Truckers face tough competition in realigned conference
By Scott Bellile
Clintonville football coach Scott Werfal thinks this fall could mark a turnaround for the Truckers after a lackluster 2014 season.
“We did some good things, we did some bad things,” he said reflecting on last season. “I think overall we were more competitive than the year before, but still, we went 1-8.”
Now entering year two of coaching the Truckers, Werfal is used to his job. One endeavor he has undertaken is recruiting more players, including ex-footballers.
“For a number of years, we’ve had really good participation at seventh and eighth grade and then they don’t come out as freshmen,” Werfal said. “It’s trying to bridge that gap a little bit. It’s just getting football in front of them, getting them excited to play and hoping they show up.”
For years, Clintonville only had a varsity team, so practicing with the senior stars likely intimidated the underclassmen back then. This year, the school district hired two freshman team coaches and the newcomers have a full schedule of games.
Werfal’s recruiting doubled the size of the team since two years ago. The Truckers finished the 2013 season with 28 boys. Last year, Werfal ended his first season with 48 guys. So far this year, he has 60 on the roster.
The Truckers’ former Eastern Valley Conference dissolved this summer and transformed into the North Eastern Conference. The extra players could help the team through what Werfal predicts will be tough competition.
With the conference change, Clintonville lost opponents Berlin, Winneconne, Ripon, Waupaca and Xavier. Coming in are Luxemburg-Casco, Denmark, Oconto Falls, Marinette and Wrightstown. Fox Valley Lutheran and Freedom remain in the lineup.
“We hope to surprise a few teams,” Werfal said. “We haven’t set a goal for how many wins we want or anything else. We’re not talking playoffs. We don’t have any unrealistic expectations. What we want to do is compete every single night and at least make it a game.”
Werfal envisions success because he said a big group of his players committed to the weight room in the offseason.
“We’ve got a lot of bigger, faster, stronger kids,” he said. “I think physically we’ll be better able to compete.”
Werfal said players to watch for this season include quarterback and returning starter Damon Lorge, H-back Todd Taylor and middle linebacker Chase Poppe. All are seniors among a “really senior-heavy” team, according to Werfal.
Werfal said he is excited to get playing and is encouraging his boys to run and throw more on the field this season in order to spice up the games for the players and the fans.
“If there’s one thing I’ve tried to do, it’s try to make the football experience more exciting for everyone involved,” he said. “I think that’s helped the kids. We’re in an age where they’d rather be on their cell phone than doing anything physical. They need some of that excitement in practice, on Friday nights, everywhere.”
• Scott Bellile covers Clintonville, New London and Hortonville sports for The New London Press Star and Clintonville Tribune-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com or 920-982-2511.