Two Rivers once again a group of motivated athletes

Two Rivers once again a group of motivated athletes

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Two Rivers once again a group of motivated athletes

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Last season’s high expectations for the Two Rivers football team were thwarted seemingly before it even began, leaving many of the Raiders disappointed despite a 5-4 overall finish.

After making the the school’s first playoff appearance in 20 years in 2010, last year’s team looked poised to make a run at a conference championship before injuries began to plague the team and make competing at the highest level difficult. Two Rivers started off 4-0 before going 1-4 over its final five games to end the season 3-4 in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference and just narrowly miss the postseason.

This year though, with the team at full strength, the Raiders look once again ready to take on the challenges ahead with their sights set on lofty goals.

“We should be in the running for a conference championship. We are looking for having a better record, and our best record, since we have been here as a staff,” said Raiders head coach Brent Luebke, whose staff is in its sixth year with the program. “We have a lot of leadership. Our expectations are very high for our players and their’s are as well. … They were pretty let down after not making playoffs last year, so … getting pretty far … is the goal for these guys.”

If the Raiders are to reach new heights this season they will have to do so without several All-Eastern Wisconsin Conference selections who graduated in may — including first-team quarterback and first-team outside linebacker Shawn Shillcox. Also among the 16 seniors who graduated were Tanner Basken (first team offensive guard), Josh Tice (first team defensive tackle and second team offensive tackle), Cody Terp (second team running back), Spencer Feest (second team defensive back) and Bo Skornicka (honorable mention defensive tackle).

Thirteen of last year’s juniors are back though for the Raiders. First team All-EWC senior tight end Brett Kasper will be making the switch to quarterback this season and will start under center in Week 1 against Kettle Morraine Lutheran. Kasper is one of two seniors selected All-EWC returning for the Raiders as Brian Duerschmidt (honorable mention defensive end) is back as well. Junior Scott Skornicka (first team inside linebacker) also returns.

“We did lose a lot of players but a lot of guys came back to step in. We are confident in those guys so we really don’t feel like we had a lot of losses because guys really worked hard in the offseason,” Luebke said.

Despite Kasper making the switch to quarterback, Two Rivers has been focusing heavily on improving its defense as most of the offseason and contact days during training camp were devoted to strictly focusing on that side of the ball. The vocal leader of the team said his teammates haven’t been phased much by the team’s youthfulness or defensive focus.

“We are very young, especially in the receivers spots. But (I’m) very confident in these guys. They are awesome,” Kasper said. “I guess it really doesn’t matter what age we are. They know they’re good, we know we’re good. I think we will be fine.”

Luebke also has been stressing to his players the importance of discipline. In the past Two Rivers has been susceptible to penalties and has made critical mistakes when it could least afford to. This year, with Luebke knowing his team’s potential, he has been preaching the importance of preventing things that could hurt the squad in a big way. This is especially important given how many underclassmen will be seeing playing time this season.

“We have a lot of young kids. … I think we need to win games we know we have to win and keep close in games we know are going to be tough. We need to play our strongest,” Kasper said. “We are really confident coming into the season and know we can do well, so hopefully we just play tough against the teams we know are tough.”

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