Central Wisconsin Bandits lose in playoffs game
Merrill’s semi-pro football team ends 2023 season, looking forward to 2024
BY TINA L. SCOTT
On July 29, 2023, the Central Wisconsin Bandits played their first playoff game at Jay Stadium against their friendly rivals, the Eau Claire Cowboys. This was the third time out of their four seasons that the Bandits were in the playoffs, but it was particularly exciting for the team because it was the first home playoff game in their history and it was also the first time “home” was Merrill’s Jay Stadium. The team is really embracing Merrill as their new home and putting down roots in the community, hoping that one day soon, the Central Wisconsin Bandits will be as synonmous with the community as the Merrill Bluejays.
The playoff game marked the end of the Bandits 2023 season, though, because, “We lost in the first round of playoffs, unfortunately,” said Austin Levine, Head Coach of the Central Wisconsin Bandits. Still, this “is a huge step from last year to even make the playoffs,” he said.
The Bandits will play one more fun game this year. “Oct. 1 we play in the Pigskin Classic, which is an event where teams from all over the U.S. come together and play one another in the Minnesota Vikings stadium,” Levine said. “So this is huge for the Bandits and Bandits Nation as we get our name, our brand, and our home (Merrill) out there for everyone to know.”
The Central Wisconsin Bandits will be playing the Central Iowa Chiefs in the Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Looking forward to 2024
Already, the team is looking forward to 2024 and what that season will bring and getting prepared to make it a great one.
“We are going to do the Pigskin Classic and then immediately start getting ready for next season,” Levine said.
“We have already started off-season workouts,” he said, and the focus right now is: “Getting in the weight room as a team, recruiting new guys to come play for us as we make another playoff run, and getting our skill guys (QBs, RBs, and WRs) together and throwing, working on more crisp route running, as we hope to pass more next season.”
Playing for the Bandits
Anyone interested in playing for the Bandits can contact one of the co-owners, Austin Levine or Jeremie Writz, or call 715.445.1764 or email [email protected].
Players for the Bandits must be 18 or older, but beyond that, all they need is a desire to play football, Levine said. The current team is comprised of some players who have never played football before joining, along with guys who played in high school and/or college recently or years ago, and some who’ve been playing semi-pro for years for fun and some healthy competition.
Bandits Pop Warner Football postponed to 2024
The Bandits were gearing up to begin a Bandits Pop Warner Football team in Merrill–a kids tackle football team for 9U, 10U, and 11Us.
Unfortunately, “due to a lower than expected number of enrollments,” the Bandits were unable to move forward with their plan for a 2023 season, but they do have high hopes of recruiting enough kids to build interest for next year.
“We remain committed to the growth and development of youth football in our area,” and “We will continue our efforts to promote and encourage enrollments for the start of the next season,” organizers said on their Facebook page.
In the meantime, “We will be organizing kids camps and events throughout the year,” they said, focused on providing opportunities for children “to stay connected with football and have fun in a supportive environment.”
For more information, find the “Central Wisconsin Bandits Pop Warner” on Facebook.