EVERGREEN PREVIEW: A small but talented groupWith just 25 players this season, the Northwood-Solon Springs Evergreens can afford no injuries
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Northwood-Solon Springs football team doesn’t plan to overwhelm opponents with its numbers this year. The Evergreens have their hands full just filling out the field during practice.
Only 25 players are out for the Evergreen football team this year, down from 35 last year. This comes despite back-to-back playoff appearances by the Evergreens.
“It’s the lowest numbers I’ve had,” said head coach Jason Fox. “Two years ago we were undefeated at home, and we still only have 25 guys out for football. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Diminishing class sizes for both Northwood and Solon Springs may be a factor in the low turnout, Fox said, but more often he’s finding kids just don’t want to play anymore. About 75 percent of the freshmen who tried out for the team this year dropped the sport after the first week.
“Quite a few kids quit on us after the first week of practice,” Fox said. “It’s hard to find kids who want to work hard.”
The Evergreens are young this season but have a few years of experience already. Juniors and sophomores make up the majority of the team, and most of the juniors have played on the varsity team since they were freshmen. Fox said all the players are comfortable with their positions and should be able to get the season off to a fast start.
“Our starting 11, our core varsity guys, are pretty solid,” Fox said. “It’s one of the better teams I’ve had. We just have zero depth.”
Two juniors and two seniors will serve as team captains this year. Brad Ross, fullback and linebacker, and Keanan Franco, running back are the two senior captains. Phil Larson, quarterback and tight end, and Josh Malone, tailback, represent the junior class.
Fox said the Evergreens will use the same offensive and defensive schemes as last year and has only a few players to replace. The biggest hole was left by the departure of Gerrod Richard. As a senior, he led the team in yards rushing last year and also took over as quarterback from time to time. Richard also led the Evergreens on defense with 95 tackles.
Ross has been tapped to fill Richard’s role this season. The senior has played as a lineman for the Evergreens the past few season, but Fox was able to shift Ross to the fullback position this year when more players became available to fill the line.
“In the past we’ve had to use him in the line because he’s a good athlete, but he’s also a great skill guy and a pretty physical kid. He can make some plays for us in the backfield,” Fox said.
Malone and Larson will also be expected to take on some of the duties Richard assumed last year, Larson as the team’s quarterback and Malone as the primary running back. Larson said the Evergreens have a speedy backfield this season and will look to use that to their advantage.
“We don’t have much for depth, but our starting offense and defense are going to be very strong this year, I think,” Larson said. “We have high expectations, and will probably finish better than we did last year.”
Barring injuries, another trip to the playoffs seems likely for the Evergreens. With so few players, Fox knows keeping the team healthy may mean the difference between a winning or losing season.
“We’re always one key injury short of being in a lot of trouble,” Fox said.
The players also realize how important it will be to avoid injury this season, and they’ve done their part by hitting the weight room over the summer. For players who live in Solon Springs, like Larson, that meant a 15-mile commute to Northwood School one way.
“The coaches put on a new offseason lifting program, and we had a great turnout this summer,” Larson said. “We had about 75 to 80 percent of the guys showing up.”
Between 15 and 20 players showed up to each session throughout the summer. The Solon Springs players often carpooled, but they made it into the weight room just as often as the students from Northwood.
“The guys worked really hard in the offseason in the weight room,” Fox said. “That’s going to be the difference right there. They’re really buying into it.”
“We all came into camp in shape, so we all feel like we’re ready right now,” Malone said. “We’re going to play through injuries if we have to because we’re a tight team.”
There are a few changes in the Small Lakeland Conference this year. Flambeau, which stood atop the conference standing last season, is a Small Lakeland member no more. The Falcons have moved to Large Lakeland Conference this season, while Luck has moved over to join the Small Lakeland Conference.
Because Luck is used to playing bigger schools in the Large Lakeland Conference, Fox said the team will probably fare well against Small Lakeland teams.
“We’re not going to take any team lightly, and we’re going to go as hard as we can for every team,” Malone said.
Shell Lake and Frederic are also expected to finish near the top of the conference this season.
2010 Northwood-Solon Springs
Evergreens Football Roster
4. Brett Missinne QB/LB So.
10. Brian Flamang OL/LB Jr.
12. Phillip Larson QB/DE Jr.
13. Eric Olson RB/DB Jr.
22. Josh Malone RB/CB Jr.
27. Nick Murray RB/DB So.
30. Austin Meyer TE/DE So.
32. Brad Ross RB/LB Sr.
39. Travis Butterfield TE/DB Jr.
40. Keanan Franco RB/DB Sr.
52. John Gruna OL/DL Sr.
53. CJ Zamzow OL/DL Fr.
54. Mike Meyer OL/LB So.
61. Tylor Baird OL/DL Jr.
63. Jake Dahlberg OL/LB So.
64. Zach Owens TE/DL Jr.
66. Shawn Trainor OL/LB Sr.
67. Gage Harwick OL/DL So.
71. Dennis St.Claire OL/DL Fr.
72. Leonardo Alcantar OL/DL Jr.
73. Tyler Long OL/DL So.
76. Trevor Lafave OL/DE So.
82. Greg Meyer TE/LB Fr.
83. Brandon Wilcox TE/DE So.
89. Chris Olson TE/DB Jr.
Coaches: Jason Fox, Dan Haughian, Curt Zamzow