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Spartans are sky high heading into season

Superior High School’s Deshon Pleau, right, breaks up a pass during last week’s scrimmage at Rice Lake. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 3
The Superior High School offensive line bocks for quarterback Nick Mehlum during a scrimmage against Northwesetern last week in Rice Lake. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)2 / 3
Superior High School's Nate Sanders catches a touchdown pass from Nick Mehlum during last week's scrimmage in Rice Lake. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)3 / 3

There’s been a little extra buzz surrounding the Superior High School football team as it prepares for the 2014 season.

The Spartans have called Ole Haugsrud Field home for 50 years, but that will change next week when the Spartans host Merrill on the new National Bank of Commerce Spartan Sports Complex.

Prior to the grand opening of the new stadium, which includes a ribbon cutting, tours and fireworks after the game, the Spartans play at 7 p.m. today at Hopkins, Minn.

“We’re very excited,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “It’s given our program, our school and our community quite a boost. We’re looking forward to practicing on it this week and then playing at Hopkins, which also has a turf stadium.”

The Spartans prepared for the upcoming season by participating in the Rice Lake scrimmage last week  with Rice Lake, Northwestern and Somerset.

“We’re about where we expected things to be,” DeMeyer said. “At times were looked very sharp and did things very well. Other times we had a mental breakdown, just not executing the way we need to.

“That’s what scrimmages are for — to evaluate personal, find areas where we need to work and get ready for the season. That’s what the first two games are for was well.”

The Spartans’ offensive fared well against Somerset and Northwestern, scoring three touchdowns against each team, including four touchdown passes by senior Nick Mehlum.

Superior also completed its first two passes against Rice Lake, but on Mehlum’s second completion, the Spartans lost senior Nate Sanders for the season when he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula while getting tackled.

“Aside from losing Nate, we’ve had a pretty good preseason,” DeMeyer said. “There’s been a lot of positives and I feel we’re reaching our goal of getting better each day. If we can continue to progress like that I’m optimistic about competing each week and being successful every time we step on the field.”

The Spartans are coming off one of their best seasons in years, finishing 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Rivers Conference.

They had a great start, opening with five straight wins and outscoring opponents 209-72.

That success was tainted a bit with a 47-0 loss to Hortonville in the opening round of the Division 2 playoffs.

“We’ve put that loss behind us, but we’ve learned from it and a lot of things we can take away from that game,” DeMeyer said. “The other two losses (Menomonie and Hudson) were both good battles. A couple of plays here or there and we felt we could have come out on top of those games too.

“Those are two of the top programs in the state and we were right there knocking on the door against them last year.”

Hopkins and Merrill

Superior last played Hopkins in 2002, losing 62-36 in Minnetonka.

The Spartans last played Merrill in 2011, winning thanks to a second-half rally.

“Our objective in the offseason was to find the best non-conference schedule we could and we believe we found very capable opponents,” DeMeyer said. “Hopkins is loaded with talent, they have a great coaching staff and they’re one of the best teams in the state of Minnesota.

“Merrill is a team on the rise and qualified for the playoffs last year. That’ll be an extremely tough test as well. We’re happy when we put them on our schedule.

Hopkins is a member of the Lake Conference, which  includes Minnetonka, Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Edina.

Merrill is a member of the Great Northern Conference along with Ashland.

“These are important games for us,” DeMeyer said. “We’re still evaluating to make sure we have kids in the right place, have everything covered and have everything is where we need it to be for the start of our conference season.”

Quarterback

Nick Mehlum is the returning starter, backed up by junior Beau Reder and sophomore Gunnar Johnson.

Last season Mehlum completed 122-of-193 passes for 1,906 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also led the team on the ground with 385 yards rushing on 80 carries. Those numbers led to him being named the Superior Telegram Player of the Year, the Big Rivers Conference Player of the Year, all-state and all-region.

Reder isn’t expected to play this week after because of a shoulder injury suffered during summer hockey.

“He’s out for the first week, just to make sure he’s fully healed,” DeMeyer said. “He’s prepping and doing a lot of things in practice, he’s not cleared for contact yet.”

Johnson, has stepped in and played with both the varsity and junior varsity at the Rice Lake scrimmage.

“Gunnar’s doing an outstanding job,” DeMeyer said. “Every day he gets more confident with each rep. His composure and his decision making are improving each day as well.”

Mehlum is back after suffering a knee injury during last year’s playoff loss to Hortonville.

“Recovering from the surgery was tough, but I just kept looking forward to the football season,” Mehlum said. “I knew I had to work hard for my teammates and coaches to get back stronger. Just knowing we have a great team helped.”

Jake Libal, who caught 26 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns last year, said Mehlum looks better than ever.

“He’s looking really good,” Libal said. “He recovered very fast and he’s starting to run around a bit. He actually looks like he’s gotten faster — that’s good to see.”

