If Scott Erickson has learned anything over his 21 seasons as the Iola-Scandinavia head football coach, it’s that he knows where games are usually won and loss.
And that’s where, as John Madden would say, “the big uglies” handle their business in the trenches.
Erickson has come to the realization the Thunderbirds have struggled to win the power struggle up front since dominating the Central Wisconsin Conference-10, claiming five titles and finishing second three other times in an eight-year span starting in 2000.
Included in that time frame were a pair of WIAA state championship game appearances in 1999 and 2007.
Since moving over the to the larger CWC-8 in 2008, however, wins have proven much tougher to come by for Iola-Scandinavia. Over the past five seasons, the T-Birds have compiled a 14-21 record, including a 1-6 mark a year ago.
Losing doesn’t sit well with Erickson. Worse yet, losing the battle of the line of scrimmage is even less acceptable.
Not so surprising, the veteran coach made it crystal clear heading into the opening day of practice things needed to change in that area — and immediately.
“Our offensive line needs to have a 180 degree turnaround. That is our main focus,” Erickson said.
Erickson has seen the benefits in the form of a renewed commitment to the weight room by not just linemen, but every player on the roster.
In combination with enjoying more success up front, he stressed that if the Thunderbirds want to get to back to competing for conference championships on a regular basis, the seniors need to take more ownership of the team.
From the condition of the locker room to making sure all the players are putting in time in the weight room, the senior class is being asked not to leave anything to chance.
The senior class has received the message and taken it to heart.
Among the seniors who have embraced the philosophy that the team will only go as far as they are willing to take them are Hunter Gruenwald, an offensive tackle/linebacker, Isaac Lashua (WR/DE) and quarterback Nick Wavruk.
Another season like 2012 when Iola-Scandinavia averaged just 9.6 points through eight games won’t be tolerated.
Erickson is convinced the talent is in place to make drastic improvements on that side of the ball, and it starts with the guys expected to get the job done in the trenches like Gruenwald, along with fellow seniors Seth Bauer, Cody Buttles and Kyle Honken.
Improved play in that area should translate to better production from the likes of senior fullback Jake Hansen and sophomore tailback Kristian Welsh. Wavruk, along with a talented receiving corps that includes John Prahl, a senior, and Lashua.
It all comes back to regaining a take-no-prisoner attitude that served the T-Birds so well for so long.
That goes for the players and coaching staff alike.