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with him and he coached ….

with him and he coached my t-ball team. I play football because I like it. I love to watch college and pro football. My mom’s family goes to a Badger game every year and we are going next weekend, I’m excited to watch the Badgers.”

Similarly, to Reece and his father Nick, Louie and his father Ben also share a love of football that has positively impacted their lives.

“My dad and I have been close with the sport of football forever,” Louie said. “Even in flag football, he coached me. He’s been at every game since I started playing. We talk and we’ve watched his old games before. The team we have this year is doing really well, so we’ve talked about it a lot more. We talked about his deep playoff runs and we’ve talked about the mindset I’ve got to have going into some of those big games.”

Perhaps the stars are aligning again, just like they did in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Ellsworth Panthers were the dominant football program in Pierce County and were poised to make a run at a state championship. Once again, Ellsworth is the premier football powerhouse in Pierce County and is beginning another run at a state championship this season. As of Monday, Oct. 18, the Ellsworth Panthers are an undefeated 8-0 going into the WIAA playoffs.

Louie’s Ellsworth team is dominant, but so is Reece’s River Falls team. The Wildcats are going into the playoffs with a 7-3 record overall including a perfect 7-0 record in Mississippi Valley Conference play. Both River Falls and Ellsworth are ready to begin a playoff journey that they hope culminates in some championship hardware to bring home from Madison near the end of November.

While Ben will have the privilege of watching his son Louie potentially compete for a state championship just like he did, Reece’s father Nick tragically won’t have that same opportunity. In 2010 Nick was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to have it surgically removed. The family thought that Nick was on the mend but two years later in the spring of 2012, his illness returned in the form of glioblastoma. Jeanne still vividly remembers that time in her life and Nick’s attitude when he got the news.

“It was sad, it was horrible actually,” Jeanne said. “He was a great guy with a great sense of humor. When he got the fatal diagnosis, we all sat around for a half-hour and he popped up and said, ‘Let’s have a party.’ So, we had a party two days later and he said to me, ‘Mom, don’t cry for me.’” Nick died one year later. His legacy lives on in the people’s lives who he positively impacted, and it certainly lives on in his son Reece and their shared love of sports, especially football. The Jahnke family has gone through great joys and unthinkable tragedies throughout the last 30 years. The one common element that connects the entire family and its history to Pierce County is the dedication to football in the place where they were all born and raised. Louie and Reece wear the same number, play the same position, and are the same age. Call it luck, coincidence, or perhaps even destiny. Whatever it is, it’s an example of how sports, specifically football, are more than just a game.

The Jahnke name in Pierce County has become a football name over the last 30 years. They have built a legacy in the community that is currently being carried on by Reece and Louie. And who knows, 30 more years from now, there might be a couple more Jahnke boys carrying on the family football legacy that has been built for decades.

October 20, 2021