Wide Receivers

Joining Libal as targets for Mehlum are Grant Hansen, McKenzie Schwarz, Shaun Petrovich, James Vendela, Connor Gray and Austin Arnovich.

That group will have to fill in for Sanders.

“Losing Nate was a huge blow to the offense,” DeMeyer said. “He was looking really good catching the ball as well as a defensive back.”

Running backs

Junior Hunter Anderson will carry the load at tailback, backed up by junior Beau Girard and sophomore Tre Knight. Junior Ross Kennelly will slide over from the defensive side of the ball to help out as will Libal and Hansen.

“Knight will play a bigger role as he gets accustomed to the offense and gains more confidence,” DeMeyer said. “Kennelly is also very solid and can play a number of positions on offense”

Girard is new to the Spartans after playing at Hayward last season. The junior is originally from Superior but moved to Hayward a couple of years ago. He returned to Superior last winter.”

“Beau’s more than likely going to start on defense, but will help provide some depth in the offensive backfield,” DeMeyer said.

Offensive Line

The Spartans biggest question mark coming into the season was an offensive line that returns just one of five starters. The lone returning starter is senior Sam Urban.

“Sam’s the leader of that group,” DeMeyer said. “He’s put in a lot of time during the offseason and is doing a nice job of bringing the younger kids along.

“Coming into the season they were a very big question mark, but in my opinion, and the offensive line coach, they’re progressed very well and are doing a lot of good things. It’s not ever an effort thing with them, it’s an experience thing. They’re getting better every day. We’re very proud of their progress.”

Joining Urban on the line are Dalton Derosia, Jay Wojciechowski, Max Oosten, Keegan Stanley, Cole Matson, Andrew Erickson and Joey Miller.

Defensive line

The Spartans will once again run a 4-3 defense with three down linemen (nose guard and two defensive ends). That group includes Miller, Kyler Krob, Matt Hinaus, Gray, Tony Mohr and Collin Krysiak. Urban will help out when needed.

Linebackers

The Spartans return four starting linebackers — Kennelly and Jesse Polson on the inside and Austin Arnovich and Reder on the outside.

Other inside linebackers include Anthony Bronson, Garrett Hobson, Girard, Blake Graskey, Harrison Doane and Dan Lewandowski.

Kennelly led Superior last year with 65 tackles. Polson was second with 52.

Defensive backs

Girard will take over at safety for Sanders. He will be joined by seniors Deshon Pleau, Blake Sharpe, Daniel Burger, freshman Max Plunkett and Libal and Hansen.

“Beau is versatile and can play a couple different spots,” DeMeyer said. “Burger’s been away from the game for a while, but he’s a tough, athletic and coachable kid. He’s catching on and each day is getting better.

“Plunkett is a player that has come up and is pretty far along considering he’s a freshman,” DeMeyer said. “He’s also getting better each day.”

Special teams

All-conference kicker Schwarz returns and will be backed up by sophomore Sam Kline.

“McKenzie is a big-time kicker, while Sam is a back-up that has progressed well and improved during the offseason,” DeMeyer said.

Reder, Schwartz and Arnovich are battling for the punting job and either Kennelly, Polson or Graskey will do the long snapping.

Goals/motto

“Our goal is for the kids to come to practice each day with a great attitude, great effort and get better every day,” DeMeyer said. “With the kids we have returning we also set a goal to compete for the conference title. If you don’t have that as one of your goals, you’re selling your team short.

“If we do that and qualify for the playoffs, then it’s a new season. We want to get back to getting better every day, and make a good run in the playoffs.”

The Spartans’ motto is “One team, one fight.”

 “We’re more concerned about team success than individual accolades,” DeMeyer said. “Every day we talk about how it’s about the team, not us, not any individuals.

“I’m very proud of the fact that our kids embrace that and if it continues, we’ll be successful.”

BRC

The Big Rivers Conference will be as good as ever.

“It’s as tough across the board then it’s ever been,” DeMeyer said. “Every team is solid and some of the teams that have been down the past couple of years have improved significantly.

“Hudson and Menomonie are reloading; Rice Lake is very tough; Eau Claire Memorial looks solid again; Eau Claire North, with a new coaching staff, has improved; River Falls returns a solid team; and Chippewa Falls has a lot of numbers and is going to be in the mix, too.

“Every Friday night there are going to be a lot of good battles.”

SPARTAN SPIN: Superior is 11-9 in 10 playoff appearances. The Spartans won the state championship in 1990, finished second in 1988 and went 2-1 in 1991.

Superior High School

2014 Football Roster

Head Coach: Bob DeMeyer

G Pos.

