TOMAHAWK — The Tomahawk football team hasn’t enjoyed a start to the season like this in nearly a decade. It is one that has the players thinking about ending the program’s seven-year playoff drought.
This is the first time Tomahawk has been 3-0 in its four-year existence in the Marawood Conference, and the program hasn’t been undefeated through three weeks since starting the 2006 season with four straight wins.
Tomahawk coach John Larson said veteran leadership is a reason for the team’s success so far this season.
“We have 15 seniors out for football. They have worked very hard and are the classic kids who have done everything the coaching staff has asked of them to do,” said Larson, whose team finished with a 4-5 record last year and just missed the postseason. “Most of these seniors have been three-year starters. You have a group of seniors like that, you have the opportunity to be successful. Our seniors have grasped that opportunity and done an outstanding job with that.”
Tomahawk, which hasn’t reached the WIAA playoffs since 2007, looks to continue its success Friday with a home match-up against Stratford. It is the beginning of a stretch against the Marawood’s “Big Three” as Tomahawk travels to Marathon next week and hosts Edgar on Sept. 25. Edgar and Marathon both entered the week 3-0 as well and ranked first and eighth, respectively, in the Small Division of The Associated Press state poll.
Tomahawk is 0-12 against the three teams since joining the Marawood Conference in 2011. Stratford beat Tomahawk 13-0 last year, a game that was a one-score contest through three quarters.
“We will definitely try and prove something to those three teams,” said Tomahawk senior running back Dane Borchardt. “Since we moved to the Marawood we haven’t done anything great, but this is the year we want to end that.
“There’s teams that haven’t played us but already are thinking that they have beat us,” added Borchard; “That just really fires me up to want to just put it in their face and say, ‘You know what? We’re a different team this year.'”
Tomahawk has jumped out to a quick start by outscoring Auburndale, Pittsville and Northland Pines by a combined 124-8. Tomahawk has eight takeaways in those three games and turned the ball over once — a fumble last week against Northland Pines. Tomahawk is averaging 41.3 points per game and have rushed for 838 yards and 13 touchdowns. Borchardt has rushed for 398 yards, and quarterback Kaleb Kaminski has rushed for 348.
Tomahawk’s biggest improvement from last year may be on special teams, however.
“If I had to pick one area that hurt us the most (last year), it was our punt team,” Larson said. “We had poor coverage and gave up four returns (for a touchdown) on the season, which is crazy. I can’t remember giving up four punt returns in how many games before and then we do it in one season. Last year special teams probably cost us two games and we missed the playoffs by one game. Our emphasis from Day 1 of practice was special teams. We haven’t been great so far, but we have been very solid with our special teams and I have been pleased with that.”
The Stevens Point Area Senior High boys and girls cross country teams were both ranked in the Top 10 in Division 1 in the first Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association state poll of the season. The Panthers girls are fifth in the initial poll, while the boys are seventh.
The Amherst and Stratford girls are ranked 10th and 15th, respectively, in Division 3. Four Marawood Conference teams were ranked in the Division 3 boys poll: Chequamegon (second), Assumption (11th), Stratford (12th) and Marathon (13th).
Medford was ranked 16th in the Division 2 girls poll.
Columbus Catholic is the only area team ranked in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association state boys soccer poll. The Dons are No. 5 in Division 4.
—Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @timmyjo11