New coach's spirits don't dampen, even after flood

Published on: 7/27/2010

The Nicolet football team's summer camp is still going on this week and so are the related youth activities.

"That's just the optimist in me," said new varsity coach Brian Sommers.

But after last Thursday's raging rainstorm flooded virtually everything in the North Shore, including making an island of Nicolet High School, it's hard for anyone in the area to remain an optimist.

Flashback to 3 p.m. July 22 in the bowels of the Nicolet boys locker room, where Sommers and his assistant James Becker were all happy, exhausted smiles.

They'd just picked up the area and had painted the room and all 62 lockers within it to help give the struggling football program a fresh start as it enters a new season. The area is just a short jog down the stairs from the entrance of the high school,

They had also moved in a television and DVD set-up so they could watch film.

In short, they were quite pleased with themselves.

But by 5:30 p.m. it was quite a different scenario, as the sky opened and a vast torrent of rainwater and mess came hurtling through the hallways of the school and down the stairs right toward them and their hard-won labor.

"There was something like three-and-a-half feet of water in the place in less than 25 minutes," Sommers said. "We still had the video camera and so we shot as long as we could (for insurance purposes), but by 5:30 p.m. all our (painting) work was gone. I saved one shoulder pad by hanging it on the door and then we left."

When they came back a day or so later, it was worse then they had thought.

Much worse.

"It was a mess, there was mud everywhere," he said. "I figured about 80-85 percent of our stuff was affected. Cameras, headsets, that video stuff, all gone."

Included among the damaged and destroyed materials were a number of $240 helmets and a $5,000 set of headphones which had just been refurbished for $700.

Sommers was one of the first public faces of the Nicolet disaster.

His offensive coordinator Jim Wilson is a videographer for Fox 6 News and so Sommers was on TV as a first-hand witness to the rainstorm which dumped up to 8 inches of rain in some spots in about two hours, leaving many homes in the metropolitan area flooded, damaged or outright wrecked.

"I told my wife that wasn't the way I wanted to make my first appearance on television," Sommers said ruefully.

Widespread damage

About 80 percent of the school was flooded.

There was also a report at the School Board meeting Monday night that the girls swim team may not be able to start practice on time for fear of mold. In short, for health reasons, officials are telling students to stay away from the building for as long as necessary.

According to Athletic Director Kirk Krychowiak, the gym floor will have to replaced and it won't be done in time for the start of school. He also noted that some fall sports will have to practice off campus and that dates for certain events will have to be changed.

Parents and athletes are advised to check the school's website for updates.

But Sommers and his staff remained optimistic. A lot of the new and just one-year old uniforms were still in plastic bags including some that were hung-up, which meant they didn't get totally soaked.

A pair of trucks from famed athletic supplier Riddell arrived just two days after the storm, collecting things, sending them to Chicago, and seeing how much could be cleaned and returned and how much had to be tossed.

"They said they would have everything back by Aug. 9 (in time for the start of practice)," Sommers said. "We had just started a two-year process for (getting new) uniforms last year and had just completed the set. One set, our road whites, didn't get touched and we can get the others sanitized. Hopefully, there was no sewage attached to all this. … They (the administration) just said document everything and go through the same vendors.

"When it's all said and done, we hope to be able to save about two-thirds of our stuff."

Still able to cheer

Small victories like that help everyone maintain perspective.

Because after those trucks from Riddell left the high school last Saturday, Sommers and other Nicolet fall coaches, including girls volleyball coach Dann Jacobson, whose team will now have to scramble for a place to play and practice until the gym floor can be replaced, hiked up to Cedarburg to support the baseball team, which was in WIAA tourney action.

"I told Jeff Wolf (assistant baseball coach), 'Hey, we need some good news around here,' " chuckled Sommers.

It wasn't to be, however, as the Knights lost in the sectional finals to Grafton, 1-0 (see separate story).

But even that couldn't dampen Sommers' spirits.

"Oh well, Brian Durst (the Grafton baseball coach) is a friend of mine anyways." Sommers said.

"In the end, I see this as a rebirth, a reclaiming of Nicolet football.

"Let's rock 'n' roll."

- With additional reporting by Mary Buckley