Thunderbirds strike gold
Iola-Scandy wins football title
By Greg Seubert
It’s time to rearrange the trophy case at Iola-Scandinavia High School.
The Thunderbirds won the school’s first state football championship Nov. 15 with a convincing 43-14 win over Racine Lutheran in the WIAA Division 6 championship game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Iola-Scandinavia scored touchdowns on all four of its drives in the first half, led 29-0 at the break and ended the season with a 14-0 record.
“It’s indescribable to have this opportunity,” coach Scott Erickson said. “I’m just very thankful to get back here again. There are a lot of good teams that don’t get that second chance. I kept telling our coaches and our kids that I’m thankful that we had this opportunity.”
The T-Birds fell to St. Mary’s Springs 35-12 in last year’s Division 6 championship game.
Bryce Huettner capped the game’s opening drive with a 1-yard run with 8:50 to go in the first quarter. Carter Kurki found the end zone on the two-point conversion try and the T-Birds had an 8-0 lead.
Iola-Scandinavia then drove 56 yards in 12 plays on its next drive, with Alex Sharp scoring from 9 yards out. Connor Kurki kicked the extra point for a 15-0 lead.
The T-Birds tackled on two more scores in the second quarter on Connor Kurki’s touchdown passes of 21 yards to Will Cady and 29 yards to Carter Kurki.
The Crusaders were inside the Iola-Scandinavia 10-yard line twice in the first half, but came up empty both times. Jaylen Houston’s 50-yard run set Racine Lutheran up at the 6-yard line, but the Crusaders turned the ball over on downs.
The T-Birds also stopped Tyler Tenner at the 1-yard line on the final play of the first half.
Racine Lutheran scored on the first play of the second half, as Colton Kraus and James Wilson hooked up for a 52-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 29-7.
The T-Birds answered on their next drive, however, as Huettner capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive with his second 1-yard touchdown run.
Ed Bonikowske set up the T-Birds final score with an interception. Huettner capped the drive with an 8-yard run with 6:47 remaining in the game.
The Crusaders then drove 60 yards in seven plays, with Tenner scoring from 7 yards out.
The T-Birds outgained the Crusaders 282-191 on the ground and 104-74 through the air.
Huettner, who set the state’s new all-time rushing yards record during the T-Birds’ playoff win over Grantsburg, finished with 156 yards on 32 carries. Tenner, who had rushed for more than 300 yards in each of his two previous games, ran for 126 yards on 26 attempts.
“I’ve never seen a kid with more desire than he has,” Erickson said of Huettner, who also ran for 213 yards in last year’s championship game. “It doesn’t matter if you’re going to play him in checkers, football or cards. He wants to win. He’s a team guy and he credits his teammates all the time. He knows that it takes a whole team to make it happen.”
The trip to state was the first for Racine Lutheran, while the Thunderbirds knew what to expect.
“Just being here last year means a lot,” said Erickson, who also brought teams to state in 1999 and 2007. “They knew what to expect walking in the stadium. There are times we’ve been down here where 80 percent of our kids had never even been in Camp Randall before. The shock and awe of this big venue kind of took it out of us for a while until we settled down and figured that the field is the same dimensions. It’s just more bleachers here.”
Now that the season is over, Erickson, who also played his high school football at Iola-Scandinavia, is ready to savor the moment.
“It’s special and I’m going to enjoy it all the way,” he said. “In a couple of weeks, I’m just going to kick back, thank the Lord and think how special it really is to have this opportunity. To have a special group like this, it just doesn’t come around very often.”