1 Brandon Adams 12 RB/DB

2 Ross Kennelly 11 RB/LB

3 Nick Luoma 11 RB/LB

4 Carl Fortune Jr. 10 RB/LB

5 Mitch Anderson 11 RB/DB

6 Andrew Parkinson 10 WR/DB

7 Blake Sharpe 12 WR/DB

8 Andrew Christianson 11 RB/DB

9 Nick Mehlum 12 QB/DB

10 Beau Girard 11 RB/LB

11 Caleb Wasserman 11 RB/DB

12 Max Plunkett 9 WR/DB

13 McKenzie Schwarz 12 WR/DB

14 Austin Arnovich 12 WR/LB

15 James Vendela 12 WR/DB

17 Jon Croni n 11 RB/LB

18 Brendan French 11 RB/DB

19 Gunner Johnson 10 QB/DB

20 Terrell Wong 11 RB/DB

21 Travis Sharpe 10 WR/DB

22 Beau Reder 11 QB/LB

23 Garrett Hobson 11 WR/LB

24 Deshon Pleau 12 HB/DB

25 Jake Libal 12 HB/LB

26 Grant Hanson 12 HB/DB

27 Dan Lewandowski 11 RB/DB

28 Nate Sanders 12 HB/DB

29 Daniel Burger 12 WR/DB

30 Trent Sikorski 11 WR/DB

31 Zach Tharge 10 RB/LB

32 Blake Graskey 10 TE/LB

33 Anthony Gallian 10 RB/LB

34 Tre Knight 10 RB/DB

35 Hunter Anderson 11 RB/LB

36 Seth Sutherland 10 RB/LB

37 Josh Farmer 10 WR/DB

41 Dylan Sanda 11 WR/DB

42 Robert Rhea 10 RB/LB

43 Jesse Polson 12 TE/LB

46 Matt Hinaus 12 QB/LB

49 Michael McKenzie 11 RB/LB

50 Brandon Foerst 11 OL/DL

51 Christian Pettit 10 OL/DL

52 Kyler Krob 12 OL/DL

53 Josiah McDonald 10 OL/DL

54 Joey Miller 11 OL/DL

55 Austin Smith 10 OL/DL

56 Jake Hunter 10 OL/DL

57 Jason Patnode 10- OL/DL

58 Jared Danovsky 10 OL/LB

59 Aaron Roebke 11 OL/DL

60 Max Oosten 12 OL/DL

61 Jarrett Fernandez 10 OL/DL

62 Noah Intihar 11 OL/DL

63 Kaitlyn Glenn 10 OL/LB

64 Harrison Doane 11 OL/LB

65 Tyler Brue 11 OL/DL

66 Cole Matson 12 OL/DL

67 Alec Ulmer 11 OL/DL

68 Greg Lamoreaux 10 OL/DL

69 Collin Krysiak 12 OL/DL

71 Jeremiah Johnson 12 OL/DL

72 Sam Urban 12 OL/DL

74 Jay Wojciechowski 12 OL/DL

75 Andrew Erickson 12 OL/DL

76 Dalton Derosia 11 OL/DL

77 Keegan Stanley 11 OL/DL

78 Troy Rep 10 OL/DL

80 Anthony Bronson 12 WR/LB

81 Nick Long 11 WR/DB

82 Jared Anderson 10 WR/DB

83 Aaron Winters 10 WR/DB

84 Jack Sannes 10 WR/DB

85 Shaun Petrovich 11 WR/DB

86 Nick Ferrando 10 WR/LB

87 Sam Kline 10 WR/DB

88 Connor Gray 12 TE/DL

89 Chase Elder 10 WR/LB

93 Tony Mohr 12 RB/DL

99 DeArtis Watson 12 OL/DL

Varsity Coaches Aaron Anderson, Aaron Fezzey, Geoff Torzewski, Chad Johnson, Rick Kennelly, Keegan O’Neill, Rich Reder, Rob Scott, Larry Thomas.

JV Coaches Head coach Trevor Sorensen, Steve Hendry, Shaun Mattson, Jesse Falter, Chris Fuhrman.

Freshmen Coaches Head coach Mike Weinandt, George Eisenmann, Nick Olson, Jesse Samarziya, Willie Moon.

Managers Kaillie Biwer, Kaelyn Cain, Lauren Gray, Nikki Honness, Taylor Lindsey, Payton Michaud, Allie Olson, Hailey Olson, Hannah Olson.

Athletic Trainer — Mike Gogolin

Equipment Manager — Tom Lozon

Audio-Visual Tech — Al Reich.

Activities Director — Ray Kosey

Cheerleaders Varsity — Coach Amy McCusker, Aleigha Anderson, Questan Barker, Bailley Biwer, Jada Bourassa, Sammi Brisky, Misty Carre, Sammy Doller, Stephanie Goad, Rachael King, Rachel Lundeen, Sara Magdzas, Makayla Orrey, Taylor Zambory

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