Clintonville football enters new era
Burkhalter ready to lead Truckers
By Erik Buchinger
Tom Burkhalter is ready to take over as the Clintonville football head coach after a year of transition in the program.
Burkhalter, who is the associate principal at Clintonville Middle School, said he is excited to begin his first season as a head football coach.
“Football has always been a passion of mine, especially here in Clintonville,” Burkhalter said. “I think last year we saw how it ended, it was an exciting finish to the season. After talking with my wife and lots of long hard thought and prayer, we decided it was the right time for me to take my first head coaching job.”
Burkhalter said he has a passion for coaching football.
“In the coaching field, it’s either a huge energy drain or it’s an energy gain,” Burkhalter said. “For me, it’s always been an energy gain. Football and being around the kids especially during that time of the year has always given me more energy than I’ve ever expended, so it’s an exciting time for me. It’s a lot harder for me to be away from football than it is for me to be part of football, so that’s really exciting.”
Burkhalter has been an assistant coach at Fall River and Waupun and was an assistant on last year’s Clintonville coaching staff for a team that was coming off a winless season.
“Coming in with a team that had struggled, I didn’t really know what to expect, but we had guys that really wanted to be better,” Burkhalter said. “You’ve already won as a coaching staff when you’ve got guys who want to be good and want to be better.”
Last year’s team was led by Jim Ash and Jeff Brightwell, who were co-head coaches for one season until Clintonville hired a permanent head coach.
“I’ve been dreaming of the day when I could take over a program, especially one that Jim Ash and Jeff Brightwell left in great shape,” Burkhalter said. “Last year was a year that really could have went one of two ways. It could have went way south, and those two men did not let that happen.”
Brightwell will not return to the Clintonville football sidelines this fall, while Ash will be the associate head coach, according to Burkhalter.
Clintonville lost its first seven games last season before closing out the year with a two-game winning streak.
“I have had multiple non-football players come up to me and explain how they felt on those Friday nights, and that’s what I want to continue for these guys,” Burkhalter said. “We’re still playing in a really tough conference, so I’m not saying we’re going to feel that every Friday night, but I think we can become more competitive, and our numbers are extremely promising for that.”
Burkhalter said the team ended last season with 59 players and already have 80 signed up to play this fall.
“I’m most looking forward to getting to know 80 different kids, 80 different families, developing those relationships and really giving them an experience,” Burkhalter said. “I think that’s the key here. We don’t need to put numbers on wins and losses. We win as a football program by giving these kids a positive experience that they’re going to remember forever. Every day should be fun. Every day should be exciting. Practice, game days and all of it. This is football, and in my opinion, it’s the greatest game ever, and I’m hoping that these guys will feel that as well.”
With the fire truck sirens blaring after touchdowns and the support from the community, Burkhalter said he is looking forward to game nights in the fall.
“Friday nights at that field – it’s pretty amazing with the support that comes out there,” Burkhalter said. “We were 0-7 at one point last year, and those stands were filled. Unbelievable. On top of that, aligning the one side with the fire trucks and everyone getting so excited. I hope we can get a few more sirens going this year.”