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Spartans look to rebound at Chippewa Falls

Fresh off suffering its first loss of the season, the Superior High School football team now has to play the Chippewa Falls Cardinals, a team that was a popular pick to finish first in the Big Rivers Conference.

“Chippewa was picked by many to repeat as BRC champs this year because of the strength of their program,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “They have a confidence about them and rightfully so. They have an excellent coaching staff, a high number of multi-sport athletes and they have really fortified their year-round training program and it shows.”

The Spartans enter tonight’s game in Chippewa Falls 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the BRC. Superior’s loss came at the hands of the Hudson Raiders, 35-14, last week at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

After opening the season with a 15-14 loss to Holmen, Chippewa Falls averaged 46 points a game in wins over Medford (47-41), Rice Lake (49-35) and Eau Claire Memorial (42-14).

“I talked to coach Rayko (Chippewa Falls coach Chuck Raykovich) the day after their Holmen game and they had several injuries during the game and were forced to play young, inexperienced players,” DeMeyer said. “Since then they’ve had some of those players return and the others have gained valuable varsity experience and they have things rolling.”

Superior, which opened with a 38-14 win over Merrill, also owns wins over Holmen (35-30) and ECM (22-21). The Spartans opened with a 38-14 win over Merrill.

The Spartans will have to focus on a Chippewa Falls offense that has rushed for 1,224 yards and passed for only 67.

“They run a very unique offense, we call it a scrum,” DeMeyer said. “They’ve done it for years and their coaches and kids have mastered it. It’s very difficult to prepare for in practice and of course even more of a challenge to stop it on Friday nights.”

Matt Pomietto has been the workhorse in the Cardinal backfield, rushing for 425 yards and one touchdown. Cody Meinen is next with 415 yards and five touchdowns and Matt Brude has 229 yards and seven touchdowns.

In last week’s win over ECM, all 321 of the Cardinals’ yards came on the ground. Meinen ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns, while Pomietto added 122 yards.

Cardinal quarterbacks Nolan Hutzler has thrown for less than 100 yards and one touchdown.

Another weapon for Chippewa Falls is Evan Spaeth, who has caught a 33-yard touchdown pass, and returned a kickoff and fumble for touchdowns.

“They are led on defense by seven seniors,” DeMeyer said. “It includes a big, athletic front line, very active linebackers and a disciplined, aggressive secondary.”

Superior has 1,296 offensive yards, including 839 rushing.

Gunnar Gronski leads the Spartans on the ground with 334 yards and six touchdowns.

Quarterback Gunner Johnson has rushed for 294 yards and two TDs, and is 38-for-66 passing for 706 yards and five TDs.

“We absolutely must — and we will — minimize penalties,” DeMeyer said. “We stressed this all week in practice and we will see marked improvement in this area. We also stressed ball security again as well. It is nearly impossible to be successful against any opponent when you turn the ball over (five times).

“Chippewa will use up a lot of clock so it’s imperative we keep the ball when we have it and not give them additional possessions.”

SPARTAN SPIN: Tonight’s game is at 7 p.m. and will be carried live on the web at … Raykovich, who played football at UW-Superior, has a record of 173-115 in 31 seasons with Chippewa Falls. … Chippewa Falls defeated Superior twice last season, 39-7 during the regular season and 28-6 in the opening round of the playoffs. … Superior won the three previous games, from 2011-2014, by a combined score of 107-56. … Chippewa Falls leads the all-time series with Superior 17-14. Superior won the first meeting between the two schools 67-0 in 1906.