Walkerville Wildcats’ first-ever football season kicks off

September 1, 2023

The Walkerville Middle School Football Team includes: Front row, left to right: Easton Flanery, Gage Kirwin, Andrew Harjes, Charlie Porter, Ethan Schamber, JT Tanner. Second row: Manager Teagan Mannor, Asst. Coach Dillon Tinkham, Eric Wells, Patrick Reynolds, Tanner Tinkham, Jaxson Oomen, Hugh Tanner, Coach Trevor Tinkham and Easton Wolgamott. Not pictured: Johnathan Franklin and Coach Asa Kramer. Contributed photo by Courtney Tinkham.

Walkerville Wildcats’ first-ever football season kicks off

Wildcat News is a presentation of Walkerville Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

‘We want to show everyone that we’re not a joke and that we know how to play football,’ said seventh grader and team captain Jaxson Oomen

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

WALKERVILLE — For the first time in Walkerville Public Schools’ nearly 120-year history, the Wildcats have a football team.

The program launches with a middle school squad this season and will hopefully expand to the high school level in the coming years.

This year’s team coached by Trevor Tinkham includes 14 players in grades 6-8. All of their games are away, because the school campus does not have a football stadium. Practices take place at the school baseball and softball field.

Coach Tinkham, who played football for Hesperia High School in the early ‘90s, has coached football for nearly two decades with the youth Rocket Football program in Hesperia. 

“We had enough interest in the middle school level, so we decided to have a shot at it,” said Tinkham. “It’s a chance for the kids in this community, because they have never had football.

Morgan Wansten, who is Hart’s JV football coach and a social studies and English teacher at Walkerville, is working to get a high school gridiron program going at Walkerville, said Coach Tinkham. “He is behind us 100 percent.”

Walkerville has had co-op football partnerships with neighboring schools Hart and Hesperia in the past. “For us to run our kids to Hesperia every day for practice was a lot for some parents. I’ve talked to Mr. (Joe) Conkle, (Walkerville superintendent and principal), and if we don’t get enough kids, he would look back into co-oping so these boys can continue to play. Hopefully we don’t have to — our goal is to build this program up and keep it going.

“I want them to be great students first of course. My goal is to make them good humans, too. The kids have put in a lot of work in the off-season, learning the fundamentals of football.” Just four players on the team have played organized football before.

“Obviously our goal is to win, but I want them to learn and have fun. My philosophy is team family — when you’re a part of my team, you’re a part of my family. You defend your family more than anybody. Family is life.

“When you’re on the football field, you take aggression out that you can’t take out anywhere — legal hits, legal tackles. You can be this monster out here, basically, but when you cross this white line, I want you to be a good human — be kind, be a good community leader.”

Family is definitely a theme for the Wildcats. Coach Tinkham’s nephew Dillon Tinkham is assistant coach; his son Tanner is a key player on the squad; and his wife Courtney fulfills many important behind-the-scenes roles. Assistant Coach Asa Kramer is a physical education teacher at Walkerville, so his presence in the school building is also key to the program.

“The school support is huge and the community — it’s a very tight knit community.”

The West Michigan D League, which includes small schools like Walkerville, has an eight-man football format unlike the normal 11-player format. “With 14 kids, that gives us six subs.”

The parents bought matching red polo shirts — Walkerville school’s color — for the players to wear to school on game days. “We’ve had people in the community reach out if the parents can’t cover (the cost of) the shirts, they’d like to donate. I’m hoping to get a pep assembly — especially before the first game,” said the coach.

Karen Tanner’s grandson Hugh Tanner plays for the Wildcats, and she is a dedicated fan. “I think it’s awesome. You can see how much they’ve improved. There were only four of those boys who even touched a football. Hopefully, this takes off and we get one of the grants — because we got the property donated beyond —  so this would be the football field if we get the grant. Then, we would have double the games.” Karen watches the practices from her lawn chair, enthusiastically cheering “Go Wildcats!”

A goal this season is to “try to make a name for ourselves,” said Hugh Tanner who is a seventh grader and team captain. 

Something that sixth grader Tanner Tinkham is excited about is “showing everybody that we’re not a joke.” Tanner, who is quarterback and team captain, is also hopeful Walkerville will have a high school squad by the time he is that age. “I hope we have a high school team, but we have to get bigger pants first.” 

“We want to show everyone that we’re not a joke and that we know how to play football,” said seventh grader and team captain Jaxson Oomen. 


Walkerville Wildcats 2023 Football Schedule

9/13 @ Brethren 6 p.m.

9/20 @ Suttons Bay 6 p.m.

9/27 @ Onekama 6 p.m.

10/4 @ Brethren 6 p.m.

10/11 @ Suttons Bay 6 p.m.

10/18 @ Baldwin 6 p.m.

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