Jarrett Wulf knew he had discovered a passion in life after he first played flag football with friends.
Tonight, the culmination of years of hard work and dedication will be put to the test as Wulf, a senior quarterback at Waunakee, leads the explosive and undefeated Warriors (12-0) in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal against Brookfield Central (11-1) at 7 p.m. in Oconomowoc.
The game is a rematch from last year’s championship game, during which the Warriors scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to post a 14-13 comeback victory.
To Wulf and the Warriors, though, the past is — well, it’s history.
“We just want to take it week by week, snap by snap,” he said. “Obviously we come up with a game plan, but every game is always different.”
Wulf, a 6-foot, 165-pounder, credits his calm and focused demeanor to the time spent last year as a backup to current University of Wisconsin freshman Nate Carter. Under Carter’s leadership, the Warriors went 14-0.
“I wasn’t discouraged at all as third-string backup,” Wulf said. “I looked at the seniors as role models. I took it as an opportunity to grow, and I learned a lot.”
Though Waunakee replaced eight offensive starters and 10 defensive starters, every other Badger North Conference coach who identified a preseason favorite chose the Warriors, who have gone 287-60 (82.7 winning percentage) over the past 30 years.
Now that Wulf is at the helm, his patience has paid off in the form of 2,311 passing yards and 313 yards rushing. Of 170 passes, Wulf has only tossed four interceptions.
And then there was that run of three midseason games, when Wulf went 8-for-8 against Portage, 9-for-9 against Sauk Prairie the following week, and 14-for-14 against Reedsburg — tying a state record for most attempts without an incompletion — the week after that for 31 consecutive completions. On the season, he has completed a gaudy 77.1 percent (131 of 170).
Wulf explained his success lies not solely on his shoulders, but thanks to the connection he shares with his receivers, running backs and linemen.
“The bonds you build with people, it’s pretty much like having a second family,” he said. “The relationships bring us so much closer.”
He said the team often gets together outside of school to watch football on television or take part in other activities. The brotherhood extends to the lacrosse field, where Wulf wears the No. 17 jersey and is a key attacker for the Warriors, who went 7-0 in conference play and 19-3 overall last year.
“With the amount of time we spent together on and off the football field and because we’ve repped it so many times in practice, I can just feel where my teammates are going to be in a game,” he said.