Clintonville football preview
Truckers’ season begins tonight
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville football team is looking to “get better each day” with first-year head coach Tom Burkhalter on the sideline.
Burkhalter was an assistant on last year’s coaching staff under Clintonville’s interim co-head coaches Jim Ash and Jeff Brightwell. The Truckers have had three different head coaches in the last three years.
“I think last year we saw how it ended, and it was an exciting finish to the season,” Burkhalter told the Tribune-Gazette in April. “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.”
The Truckers are coming off a 2-7 season in which they won the last two games of the season.
“This year is about establishing a foundation for the future,” Burkhalter said prior to practice on Aug. 3. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re here for the long term, so it’s not going be an overnight. We understand that, but we’re going to work every day, get better every day and definitely be more competitive in the conference and move on from there.”
Burkhalter said his goal for his first season as the head coach is to provide the kids with a positive experience.
“If every kid has an experience they remember in a positive way, we’ve won,” Burkhalter said.
Among the bright spots on Clintonville’s roster includes Second Team All-NEC inside linebacker Hunter Lohrengel, who will be back for his senior season.
“He’s a guy who stood out last year – a very instinctive player and going to continue to be that,” Burkhalter said.
Lohrengel said he worked on weight lifting, conditioning and footwork in the offseason and said the transition to a new head coach has gone well.
“It’s good because we have an actual assigned head coach instead of two people in command,” Lohrengel said. “Someone is taking over the whole thing, and it’s going pretty good for him. He’s got a lot of help because we have a lot of really good assistant coaches.”
Lohrengel said he is considering playing football for Ripon College in the future but said he has liked the energy of the Clintonville football team during practice.
“I’m liking the intensity,” Lohrengel said. “We’ve had some good plays by offense and defense, and I like the energy.”
Burkhalter also noted Isak and Riley Jaensch will bring physicality to the safety positions.
“The defense has a lot of returners and a lot of good returning football players,” Burkhalter said. “I think we’re going to be really strong up the middle, and we’ve got some really young, potential playmakers along the outsides, so that’s really where I think our strength is – in the interior of our defense.”
On offense, Clintonville had a quarterback competition between Jared Cartwright and Sean Finger that was not decided as of press time.
“Both are looking very good right now,” Burkhalter said. “Both are high-quality kids and high-quality leaders, so it’s a great problem to have.”
Burkhalter said Bailey Tate will be the running back and hopes to use him more this season.
“He had a good year last year, but we didn’t get him as many touches,” Burkhalter said. “We’re going to work on that this year.”
Burkhalter said the running game will be used more this year.
“We’re going to try to run the ball and shorten games a little bit more,” Burkhalter said. “Obviously we’re not completely flipping the switch, but I don’t think you’ll see 40-45 pass attempts. That’s’ not really who I am as a coach, and we’ll have a balanced attack.”
Burkhalter said he hopes to see the offensive line has improved.
“We’ve got a lot of upperclassmen along the offensive line but not a ton of experience with them, but they’re really stepping up learning the new offense and getting to be pretty darn good,” Burkhalter said. “Talon Streich is a senior, and he’s going to bring in a lot of energy.”
Burkhalter said the Truckers are going to be more competitive in the 2018 season.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s a great experience especially our homes games,” Burkhalter said. “We’re a physical team. I think you can ask every team we played last year. It’s not that we don’t hit. We hit. We’re missing some pieces last year we have found, and it’s going to be much more competitive.”