The Omro Foxes football team has made it to the WIAA Division 4 playoffs the past three seasons.
Before that time, there was a long time of futility in the Foxes program.
That makes this group of Foxes the first group in a long time that hasn’t experienced a losing season.
“We don’t think about having anything less than a winning season,” senior lineman Sean Mlodzik said. “Our goal is to win a championship. Not just a winning season.”
The expectations now change for the Foxes, who have become a perennial playoff team, having made it in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Omro’s senior group doesn’t want this new tradition to end with them. Rather, they are confident that they will keep it going this season.
And, in keeping with the new Omro tradition, they won’t be satisfied with just a winning record and playoff berth. They want more.
“We aren’t satisfied with the success we’ve had the past three years,” Omro coach Dave Wellhoefer said. “These kids want more. It still feels like we are building.”
Give me the beef
One thing that the Foxes will have returning this season is plenty of bulk on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“When you have a big offensive line, it sure makes what you can do even better,” Wellhoefer said. “And not just big, but experienced. These kids have been around.”
That starts with seniors Devin Wilson, Payton Goetz and Sean Mlodzik. Wilson and Goetz were each all-Flyway Conference last season with Wilson garnering first-team honors and Goetz earning honorable mention.
Mlodzik adds another experienced player to the line as well. Having played with each other multiple years, everyone know that each other is going to get their jobs done.
“It makes it a lot easier,” Wilson said. “We don’t talk much on the line. We already know what each other is going to do.”
For a team that likes to run the ball with the option, it’s imperative the line gets their jobs done.
Wellhoefer doesn’t foresee that to be a problem.
“It’s like having four or five coaches on the field,” he said. “They pick up adjustments, blitzes. If the other team stems or adjusts or shifts at the last second, they don’t panic. They can handle it.”
Up to speed
Where Omro will be lacking in experience is in the backfield. Gone are quarterback Nick Blythe and running back Eddie Schug, who made up a fair amount of the touches and yardage of last year’s offense.
Instead the Foxes will hand over the keys of their option car to sophomore quarterback Spencer Potratz.
Behind him will be speedsters Matt and Chris Hess, both sophomores at running back.
“They aren’t typical sophomores,” Wellhoefer said of the Hess’. “They’ve got size to them, strength, speed.”
Wellhoefer likes the talent that these three possess back there to go along with their flybacks Derek Tritt and Josh Koch, who have experience from last year’s squad.
How successful the Foxes are this season could come down to how fast their newcomers pick the systems up and mesh with the experienced line.
“I don’t want to put it all on them,” Wellhoefer said. “It’s not only how fast they pick it up, but how quickly we as a team gel as units.
“But they are a component.”
So far, it’s been a pretty seemless transition in practice for those returning on the line with the newcomers in the backfield.
“They are learning quick,” Mlodzik said. “They all have the physical ability. They are still kind of working on the plays a bit but they are learning quick.”
Time will tell if that carries over onto the field.
Wellhoefer made it a point of throwing this year’s squad into the water and seeing if they can swim right away.
This started out with scrimmages against Hartford and Menominee Falls, two bigger enrollement schools, in a scrimmage last Saturday.
That is followed up by facing off against perennial playoff team Nekoosa and in the China Bull game against Winneconne, who was a playoff team last year, in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
All this before heading into their conference opener against last year’s Flyway champ and defending WIAA Division 6 state champion, St. Mary’s Springs.
“We have three games including that scrimmage against tough competition before we get to that first conference game,” Wellhoefer said. “When we go out there, we want to know we can compete at a high level and help the confidence of those younger guys.”
Even if the Foxes don’t pick up wins in thsoe first two games, they know that they will be up to speed when they face off against the heart of their Flyway conference schedule — when the games matter the most.
Sights set high
Omro has had plenty of success the past three years.
2010 saw a conference title, 2011 they made it to the second round of the playoffs and last year was another playoff appearnce.
The Foxes have their sights set on all of those goals once again this year.
“Win conference for our senior year,” Goetz said. “That’s what we are expecting every year.”
“At the very least, it would be top three,” added Mlodzik. “Our goal is still the top.”
And with the recent success Omro has had, they shouldn’t expect anything less.
But they certainly don’t expect the success to be given them. Wellhoefer knows his team needs to get after it everyday.
Then, and only then, will the success for this group of Foxes continue.
“If all of our areas start gelling and clicking, I think we are talented as anyone in the conference,” Wellhoefer said. “If we don’t, then we aren’t going to meet the success that we anticpate.
“They know that if they come out here and practice a certain way and do the things they can control, they are confident that the wins are going to come.”