Thunderbirds expect to be competitive
Nine I-S seniors returning this season
By Greg Seubert
It’s been eight years since the Iola-Scandinavia football team played for a WIAA state championship.
Whether the Thunderbirds make it to Camp Randall Stadium this season remains to be seen, but so far, coach Scott Erickson likes what he sees on the practice field.
“They’re doing real well with a lot of improvement already and a lot of retainment from last year and the summer workouts,” he said. “We’re ahead of where we were last year by far. They’re hustling and that’s all I can ask for, that you’re working hard.”
The T-Birds made it to Level 2 of the state playoffs last year and finished with a 7-4 overall record, including a 4-3 mark in the Central Wisconsin-8 Conference, good enough for fourth place behind Amherst, Shiocton and Bonduel.
Erickson has several returning players, including senior Kristian Welch, a first-team all-conference running back and linebacker who recently verbally committed to play football at Iowa.
“It’s all about the team,” Erickson said. “He’s a major player on our team, but everyone else is just as important and that’s how Kristian plays it, too. He’s a team guy and really cares about the team and the team concept.”
CWC-8 has had a team play for a WIAA state championship in each of the last four seasons. Amherst and Shiocton have won Division 5 and Division 6 titles, respectively, while each team also finished second.
“You have to be ready to play every week,” Erickson said. “There are no freebies. This is a good conference and you have to strap it on and go because any team can beat you and you can beat any team. You have to be ready week in and week out.”
Besides Welch, other returning starters from last year include seniors Dylan Aanstad, Scott Aasen, Ryan Bauer, Javier Block, Adam Cherek, Cam Gruenwald, Caleb Loken and Brady Snyder; and junior Jayden Sivertson.
Also back are seniors Karl Boddy, Austin Dyb and Drew Shanklin; juniors Jon Bauer, Cody Breitzke, Brandon Deal, Gio Fredheim, Zach Graf, Justin Krause, Andy Marsden, Carter Przybylski, Scott Van Gunten and Karol Wroblewski; and sophomores Jalan Block, Ben Cady, Connor Drath, Joseph Makovec, Ethan Olson and Kevin Wiskow.
“Every year, we graduate a good crop of players and they are always missed, but each year, a new group has to step up and take over the leadership role,” Erickson said. “I am very excited about the entire team coming in. A lot of these kids saw a great deal of playing time the last couple of seasons or started.
“We have much-improved speed and strength from last year, with our team speed being most notable,” he added. “We will have good depth at all positions, which should give us great competition in practice and that will help us to get better every day. I am very excited for the season to start.”
As in years past, the T-Birds will open the season with a pair of nonconference games. I-S will host Oconto at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, in the season opener at Thunderbird Field in Scandinavia before opening CWC-8 play Friday, Sept. 4, at Amherst.
“The team unity is really good,” Erickson said. “We have a group that really cares about each other. The leadership is getting better and better and those are huge, huge factors in where you’re going. Talent is one thing, but if you’re not working together, it’s not going to happen. We have guys working together and don’t care who gets the credit.
“That’s important,” he said. “Someone scores a touchdown, we score a touchdown. Someone makes a defensive stop, we make a defensive stop. There aren’t guys calling each other out or drawing attention to themselves. If we continue on that path, we have a chance to be pretty good.”
• Greg Seubert covers Waupaca, Iola-Scandinavia, Weyauwega-Fremont and Manawa sports for The Waupaca County Post. He can be reached at [email protected] or 715-258-4346.