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Spartans prepare for another first-place foe

Superior High School's Corey Sanders (28) looks for running room during a game earlier in the season. Superior plays at Menomonie at 7 p.m. today. (Jed Carlson /

For the second straight week the Superior High School football team will face the first-place team in the Big Rivers Conference.

The Spartans are hoping for the same success they had the first time.

A week ago, Superior turned in a tremendous defensive effort in a 17-7 win at Chippewa Falls.

The Cardinals entered the game tied for first place with the Menomonie Mustangs, who just happen to be Superior’s opponent at 7 p.m. today at UW-Stout.

The Mustangs enter tonight’s game 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the BRC. Superior is also 4-1 overall and a game back in the BRC at 2-1.

After opening the season with a 45-40 loss to Greendale, the Mustangs defeated Somerset (42-22), River Falls (50-21), Eau Claire North (49-6) and Hudson (34-14).

“Menomonie really looks as good as they have in the last 10 years,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “They do such a great job utilizing their personnel groups on offense, running and throwing equally well.”

Usually a run-dominating team, Menomonie is more balanced this season with 1,333 yards rushing and 1,067 yards passing, which already almost equals last year’s total of 1,628 yards passing.

Leading the way is senior quarterback Jace LaBuda, son of head coach Joe LaBuda.

Jace LaBuda has competed 64-of-90 passes for 1,067 yards and seven touchdowns.

Mitch Weber and Justin Evans do most of the work running the ball. Weber has 611 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns, followed by Evans with 318 yard and one TD. Owen Winter only has 159 yards rushing, but he has rushed for four scores.

Blocking for the backs is lineman Alex Fenton (6-foot-5, 282 pounds), who already has committed to Wisconsin.

Rhett Sheehan and Jake Goodman both have 20 receptions, and Sam Davonsky has 15 catches and three touchdowns.

“Jace LaBuda is a very accurate passer. He can make every throw and he spreads the ball around to a lot of weapons,” DeMeyer said. “They also have several backs that will carry the ball and each of them are physical, durable and quick.”

Weber is also a returning starter at linebacker, and Winter, Jake Goodman, Rhett Sheehan and Dylan Hein are back as starters in a secondary that picked off 13 passes last season.

“Defensively they are athletic and get a lot of players to the football in a hurry,” DeMeyer said. “It’s critical that we put a complete game together, create some breaks and limit mistakes. If so, it will be another great Big River’s football game.”

Superior has 1,832 total yards on offense, including 1,041 passing and 791 rushing.

Senior quarterback Gunner Johnson had completed 42-of-72 passes for 791 yards and five TDs. He is also second in rushing with 320 yards and six TDs on 59 carries.

Gunnar Gronski is Superior’s leading rusher with 371 yards and six touchdowns on 59 carries.

Sam Kline has been Johnson’s biggest target with 15 catches for 234 yards and two scores. Max Plunkett also had 10 catches for 177 yards, Zach Tharge has 181 yards on six catches, and Corey Sanders had 162 yards and two TDs on seven catches.

Blake Graskey leads Superior on defense with 36 tackles. Joe Carter has seven tackles for losses, Plunkett had two interceptions and Chase Summerfield has recovered two fumbles.

SPARTAN SPIN: Tonight’s game will be carried live on … Coach LaBuda has 280 wins in his 28th season with Menomonie. … Menomonie has not attempted a field goal this season, and Jace LaBuda is 6-of-6 on extra-point attempts. … For Superior, Kline is 3-of-5 on field goal attempts and 15-of-16 on extra points.