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December 2, 2021

10/15/2021 1:12:00 PM
Highland football stays strong with family ties

By Levi Zimmerman
The Highland Cardinals football team carries a long tradition of excellence and respect.
It's become typical to see the Cardinals make routine WIAA playoff appearances.
It's also not uncommon to see Highland players receive all-conference and all-area recognition.
After years of competing in the Six Rivers conference, the Cardinals made the switch to the Ridge and Valley in 2019 where they finished in the middle of the pack.
The move was made due, mainly, to concerns of enrollment numbers.
Highland High School currently has an enrollment of 94, which makes it one of the smallest schools in the state to sponsor 11-man football.
There has been a rise in small schools either forming a co-op team with one or more schools or switching to 8-man football.
For example, Potosi and Black Hawk formed with Cassville and Warren, IL, while Shullsburg combined with the co-op Benton/Scales Mound to form a tri-op.
Belmont and Wisconsin Heights have had success in the 8-man division.
The Highland faithful have been adamant about not conforming to these changes that surrounding schools have made.
The community remains proud of the success that the football team has had despite the odds stacked against it.
In a COVID-ridden 2020 season, Highland rolled to an undefeated season with eight wins that was capped off with a 19-13 defeat of former conference foe Potosi/Cassville in the WIAA's mock-playoff format in level two.
Since then, the Cardinals have continued to dominate the gridiron with seven consecutive wins in 2021 that included a 42-2 victory over De Soto, who was undefeated, on Friday to take the top spot in the Ridge and Valley.
Highland has been ranked in the top 10 of's Coaches Poll since week one and is now ranked fifth in the state in division seven.
With 15 straight wins, the Cardinals are on pace to claim an out-right conference championship and a top seed in the WIAA playoffs.
In Iowa County, the sense of community is what makes the area desirable to many, but the viability of the football program, and school district for that matter, relies on the community and families that have been faithful to Highland through generations.
The Cardinals roster is full of names that have been there for years, though the first names are different, usually.
The 2021 team is no different. Nearly half of the Highland football team is made up of the Welsh bloodline, which is headed by Marilyn Welsh at 88 years old.
Mason Welsh, a senior, son of Tom and Brenda Welsh, starts on offense and defense for the Cardinals at wide receiver and defensive end. Mason is Marilyn's youngest grandson at 17.
Lucas Welsh, a senior, son of Magen Welsh and Frank Reyzek, starts both ways for Highland at offensive tackle and defensive end. Lucas is Marilyn's great grandson.
Isaac Biba, a senior, son of Greg and Amber (Welsh) Biba, also starts on both sides of the ball at offensive guard and defensive tackle. Isaac is Marilyn's great grandson.
Cohen Healy, a junior, son of Troy and Nicole Welsh, is a backup quarterback and plays multiple positions for the Cardinals. Cohen is Marilyn's great grandson.
Elliott Biba, a sophomore, son of Greg and Amber (Welsh) Biba, plays wide receiver and defensive back. Elliott is Marilyn's great grandson.
And Samuel Biba, a sixth grader, son of Greg and Amber (Welsh) Biba, is a manager for the Highland football team. Samuel is Marilyn's great-grandson.
Born in 1932, Marilyn has been a life- long resident of Highland where she has farmed with her family.
She graduated in 1950 and married the love of her life, Stanley Welsh, in 1951.
The love for Highland football in the family can be traced back to 1948 when Stanley played on the first Highland Cardinals football team.
Before 1948, students who wanted to play football had to go to Muscoda to play.
Stanley and Marilyn started dairy farming together early on and switched to beef in later years.
Stanley passed away in May of 2012 at the age of 81.
Marilyn is frequently visited by some of the 18 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren that help at the farm and enjoy hunting in addition to keeping her company.
The grandkids also look forward to enjoying Marilyn's family famous popcorn and homemade long johns.
Marilyn has had four sons, eight grandsons and five great grandsons who have played football for Highland and many more who will join the team in the years to come.
She has also held season tickets for the Wisconsin Badgers football games for over 30 years.
Marilyn had this to say about watching her family play football: "It's just something that I enjoy so much. I have to say I was very nervous when my sons started playing, as it was more dangerous, but over the years it's become easier. Most of my boys are so well-built, because they're farm boys. It's a tradition."
It's a tradition that has stayed true for many families of Highland.
Mason, Isaac, Cohen, Lucas, Elliott and Samuel shared what it's like to be a part of Highland football while surrounded by family as well as some of their favorite memories with Grandma Marilyn.
