Sense of urgency takes over SHS football teamSpartans need one more win to qualify for WIAA playoffs
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
There’s a sense of urgency around the Superior High School football team this week.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Spartans need to win one of them to qualify for the WIAA playoffs for the third straight season.
While their final two opponents are sitting at the bottom of the Big Rivers Conference, the Spartans and coach Bob DeMeyer know that River Falls (2-5, 0-5) and Eau Claire North (2-5, 2-3) can be very dangerous teams.
“River Falls is a very good team,” DeMeyer said. “They lost to Hudson (6-1, 4-1) in overtime and had a close game with Menomonie (5-2, 4-1).”
Despite losing their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury early on, River Falls only lost to Hudson 13-7 in OT and to Menomonie 17-7.
“The kids know how important every snap is for the rest of the season,” DeMeyer said. “Our seniors aren’t going to allow there to be any letdowns. We know River Falls is a good team and if we give them any breathing room it’s going to be a long night.
“They’re not going to let this one slip away. They want to make the playoffs. That’s the ultimate goal, and we know that once we make the playoffs we can make a run at it.”
The playoffs seemed far away after a 25-7 loss at Eau Claire Memorial two weeks ago and then a lackluster first half against Chippewa Falls last Friday.
“We let Memorial have some breathing room, gave them some breaks, and they were on a roll with a two-game winning streak,” DeMeyer said. “They gained confidence as the game went on, saw that they could play with us and we couldn’t match up with them.
“Then last week, you have to remember we only had the ball two times in the first half. Our defense was stopping them. They were moving the ball on us, but our defense only allowed the one touchdown.”
Trailing 6-0 at the half, Superior turned things around to defeat Chippewa Falls 14-6.
“At the half we just talked about some of the things we needed to fix, as far as fundamentals,” DeMeyer said. “It wasn’t really an X’s and O’s thing, we just had to do a better job, had to tackle better and pursue better angles. We played with a lot of energy in the second half, got off the ball better, stayed with the blocks and played with more emotion.”
Another thing that helped was Chippewa Falls’ failed attempt at an on-side kick to start the second half.
“To be honest with you, that gave us more energy,” DeMeyer said. “As far as we were concerned that was a lack of respect. They figured we couldn’t stop them, but that motivated our guys.”
The motivation paid off as the Spartans scored the first two times they touched the ball in the second half and kept Chippewa Falls scoreless the rest of the game to improve to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in the BRC.
“Our kids are starting to see what we can do on both sides of the ball and on special teams when we’re giving it everything we got on every play,” DeMeyer said.
The Spartans have had their share of injuries and illnesses, playing last week without defensive back Mike LaValley, lineman Cody Kitch, fullback Chad Murray and linebacker Spencer Koskie.
“On the bright side it’s given some younger kids and some backups the chance to play and earn spots,” DeMeyer said. “That’s only going to make us a better football team down the stretch.”
Kitch suffered a broken fibula in practice, Murray is still nursing a sprained ankle and Koskie recently had successful shoulder surgery.
“Doctor said Cody has a two-percent chance to return this season, so he’s excited,” DeMeyer said. “LaValley sat out last week, but he could have played. We just thought it was best that he sit out and get ready for this week.
“As for Chad, not only has he missed the last two games, but this week he’s been out sick, so he hasn’t been here to get the OK to play. Right now we’re not planning on him playing.”
AJ Soland has taken over for Murray and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.
After rushing for 109 yards on 20 carries last week, Soland leads the Spartans with 230 yards on 48 carries. Despite missing two games, Murray is second with 213 yards on 53 carries.
Among other players asked to do more for the Spartans is linebacker Jake Turkowski, who is expected to see more time at tight end.
“Jake’s practiced at almost every position on offense,” DeMeyer said. “He’s very smart, very athletic, he’s a competitor and he knows the schemes. He’s the kind of kid that will do anything to help the team.”
Quarterback Kellen McCoshen and running back Zak Erickson also played in the defensive backfield last week, while defensive linemen Scott Collins and Nikola Bogojevic helped out on the offensive side of the ball as well.
SPARTAN SPIN: There will be no local radio for tonight’s game. The game may be found on the Internet at ifan.tv. … Superior wraps up its regular season by hosting Eau Claire North at 7 p.m. on Thursday. … The WIAA playoffs begin Oct. 27.