By Adam Roberts 5/24/2021
Success in high school football can vary from year to year. With the constant athlete turnover that is inherent with this kind of sport, teams that go undefeated and win state one season can easily fall below .500 the following year. It takes a different and special kind of program to constantly be at the top of the game year in and year out. Names like recently-retired Rick Muellenberg at Bangor come to mind, or perhaps Tom Yashinsky at Onalaska.
But that list would not be complete without Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau’s Jon Steffenhagen.
The last quarter century of Redhawk football has been defined by the Steffenhagen philosophy of run the ball at the defense and dare them to stop you. That mentality has netted the program 10 Coulee Conference titles and 20 playoff appearances in Jon’s 25 year head coaching career.
Coach Steffenhagen’s excellence in leadership extends also to powerlifting, where his teams won nine state championships and finished Top Three in state 17 times. It’s easy to understand why the two would go hand in hand, helping to develop a culture of physical and mental strength at G-E-T.
Coach came to the Coulee Region in the mid-80s as an offensive lineman for Roger Harring’s UWL Eagles. That career included a spot on the 1985 national championship team. He started coaching at West Salem, serving as powerlifting head coach and an assistant coach for the Panther football team. Stops on the way to G-E-T included o-line coaching gigs at Winona State and UWL between 1990 and 1995 before an opportunity with the Ancona Dolphins in Italy. By June of 1996, he landed at the position he would occupy for the rest of his career.
Congrats to Coach Steffenhagen on wrapping up an incredible career!