Clintonville looking to improve under new coach

Truckers open season on road against FVL
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Leader photo by Morgan Rode Clintonville players go through drills during Wednesday’s practice in preparation for Thursday’s season opener.

When any team brings in a new coach, most people expect ups and downs in the first year as the coach often needs time to implement their scheme.

Tom Burkhalter, who enters his first season as the Clintonville football head coach, has the luxury of having a bevy of experienced players at his disposal. The Truckers return 11 starters from last year’s team that should make Burkhalter’s transition into his coaching role a little bit easier.

“It means everything (having so many experienced players back),” Burkhalter said. “We don’t have to start from scratch. We got guys that understand the game of football which is invaluable.”

While the defense will return less starters than the offense, Burkhalter has a pair of returning all-conference players to work with.

Seniors Hunter Lohrengel made the second team as an inside linebacker while Riley Jaensch was an honorable mention pick as a defensive back.

Senior defensive lineman Talon Streich and senior safety Isak Jaensch also started for the Truckers a season ago and help form a strong defensive core.

Juniors Devyn Gee and Daniel Rohrer will join Streich on the line while sophomore Nathan Morse and junior Hunter Allender help fill out the secondary. Sophomore Adrian Forsberg and junior Matt Seefeldt will be asked to fill voids at linebacker.

“Our scheme is only a little different (than last year),” Lohrengel said. “I want to help get everybody in their positions they need to be and getting everybody, including myself, ready to make plays.”

“We need to have everyone flow to the ball,” Riley Jaensch said. “Our tackling has to be on point and we need to execute every single play.”

While the offense does not return any all-conference players, it has seven starters back.

Seniors Taylor Danley and Brayden Shepard and juniors Seth Keller and Ben Poppendorf all started games on the Truckers’ offensive line last year. Senior Jose Jimenez will be asked to fill the open guard position.

Senior Gerald Wood and junior Dylan Danforth both started at wide receiver for Clintonville a year ago and will serve as two of the top targets again this season. Tight end Brady Kasson is expected to fill a bigger role in his sophomore season on the gridiron.

Senior Bailey Tate will lead the Truckers’ backfield and try to help senior Sean Finger ease into the starting quarterback role.

“This year, we will probably do a little less passing to try and avoid all of the confusion,” Tate said. “We are kind of going for a simpler offense.”

A year ago, the Truckers finished with a 2-7 record overall and 1-7 mark in the North Eastern Conference. Wrightstown won the conference with a 7-1 record while Luxemburg-Casco, Freedom and Fox Valley Lutheran all had 6-2 records. Little Chute took fifth but made the playoffs with a 5-3 conference mark.

Clintonville opens the season Thursday night on the road against Fox Valley Lutheran. Last year, FVL came into Clintonville and earned a 75-0 win.

“We got a lot of work to do from here to the end of the season to be able to compete with these big teams,” Burkhalter said at Wednesday’s practice. “I have confidence we will be competitive tomorrow night.”

AT A GLANCE

All games at 7 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 16 — Clintonville at Fox Valley Lutheran (in Kaukauna)

Friday, Aug. 24 — Clintonville at Freedom

Friday, Aug. 31 — Denmark at Clintonville

Friday, Sept. 7 — Wrightstown at Clintonville

Friday, Sept. 14 — Clintonville at Little Chute

Friday, Sept 21 — Marinette at Clintonville

Friday, Sept. 28 — Luxemburg-Casco at Clintonville

Friday, Oct. 5 — Clintonville at Oconto Falls

Friday, Oct. 12 — Clintonville at Green Bay West