The Central Wisconsin 8 Conference had more than its share of quality football programs last year.
Four of them made the playoffs, one of them made the state semifinals and one of them won a state championship.
Iola-Scandinavia was one of the four teams that qualified for the playoffs, along with eventual Division 6 state champion Shiocton, state semifinalist Amherst and Bonduel.
The Thunderbirds finished third in the CWC-8 standings last year behind Shiocton and Amherst and posted a 9-3 record, with two of those losses coming to Shiocton, including a 32-0 setback in Level 3 of the playoffs.
Scott Erickson is entering his 22nd season as the T-Birds’ coach and is excited about the season, which opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, with a nonconference game in Oconto.
“I am very excited about the entire team coming in,” he said. “Every year, we graduate a good crop of players and they are always missed, but each year, a new group has to step up and take over the leadership role.”
Erickson has good reason to be optimistic, as the T-Birds return seven starters: seniors Evan Fuhs (end/defensive lineman), Logan Inderdahl (offensive lineman/linebacker), Tanner Krusa (running back/defensive back) and Nick Madson (offensive and defensive lineman); and juniors Ryan Bauer (offensive and defensive lineman), Caleb Loken (wide receiver/defensive back) and Kristian Welch (running back/linebacker).
Other experienced players back include seniors Russell Anderson, Tyler Ambacher, Holdyn Mast and Ryan Melum; juniors Dylan Aanstad, Scott Aasen, Karl Boddy, Javier Block, Adam Cherek, Austin Dyb, Cole Frye, Cam Gruenwald, Nik Meier, Drew Shanklin and Brady Snyder; and sophomores Jon Bauer, Cody Breitzke, Gio Fredheim, Zach Graf, Nick Hansen, Justin Krause, Nate Krusa, Andy Marsden, David Mortenson, Carter Przybylski, Scott Van Gunten and Karol Wroblewski.
“A lot of these kids saw a great deal of playing time the last couple of seasons or started,” Erickson said. “We have much-improved speed and strength from last year, with our team speed being most notable.”
A roster of more than 50 players also gives the T-Birds some depth.
“We will have good depth at all positions, which should give us great competition in practice and that will help us to get better every day,” Erickson sad. “I am very excited for the season to start.”