Truckers under new leadership
By Erik Buchinger
Clintonville High School football will be under the direction of new head coaches.
Jim Ash and Jeff Brightwell will co-coach the Truckers this season after Scott Werfal resigned from his position as Clintonville Middle School principal and football coach at the end of last school year.
Ash and Brightwell were assistant coaches last season and will run the program until the district hires a new head coach.
“We have encouraged this district to continue the search for a new head coach,” Ash said. “We are certainly interim level coaches, and we’ve made that perfectly clear.”
Ash said he was offered to be the main head coach but said he and Brightwell would prefer to be assistants for years to come since neither are living in the community. Ash is from Waupaca, and Brightwell lives in Neenah and teaches at Hortonville.
“We just think it’s in the best interest of the community to get somebody young and somebody that’s going to be here to be part of the community and be a part of the school district to continue to build what we’ve started,” Ash said. “We told them we’ll be here as long as you need us, but we want to wait for the right person and right opportunity to present itself.”
On the field, Clintonville is coming off an 0-9 season, but Ash is optimistic due to the number of kids participating. For the first time since Ash arrived in Clintonville, the Truckers will have enough players for varsity, JV and freshman teams.
“We’re a program we’re trying to build up,” Ash said. “It’s been down for a long time, but we’re going in the right direction. We have the most kids out that we’ve had in any year that I’ve been here the last three years. We’re going in the right direction, and the kids have been fantastic.”
Ash managed the offseason workouts and said he was impressed with the players’ dedication.
“We’ve had a lot of kids work hard this year,” Ash said. “Over half of our team was very consistent lifters for the first time since I’ve been here, so we’ve got a lot of really nice players.”
Clintonville has eight seniors on the roster, which does not include Keenan Doornink, a two-year starter who tore his labrum and had surgery in the summer from a baseball injury, which Ash described as a “huge loss for us.”
Some players to watch for on offense include quarterback Kyle Finger, who plays well as a passer and as a runner, according to Ash.
Jason Bilek will line up at running back and safety, and Ash said he did a lot of work in the offseason lifting in the weight room.
Three-year starter Ben Tessmer will play outside linebacker and will also play some offense for the first time as a tight end.
“I’m new to offense entirely,” Tessmer said. “I played completely defense last year, so it’s new to me, but pretty much the same for some of the guys. We should be pretty good offense-wise, and we’re running the same defense we did last year, so nothing new there.”
Tessmer is a senior with plans to join the army and is hoping to continue playing football in his future.
“I’m looking to get some experience because I do plan on playing college football, but I don’t know where after the army,” Tessmer said. “I’m just looking for experience at multiple positions.”
Last year’s leading tackler Riley Jaensch is back at safety, and Hunter Lohrengel will return at linebacker.
“We have a core of about seven or eight guys that we’re going to lean on,” Ash said.
Ash said the team is ready to get started, and the team is going in the right direction.
“We have a lot of kids that are very excited about [the season],” Ash said. “Clintonville comes out to watch Trucker football. This city has a huge tradition of great football, and we’re trying to get that back.”