That’s pretty special.”
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After the players were allowed to return to their seats, Britt Mayor Ryan Arndorfer gave tribute to both the championship team, and to Bob and Linda Sanger.
In honor of the football team’s title, Arndorfer announced Nov. 26 as “Football State Champions Day” in Britt. With that accomplished, he turned his attention to Bob and Linda.
“I doubt that another pair will ever give as much to this school and the residents of Britt and Kanawha as Bob and Linda Sanger have,” Arndorfer said. “I’m honored to present them today with the key to the city.”
For the people of West Hancock, Tuesday was a special day. The team still has several more events to be honored at before they dive into the winter sports season. According to Mark Sanger, they will always be a family.
“We’re the football team in 2019 that won a state title,” Mark said. “We’ll hold onto that for a long time."
Once all of the festivities have ended, and day to day life gets back to normal in Britt and Kanawha, the 2019 Class A state title trophy will eventually go into the case in the schools’ front hall, where it can be admired by future generations. But that will come later.
There is still a bit more celebrating to do.
“We’ll leave it out for a little while, so everybody can see it, then we’ll absolutely do that,” Mark said. “It’s these guys mark on what they’ve done. It’s a big mark.”