The last time the Iola-Scandinavia football team suited up for a game, the Thunderbirds nearly pulled off what would have been Wisconsin’s biggest upset in high school football in years.
The T-Birds came out on the short end of a 23-20 score to eventual Division 6 state champion Edgar.
Wisconsin’s high school football season got under way this week and the T-Birds will open the season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Wild Rose. Other area games set for 7 p.m. Friday include Winneconne at Waupaca, Adams Friendship at Weyauwega-Fremont, Rosholt at Amherst and Fall River at Almond-Bancroft.
I-S coach Scott Erickson said the loss to the Wildcats nine months ago is still fresh in his team’s mind.
“We’re going to build off of that, for sure,” he said. “Nobody gave us any hope at all to be even close in that game. We scored just as many touchdowns as they did. They got a two-point conversion on us and we missed an extra point. That was the difference in the game.”
The same day the T-Birds nearly knocked off the Wildcats, Waupaca saw its season end with a 7-0 loss to Appleton Xavier in a Division 3 Level 2 playoff game.
Waupaca will open with an Eastern Valley Conference matchup with the Wolves at Haberkorn Field.
“The more work you get done (in preseason), the better off you are because there are always some adjustments,” Waupaca coach John Koronkiewicz said. “Typically what happens as the season progresses is teams get faster. We’re trying to become a fast football team.”
Teams spent their first three days of practice without pads, so Koronkiewicz spent time going over the mental aspects of the game with his squad that finished second in the EVC last year.
“We’re trying to put in as much as we can from an offensive and defensive standpoint,” he said. “Since we put our pads on, we have to work on being more physical players. We’re trying to prepare for several different types of offenses that we may face throughout the year and trying to prepare the offense for as many different defenses they might see. It’s a lot for them mentally.”
Waupaca will have a big test in its second game, as the Comets travel to DePere to face the West DePere Phantoms, last year’s Division 3 state champion. The Phantoms are coming off of a 14-0 season.
“They have a lot of people back from last year,” Koronkiewicz said. “They’ll be a severe test, but that’s why you play, to test yourself.”
W-F had a chance to qualify for the playoffs last year, but fell to I-S in the regular-season finale. Coach Tom Chase is looking for his team to take that next step as the Indians play three games before Labor Day.
“I’ve got to tell you I’m not in favor of it and probably the majority of coaches aren’t,” Chase said of starting the season a week early.
“It’s really a tough situation because the WIAA is trying to get rid of the three games in 10 days and the only way you can do that is to move the season back – which they don’t want to do that because they’ll lose revenue – or move it up,” he said. “There’s a plan out there now called the Bigfoot Plan, where you would play 10 games. You’d play seven games, be in a bracket and the winner of the bracket would come out on top. I like that model, but it’s kind of on hold right now and I don’t know if it’s going to go through.”
“We play three games before school even starts,” he said. “Hopefully, the fans will come out, recognize the fact that we are in our season and begin to follow us.”
W-F and I-S compete in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference.
“I think it’s going to be up for grabs,” Erickson said. “Everybody is coming back with some pretty good people. It’s going to be a tough race.”
The regular season continues until Friday, Oct. 14.
“I want people to believe that if you work, you can be as good as anybody else,” Erickson said. “That’s always our message. You can be as successful as anybody else if you want it bad enough and if you do it the right way.”