PREVIEW: Trettin takes over team with plenty of experienceNorthwood-Solon Springs looks for another trip to the WIAA postseason
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
They’re not the young guys anymore.
That’s the message the Northwood-Solon Springs Evergreens want to send this football season.
Phil Larson, Josh Malone and Mike Myers, senior captains for the Evergreens, all remember their first years on a high school football field.
As freshmen, the trio had the luxury of spending time on the junior varsity team. With more than 40 players in the program that year, the young Evergreens had the chance for a real JV experience.
By the time they were sophomores, however, the underclassmen were expected to contribute at the varsity level. Larson, Malone and Myers moved up to the varsity squad along with 10 of their classmates, and even though the group was just beginning its second year of high school, expectations were high.
Two years later, expectations remain high, but there is a difference.
“Instead of expecting too much out of the younger guys who haven’t been there (before), now those guys are older, have the experience and can pull their own weight at the varsity level,” Myers said.
The Evergreens have made the playoffs for the last three years, and most of the players return from 2010, when they finished 6-3 in the regular season.
“We don’t have as many young guys out, freshmen or sophomores,” Larson said. “But the older guys, it seems like we’re working even harder than we were in the past.”
Brian Trettin, taking over as head coach for the Evergreens this season, says the work ethic of the senior class is what will set the team apart this year.
“I don’t know if any other program in the state can say this, but we had days in the weight room this summer where we had 100 percent participation,” Trettin said. “I think that says a lot for our seniors. A lot of them give kids rides, they’re calling kids or getting kids in the weight room. We had 100 percent participation numbers for our team camp. When you look at it from that standpoint, these kids want to win, they have high expectations for themselves, and I think that hard work and dedication all summer says a lot about their leadership, a lot about their character, too.”
The players say Trettin has energized the team, and they’ve adapted well to his way of doing things.
“He brings a new attitude, kind of a new fire,” Myers said.
“Every day that you come to practice, as a coach or player, everyone’s excited to be here,” Trettin said. “A lot of programs will have a bad practice early on; we haven’t had a bad practice yet. Our practices have gotten better every single day, and that makes things fun.”
The Evergreens have a slim roster again this year with about two dozen players. Five players on the co-op team are from Solon Springs and the rest come from Northwood.
Trettin called the numbers “deceivingly down,” and said those who take the Evergreens lightly aren’t considering the strength of the upperclassmen.
“We have a really good junior group and a really good senior group,” Trettin said. “I know the numbers thing people worried about, but really we just take care of what we have control over. The kids that are here, that’s our team and we worry about that.”
There has been no lack of advice for the Northwood-Solon Springs football team this year.
More than 10 guest coaches — primarily former high school coaches and players — made the trip to Minong this summer to share their insights.
Former Hayward coach Dave Dixon and his son, Bucky Dixon, a 2009 Hayward graduate and standout running back in the Heart O’ North Conference, made one of the strongest impression on the Evergreens.
“Coach Dixon from Hayward, he helped our offensive line,” Myers said. “He pretty much turned our offensive line around. Just his help and his knowledge is one of the main reasons it will be one of our strengths this year.”
The Evergreens also picked the minds of a few Ashland coaches; and Trettin, a 2001 graduate of Superior High School, brought in some experts from his hometown. Stopping by to work with the Evergreens were Dennis Mertzig, a number of Trettin’s former teammates and Larry Hoff, who coached the Spartan football team from 1970-87 and again in 1993.
“Bringing in so many coaches brings in a whole bunch of different points of view on how we should run our team,” Larson said. “It was good to see what all the other schools run, basically take the best from everyone and try to install it in our team.”
Trettin said the Evergreens will use a 3-3-5 defense this season.
“They’re kind of used to that, but we’ll use a lot of our team speed to fill gaps,” Trettin said.
Malone, who led Northwood-Solon Springs in tackles last year, will be looked to as a leader again this year. The players are also counting on their offseason conditioning to give them an edge and keep them healthy throughout the season.
“We had more guys in the weight room sometimes than we do now for practice,” Myers said. “The dedication in the summer was good. Hopefully that shows this year.”
Another key for the Evergreens, the captains said, will be not to get ahead of themselves or play down to the level of opponents.
“No team can be taken lightly this year,” Malone said. “Same mindset every game.”
Key starters returning for Northwood-Solon Springs are Larson at quarterback and Malone at running back. Both seniors are expected to lead the Evergreens this season, and Larson, now in his third year as quarterback, said this year’s offense will be “quite a bit different.”
“We’ll be more of an option oriented type of team,” Trettin said. “With Phil being one heck of a runner, we want him to have the ability to run or throw every play. And with Josh Malone and Nick Murray, Brandon Wilcox, Tyler Long, Chris Olson in the backfield, all those guys can run. We want to be able to get the ball in the playmakers’ hands.”