TOMAH — It isn’t often that Brad Plueger enters a season without knowing who will quarterback his Tomah High School football team.
This is Plueger’s 12th year as the coach running the program, and it brings with it something new. He is watching a quarterback battle play out during the first couple of weeks of practice.
Will it be senior Peter Brey or junior Connor Prielipp?
If Plueger knew as the second week of practice began, he wasn’t saying. Instead, he talked about the excitement of the competition and the fact that having two who could handle the starting spot is better than having one.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Plueger said. “Any time you can compete against another person that is the same or at a high level like you are, is only going to make you and our team better.
“The greatest part about these two guys is that when we go to quarterback drills, they partner up together. They don’t go away from each other, they go through plays looking at each other trying to figure out what was the better read. They are just working so well together and being so positive. They are going to help our team no matter where.”
Brey started the first five games last season before he injured the AC (acromioclavicular) joint in his non-throwing shoulder diving for a fumble in a 22-7 loss to Sparta on Sept. 16. The injury ended Brey’s season and gave the starting opportunity to Prielipp.
Brey said he returns as a more confident passer after the beginning of last season didn’t quite go as planned. He completed 50 percent of his passes in a game against West Salem and threw for 105 yards and a touchdown in a win over Black River Falls. But he was intercepted four times by Sparta in his final game.
“I’m not going to lie; I kind of struggled when I was in,” said Brey, who was intercepted eight times and completed two touchdown passes. “I wasn’t confident with it. I think this year I’m just more confident at the position and with him playing I just feel like it brings the best out of both of us. I think I really have been doing a lot better this year.”
“He (Prielipp) played really well when he got in and helped the team out a lot. I thought we progressed.”
Prielipp passed for 508 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions in the final four games. His coming out party came in a 39-35 loss to eventual MVC champion Onalaska. Prielipp threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns that night in his second start.
“At first I was pretty scared,” said Prielipp, who spent the baseball season showing that he is one of the Coulee Region’s top pitchers. “After the first couple of passes, it felt normal.”
Brey, Prielipp said, was there every step of the way for him.
“He taught me a lot of my reads and where the windows were for throws,” Prielipp said. “It was really great.”
The two split reps with the first team into the second week of practice. Brey has also seen time at wide receiver and could contribute that way. Plueger and the Timberwolves are going to take their time and could end up using both of them under center.
“We are trying to make the best for our team,” Plueger said. “I think these guys know whatever happens happens, whether we go two-quarterback system or one plays wideout and one plays quarterback.
“Whatever it is, we are going to find a way to get both of our athletes onto the field.”
Returning eight starters from last year’s team, the offense will be Tomah’s strength this season. Senior Isaac Klema could end up being the featured back and has impressed so far.
“He’s been doing pretty well,” Brey said of Klema. “He’s a very intelligent kid, and he knows where he is going. He reads blocks well and is a smooth runner.
“He will do just fine because our offensive line is pretty solid this year.”
The offense is going to live up to it’s expectations because the defense is young and inexperienced for the Timberwolves. Tomah returns only three starters from the unit a year ago. They get a big boost with the return of a healthy Brey who starts at free safety as well, along with solid pass rushers Seth Huneck and Seth Carlson, but still Plueger knows this unit is going to take its lumps.
“We are a little smaller than what we have been in the past,” Plueger said. “We are going to have to blitz a little more, putting some pressure on the back end. It’s going to take a little bit, so I feel we are going to have to put some points up on the board while our defense figures it out. They’re aggressive kids, so that’s a good thing.”
Regardless of the young and inexperienced defense, Tomah knows the MVC is wide open this season.
“Last year’s senior class had a lot of talent,” Brey said. “Onalaska lost a lot, Logan, Holmen all lost a lot. So it’s an open race. We just need to go into each game prepared and play like we practice we should be just fine. “