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Even with 3-0 start, Wilber-Clatonia still striving to raise its level of play
PREP FOOTBALL

Even with 3-0 start, Wilber-Clatonia still striving to raise its level of play

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Wilber-Clatonia’s standards on the football field are pretty high. Qualifying for the playoffs the past 12 years, advancing past the first round in nine of those seasons, eight straight district titles and a Class C-2 state championship in 2016 tends to do that.

That’s why the C-2 No. 5 Wolverines, despite a 3-0 start to the season and a win over last year’s C-2 state runner-up Sutton, aren’t totally pleased with their position going into a home game against Sandy Creek (2-2) Friday night.

The Wolverines have prided themselves on a physical running attack through the years, but they’re averaging just under 130 yards per game on the ground in the first three games and ran for just two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Coy Rosentreader has kept the Wolverine offense afloat through the air, completing 62% of his passes (38-of-61) for 478 yards and six TDs.

The Wolverines were shut out by Sutton the last two years (38-0 in 2018 and 16-0 last season), so the 13-12 road win over a shorthanded Mustangs team on Sept. 4 after trailing 12-0 “was huge for us,” Wilber-Clatonia coach Lynn Jurgens said.

“To show that fight and prove that we can beat a team like that, because it’s been awhile for us (against Sutton),” Jurgens added.

Sutton all-state quarterback Cade Wiseman injured his shoulder in the first half and returned only for the Mustangs’ final possession of the game with his team trailing by one point.

But that win doesn’t change the fact that the Wolverines aren’t running the ball to the coach’s expectations. And it’s something he wants to see fixed before district play begins in two weeks with back-to-back games against rated teams — at No. 7 Bishop Neumann on Sept. 25 and at home against No. 9 Yutan on Oct. 2.

“Everyone is stacking the box on us right now and we’re not executing the best offensively,” said Jurgens, whose team won at Hastings St. Cecilia (28-7) in Week 1 before shutting out Superior 27-0 at home this past Friday. He has a 97-23 record in his 12th season at the Wolverine helm.

“We’re missing assignments and it’s frustrating because in practice, we can block the right guys, but once we get to Friday night for some reason, we’re missing assignments and not running the ball the way we want to.”

A year ago as a freshman, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Rosentreader admitted he got caught up in the moment a few times.

“It was really nerve-wracking,” Rosentreader said. “I remember before the first game against Superior, I was sitting in the locker room shaking because I was so nervous. Then the older guys walked, gave me a little speech to calm me down and I was good from there.”

Now as a sophomore, he’s turned Wilber-Clatonia’s offense into a more diverse attack that may be more difficult for opponents to prepare for as the season goes on.

“A good variation of both (run and pass) is good to have,” Rosentreader said. “If both are working, that’s going to help us out a lot. It’s definitely good that if we need to throw this year, we can because last year at times, we weren’t able to.”

Once the Wolverines get the running game cranked up, senior Mitchell Thompson will be the main beneficiary. The 6-foot, 180-pound Thompson is the team’s leading rusher with 203 yards, but might be even a bigger factor at outside linebacker on defense where he has 22 tackles (seven behind the line of scrimmage) and an interception that he returned 59 yards.

Adam Kotas, a 6-foot, 210-pound junior defensive tackle, leads the team in tackles this season with 30.

Thompson’s physical style on both sides of the football fits the prototypical Wolverine standout player through the years. Thompson is following in his older brothers’ footsteps (Spencer and Jordan) in continuing the Wolverines’ football tradition.

“They kind of pushed me, even today, they still do. They make me a little tougher,” Mitchell Thompson said. “They’ve told me as a senior that I’ve got to help the younger kids and push them because they’re going to be the future of Wilber-Clatonia football.”

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High school sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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