Anyone who had a chance to catch a Tomah baseball game this spring knows Connor Prielipp has a pretty good arm.
The junior pitcher was a key ingredient in a stellar post-season run that saw Tomah come up just one win shy of a berth in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association State Baseball Tournament.
Friday night, Prielipp had another chance to show off his arm as the Tomah’s starting quarterback in the season and home football opener at McKean Field.
Prielipp didn’t disappoint, completing 12 of 31 passes for 191 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Timberwolves to a 32-21 victory over Mauston.
Tomah suffered a 20-14 loss in Mauston a season ago, and head coach Brad Plueger said his team has been preparing hard for this year’s season opener with the Golden Eagles.
“It really was the focus from the get-go at our training camp. We really did prep hard for this game,” he offered, adding that the win was a big one for his young Timberwolves. “It was good for our kids to get that confidence early.”
While its focus traditionally has been on the running game in the past, Tomah went to the air more than usual Friday night.
“We threw the ball 33 times. We did have six drops, so we can do a better job of receiving,” said Plueger.
“The game was long. We’re a different type of Tomah team than in the past,” Plueger added. “That (33 passes) may be a record for me in my 12 years as head coach.”
While Prielipp had a stellar night, teammate Kyle Kroener may have stolen the spotlight.
Kroener had six catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns and set the tone early with a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown that ended an early Mauston threat.
“Kyle was dynamic. He had a 99-yard return to start the game, two ridiculous punt returns and 129 yards receiving,” said Plueger.
Plueger said Kroener and Trey Gnewikow were solid on defense at the cornerback position as well.
“They didn’t throw at Kyle much and Trey was outstanding at the other corner,” he offered.
“Trey’s going to get my vote for Defensive Player of the Week. He had nine tackles at corner and two passes defended. He was outstanding,” continued Plueger. “That’s a good way to start the season. I was very happy with our defense.”
Kroener’s 99-yard interception return gave Tomah an early 6-0 lead, but Mauston answered with a 24-yard touchdown run by Tyler Jirousek and added an extra point to take a 7-6 lead.
The Timberwolves answered late in the quarter, when Prielipp connected with Kroener on a 54-yard scoring strike that put Tomah back on top 12-7.
Mauston regained the lead at 14-12 early in the second quarter on a three-yard touchdown run by Cole Kobylski.
Tomah answered again, this time with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Prielipp to Kroener to open up an 18-14 lead at the half.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the second half, as Jirousek scored on a 13-yard run to put the Golden Eagles back on top 21-18.
The Timberwolves took the lead for good midway through the third quarter, when Peter Brey hauled in a four-yard touchdown pass from Prielipp to put Tomah on top 25-21.
Later in the frame, Prielipp hooked up with Gnewikow on a 12-yard touchdown pass that extended the Tomah lead to 32-21.
The Timberwolves finished with 313 yards on offense, while the Tomah defense held Mauston to 264 total yards.
Isaac Klema led Tomah’s rushing attack with 101 yards on 25 carries.
The Timberwolves are back in action Friday, when they travel to Black River Falls to battle the Tigers in a 7 p.m. nonconference contest.