Indoor Football League: Wara helps Blizzard finish on high note

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ASHWAUBENON — A rough season ended on a positive note for Nate Wara and the Green Bay Blizzard.


The former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh quarterback rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Blizzard to a 52-35 victory over the Bemidji Axemen on Friday in an Indoor Football League regular-season finale at the Resch Center in front of 2,326.


The win was a bright spot to what was a disappointing 2-12 campaign in the franchise’s 12th season of play.


But a dismal season was better than not playing one at all to Wara, which is what he was contemplating doing before joining the Blizzard in December.


“I didn’t want to live my life saying, ‘What if?’” said Wara, who threw for 167 yards and rushed for 48 on Friday. “I took that leap to play football here in Green Bay and don’t regret it.”


The Blizzard went through a midseason coaching change for a second straight year and had 53 players revolve onto – and off – its 23-man roster.


Wara, however, provided stability.


The Oshkosh native was one of three players to appear in every game this season, which the Blizzard started 0-11 before beating Cedar Rapids 59-40 on May 31 to end a franchise-record 16-game losing streak dating back to last year.


After starting off the season returning kickoffs and serving as a backup to Taylor Perkins, Wara took over as quarterback midway through the third game.


It didn’t take the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder long to showcase the skills he had used in college to lead UW-Oshkosh to the NCAA Division III national semifinals and earn all-American honors as a senior in 2012.


Wara entered Friday’s season finale leading the IFL in rushing touchdowns and was second for rushing yards. Meanwhile, his 57.8 completion percentage ranked third.


He finished the season passing for 1,848 yards and rushing for 695 in addition to accounting for 57 touchdowns (37 passing, 20 rushing).


“Nate can throw and run,” Blizzard center William Maxwell said. “He does both equally well. It’s a pleasure to block for him, especially when we see him running down field and lowering his shoulder instead of sliding. As a lineman, you can respect that because that’s a guy you want to play for.”


Wara, however, isn’t sure how much longer he’ll continue to play.


Suiting up for the Blizzard this year worked out because he was able to stay in Oshkosh and finish courses to obtain his bachelor’s degree in physical education.


“I really haven’t thought about it yet,” said Wara, whose only NFL workout came with the Green Bay Packers before the draft last year.


“If I could get my foot in the door at a higher level, CFL or NFL, that would be great. Otherwise, I haven’t made a definite decision on anything yet. I’ve developed some pretty good relationships here, and it’s a great atmosphere.”


The Blizzard averaged 3,157 fans with a season-high of 5,569 on April 12.


Unlike last year when the Blizzard was put up for sale a couple of weeks after its season ended, the franchise appears to be in good standing heading into the offseason.


First-year owner Larry Treankler said the franchise probably won’t break even with its operating costs this season. He feels that can be changed in future years by investing more resources into the team.


“We can average that in four or five years with some expenditures to get them back after four or five years of being really frugal,” said Treankler, who bought a majority ownership share of the Blizzard in September.


“We’re committed to at least break even as we go forward. But we have to give the customers a winning product in order to do that.”


Bemidji …7 0 8 20 – 35


Green Bay… 14 18 20 0 – 52


First quarter: GB, Lucien Walker 2 yard run (Adrian Trevino kick), 12:41; GB, Nate Wara 3 run (Trevino kick), 4:18; B, Josh Jarboe 34 pass from Josh Aakre (Zach Pulkinen kick), 3:53.


Second quarter: GB, Trevino 21 kick, 14:57; GB, Wara 7 run (Trevino kick), 5:59; GB, 1-point rouge, 5:59; GB, Wara 1 run (Trevino kick), :06.


Third quarter: GB, Paul Melicharek fumble recovery, 14:34; GB, Avonte Jones 25 pass from Wara (Trevino kick), 11:37; B, David Lewis 33 pass from Aakre (Pass good), 4:31; GB, Walker 2 (Trevino kick blocked), 2:21.


Fourth quarter: B, Aakre 15 run (Pass failed), 13:21; B, Aakre 12 run (Pass failed), 6:11; B, Aakre 4 run (Run good), 1:20.


Individual statistics


Rushing: B – Joshua Aakre, 13-26; GB – Nate Wara, 14-48.


Passing: B – Joshua Aakre, 16-32-0-192; GB – Nate Wara, 13-20-2-167.


Receiving: B – Josh Jarboe, 6-97; GB – Avonte Jones, 3-45.


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