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PREVIEW: HON title is up for grabs once again

Mike Granlund

For The Telegram

The Heart O’North Conference football championship has been hard to decide the last two seasons.

Northwestern, Hayward and Chetek-Weyerhauser ended up in a three-way tie for the title last season, while in 2015, Hayward and Northwestern shared the crown.

This year looks like much of the same as five teams are poised to take it all and two more are dark horses.

Many star players were lost to graduation, but there is no eclipse of talent in the HON.

Here is a capsule of each of the eight teams:

Chetek-Weyerhauser

Dawson Davis and Daryl Williams are off to Winona State, but the Bulldogs return one of the top players in the HON in running back/defensive lineman Daniel Chuchwar.

Andrew Loy takes over for Davis at quarterback and Travis Beloate anchors the defense.

The Bulldogs’ only losses last year were to Northwestern and state champion Eau Claire Regis. A WISSPORTS poll named them the favorite to win the conference.

Hayward

Xavier Cummings has graduated and the Hurricanes also lost heavily on defense.

Fred Perfecto and Riley Donaghue return as ball carriers and Phil Ziegle moves from receiver to quarterback.

Returners Nolan Keller and Cole Robotka garnered all-conference honors as linemen. Another big loss is coach Brian Trettin, the Superior native is now the principal at Ashland.

Billy O’Brien steps up as head coach of a team that has shared two straight titles.

Northwestern

Only five seniors are on the Tiger roster, but two very good classes of athletes in the sophomore and junior class give first year coach Jovin Kroll hope.

Kroll takes over for David Crail, now head coach at River Falls.

Quarterback Kade Bartelt, running backs Regan Ruffi and Andrew Hanson, and linemen Tyler Ronning and Kyle Curphy all received all-conference first- or second-team honors last year.

After losing 18 seniors, the Tigers are young, but talented. They could be a factor, but the early schedule is daunting.

Bloomer

After winning the HON in 2013 and 2014, Bloomer finished one game out each of the last two years.

Thirteen straight playoff appearances represents great tradition.

This year’s team is led by Payton Dachel, a two-way lineman in his third year in the starting lineup.

Quarterback Zach Ruf has come up big in wins over Somerset and Lakeland and Caleb Ruf is the main ball carrier.

Cumberland

Listen closely, Beaver quarterback Kobe Berghammer completed 49-of-66 passes in 72-52 season-opening loss to Grantsburg. Riley Bodsberg averages almost 10 yards per carry and Reid Olson and Max Narges are the top receivers. The Beavers are a definite dark horse for a championship.

Ladysmith

The Lumberjacks are 2-0 and with quarterback Jared Dieckman at the helm, optimism is high.

Dieckman earned second-team all-conference last year. Caleb Meltz is the main ball carrier.

Spooner

Coach Josh Fizel is rebuilding the Rails and an opening game win over St. Croix Falls is encouraging.

Ryan Lauterbach at running back is key to Spooner’s success.

Barron

Not many wins on the Bears’ ledgers the last few years, but they do have talent in Will Waldofski and Warren Williams at halfback and quarterback, respectively.

Let the games begin!

Heart O’North Conference

2016 Final Standings

Chetek-Weyer. (8-2)............................... 6-1

Hayward (8-2)......................................... 6-1

Northwestern (7-3)...................................... 6-1

Bloomer (6-4)......................................... 4-3

Cumberland (3-6)................................... 3-4

Ladysmith (3-6)...................................... 2-5

Spooner (1-8)......................................... 1-6

Barron (0-9)............................................ 0-7

Friday, Aug. 18

Northwestern 14, Ashland 8

Amery 24, Barron 0

Chetek-Weyerhaeuser 20, Elk Mound 6

Ladysmith 41, Flambeau 0

Lakeland 28, Hayward 27

Spooner 14, St. Croix Falls 0

Bloomer 46, Somerset 38

Grantsburg 72, Cumberland 52

Thursday, Aug. 24

Ladysmith 26, Lake Holcombe/Cornell 6

Friday, Aug. 25

Bloomer 43, Lakeland 14

Cumberland 42, Cameron 6

Durand 70, Barron 14

Osceola 23, Northwestern 14

Baldwin-Woodville 26, Spooner 16

Ashland 22, Hayward 14

Chetek-Weyer. 26, St. Croix Falls 15

Friday, Sept. 1

(All games 7 p.m., unless noted)

Ladysmith at Cumberland

Barron at Hayward

Chetek-Weyerhaeuser at Northwestern

Bloomer at Spooner

Friday, Sept. 8

Spooner at Barron

Northwestern at Bloomer

Cumberland at Chetek- Weyerhaeuser

Hayward at Ladysmith

Friday, Sept. 15

Bloomer at Cumberland

Chetek-Weyerhaeuser at Ladysmith

Barron at Northwestern

Hayward at Spooner

Friday, Sept. 22

Cumberland at Barron

Ladysmith at Bloomer

Chetek-Weyerhaeuser at Hayward

Northwestern at Spooner

Friday, Sept. 29

Bloomer at Chetek- Weyerhaeuser

Spooner at Cumberland

Barron at Ladysmith

Hayward at Northwestern

Friday, Oct. 6

Chetek- Weyerhaeuser at Barron

Bloomer at Hayward

Cumberland at Northwestern

Ladysmith at Spooner

Friday, Oct. 13

Barron at Bloomer

Spooner at Chetek- Weyerhaeuser

Hayward at Cumberland

Northwestern at Ladysmith

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