T-Birds count on young players
I-S to play first three games at home
By Greg Seubert
Expectations are high this season for the Iola-Scandinavia football team, which suits longtime coach Scott Erickson just fine.
“We always have high expectations here,” he said. “We’re going to take it day-by-day and try to get better. Hopefully, we get to the level we want to be at when we start the season.”
The Thunderbirds posted a 9-2 record last season, including a 6-1 in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference behind eventual WIAA Division 5 state champion Amherst. Amherst knocked off I-S during the third week of the season, while the T-Birds’ season ended with a 28-21 Level 2 playoff loss to eventual Division 6 champion St. Mary’s Springs.
“We won nine games last year and the two teams we lost to won a state championship,” Erickson said. “What does that tell you? We lost by seven points to Springs, so we were as good as anybody last year. The kids know that. We just have to keep plugging away.”
The T-Birds will open the season at home at Thunderbird Field with a nonconference matchup against Manawa. The team is also home for the next two games, as I-S hosts Rosholt and opens CWC 8 play against Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
Graduated all-conference players include first-teamers Caleb Loken (wide receiver and defensive back); Kristian Welch (running back and linebacker); Ryan Bauer (offensive and defensive lineman); Karl Boddy (offensive lineman); and Cam Gruenwald (punter). The T-Birds also have to replace Scott Aasen and Adam Cherek, all-conference honorable mention picks as offensive lineman and defensive back, respectively.
Welch is now at Iowa after the Hawkeyes offered him a full scholarship.
“That’s the nature of the best in high school,” Erickson said. “You can’t sign someone to another contract. You just have to keep bringing them up and hopefully, the kids you’ve been working with in previous years will be ready to go.”
A small junior class of only four players means the T-Birds will suit up some young players, according to Erickson.
“We’re going to play a lot of young kids this year, a lot of sophomores,” he said. “We’re going to depend on the 10 seniors we have and a lot of sophomores. That’s the way it is some years in small-school football.”
Some of those sophomores had plenty of varsity playing time last year as freshmen, including all-conference second-team linebacker Bryce Huettner.
“Bryce started at inside linebacker for us and led the team in tackles,” Erickson said. “Kellen Wandtke played a lot as a freshman last year and a couple of our sophomores saw a lot of action as well. I’m not worried about that part of it. They just have to get the confidence and the belief that they can compete at the varsity level as a younger player. They have the talent, they just have to believe that themselves.”
Bonduel and Shiocton also qualified for the playoffs out of the CWC 8 last year, along with the T-Birds and Amherst.
The conference has had a team play for a state championship in each of the past five seasons. Amherst won Division 5 titles in 2012 and 2015 and finished second in 2014, while Shiocton won a Division 6 championship in 2013 and placed second in 2011.
“It’s a competitive league and we have to be ready to play every week,” Erickson said. “There are no gimmies in this conference. It’s go time. Either you do or you don’t. We have to be ready.”
If things fall into place, Erickson is expecting another solid year from his squad.
“We’re excited for them,” he said. “They’re working hard and they’ve done a nice job preparing over the summer and since last season. I think we have a good chance to have a pretty good squad here.”
Iola-Scandinavia 2016 Football Schedule
Friday, Aug. 19 – vs. Manawa, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 26 – vs. Rosholt, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 2 – vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9 – at Bonduel, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16 – at Southern Door, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 23 – vs. Pacelli, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 30 – at Shiocton, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7 – at Amherst, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 14 – vs. Weyauwega-Fremont, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 18 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 29 – at Manawa, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 6 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 5 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 12 – vs. Bonduel, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 26 – at Pacelli, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 3 – vs. Shiocton, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 10 – vs. Amherst, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 1 – at Weyauwega-Fremont, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 6 – vs. Amherst, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 13 – vs. Wild Rose, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 20 – vs. Clintonville, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 27 – at Manawa, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 4 – at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 5 p.m.