Mason - "I have always had a great relationship with my grandma Marilyn. We have always spent holidays together. My parents and I try to go see her as many weekends as possible because it is always a fun time getting to sit and talk with her. Having her at football games is something really special to me, because I play football for my family and community. Football has always been a fun part of my life. Ever since I started in fifth grade, I have gained a lot of friends from my team and even other teams. It has been a sport me and all my cousins have been able to play together. We all enjoy it and want to do our best. For me the best part of football has been getting to play in front of my family and friends. It just wouldn't be the same if I couldn't look around and see everyone who cares about me on the sidelines watching. I love celebrating the 4th of July with my grandma and family at our cabin, North Fork."
Isaac - "I love the fact that, growing up, Grandma Marilyn always came and still comes as much as she can to our sporting events, school programs, birthday parties, really whatever we have going on, she tries to be there. She sits on the sidelines to watch football games, used to sit in a close parking spot at the ballpark to watch us play baseball and even makes it into the bleachers during wrestling season when she can, but I know when she can't, she's listening on the radio. A special memory I have of Grandma that gets repeated often during hunting season is stopping in to see her and her serving me up black coffee and a cookie or donut. I don't even like coffee, but with Grandma it doesn't matter - you drink it and like it!"
Cohen - "My relationship with Grandma started about 8 years ago when my mom married my step dad. While I am not a blood relative, she never failed to make me feel special. Always having treats made for us when we would come over. She's always giving out hugs to us and telling us good job after our games."
Lucas - "My favorite memory with Grandma would probably be going to her house during gun season to drink coffee and eat cookies. She is someone who would do anything for me. She loves to listen to my hunting or fishing stories! Football has helped me build closer relationships with a lot of my friends."
Elliott - "So many memories I could share about Grandma Marilyn, but what stands out for me is going fishing at our pond with her and how she wanted me to keep them all so she could fry them up. My absolute favorite though is that my grandma knows how much I love her popcorn. She makes it every Sunday afternoon and also whenever she comes to see me. If I visit on a different day, she always volunteers to make it special for me."
Samuel - "I love how Grandma Marilyn always shares her seashells with me from all of her trips to Florida. Her birthday presents are my favorite because she always brings me popcorn or her famous homemade long johns."
As far as the Highland Cardinals as a team, Head Coach Mike Aide has helped lead the group to an impressive undefeated streak, and they have aspirations of something bigger.
"This group has been a very tight group. They have been playing football together for the last eight years.They all have one common goal.They have worked very hard this past offseason. We know that this team has the ability to accomplish something big," said Aide.
The focus right now is on Hillsboro and after that it will be on Wauzeka-Steuben/Seneca. What goes along with those two wins is a conference title, which has eluded Highland for several years.
"Winning the conference is the first goal. Last time Highland football won the conference was in 2011.The time before that was 2001. So winning a conference championship is very rare for us. We know that we can do some big things this season but we only focus on what is in front of us each week," he said.
Winning a championship doesn't happen without sacrifice and commitment. With 34 kids playing football out of 92 kids in the entire high school, it's clear that football is a priority at Highland, and the tradition will continue to be carried.
"These families bring their children to our games and show them that someday that will be you out there. We have families that are huge supporters, and we have seen those kids come through our program and continue our recent success. It is pretty unbelievable that in such a small town we are able to sustain a winning program while having the smallest school playing 11-man football," Aide stated.
Though the Cardinals will aim to accomplish one goal at a time, getting a top seed in the playoffs and hosting games is something that the community dreams about. The notion of a road to the state championship starting in Highland might just come true.
"We need to stay the course and make sure we are getting better each day. Our first goal is to win the conference. The next goal is to get the #1 seed and host some playoff games at Tyler Field," said Aide.
With the familial bonds tying the team together and the passion for football flowing through the hearts, the sky's the limit for the Highland Cardinals.
Highland will host Hillsboro at Tyler Field Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2:00 p.m.

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