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SHS rally falls short

Superior High School's Gunnar Gronski (43) attempts to avoid a tackle by Rice Lake's Brandon Sutton (14) during Friday's game at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. Rice Lake won 42-35. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 9
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A playoff berth for the Superior High School football team was put on hold with a 42-35 loss to the Rice Lake Warriors Friday night at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

The Spartans made a dramatic attempt at clinching their fifth straight playoff berth by erasing a 28-7 deficit early in the second half with three straight touchdowns to tie the game up with 10:21 left.

Unfortunately for Superior, Rice Lake scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to clinch its own playoff berth and improve to 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Rivers Conference.

The Spartans, 5-3, 3-3, now need a win Friday night at Eau Claire North to qualify for the postseason. The Huskies are 0-8 and 0-6.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “This showed what we’ve been talking about all season. Even though we made some mistakes, we continued to fight and made a ball game out of it.

“Rice Lake is a very good football team and they were nearly perfect in the first half. But I liked the way our guys came out in the second half. We still made a couple of costly mistakes, but that’s going to happen. The important thing is that we still have a shot, we’re still alive.”

Gunnar Gronski had a big game for Superior, rushing for 157 yards, including touchdowns of 13 and 16 yards. He also caught two passes for 34 yards and had four tackles on defense.

“He’s been that way all season,” DeMeyer said. “He’s a reliable, tough, physical kid. He’s also a heck of a blocker, a heck of a runner, and does a great job on defense. He’s just an all-around great football player.

“I give a lot of credit to our kids up front too. We challenged them all week and they rose to the occasion.”

Spartan quarterback Gunner Johnson completed 17-of-27 passes for 276 yards, including touchdown passes of 46 yards to Sam Kline and 70 yards to Max Plunkett.

Plunkett finished with five catches for 100 yards. Kline added four catches for 87 yards.

Superior finished with 506 yards on offense, compared to 368 for Rice Lake.

Reilly Nolin led the Warriors with 122 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Sophomore DeArius Clerveaux added 69 yards on seven carries.

“You have to credit them for what they did,” Rice Lake coach Dan Hill said. “We got kind of ugly towards the end assignment-wise. We weren’t paying attention and at times didn’t even know who was supposed to be in the game.

“We must have did enough good things because we punched our ticket (for the playoffs). That’s suppose to feel good, but right now, as a defensive coach, you watched what happened, it doesn’t feel like we won.”

Rice Lake received the second-half kick, and 71 yards later the Warriors took a 28-7 lead when Brandon Sutton scored from 11 yards out and Luke Fleming booted the extra point.

Superior’s comeback started with Gronski getting all 76 yards on a five-play drive. After runs of 4, 22 and 37 yards, Gronski scored from 13 yards out with 5:56 left in the third quarter.

The Spartan defense forced a Rice Lake punt, and six plays later Johnson ran up the middle 3 yards for the score.

Rice Lake moved the ball around 40 yards on its next drive, but Josiah McDonald recovered a fumble at the 30 with 10:31 remaining.

On the next play Johnson threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Plunkett to tie the game 28-28.

Superior then pulled off a successful onside kick when Luke Drougas recovered a loose ball near midfield.

Gronski ran the ball deep into Rice Lake territory on the first play, but a holding penalty moved the ball back across the 50-yard line.

A short pass, an incomplete pass and an 8-yard loss on a sack led to Superior punting.

Rice Lake followed with a 74-yard drive ending with Nolin scoring from 4 yards out.

The Warriors sealed the victory when Nolin returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown with 2:08 remaining.

The Spartans weren’t done yet as Gronski scored from 16 yards out with 19 seconds remaining.

“We showed a lot of heart, I’m impressed with the entire team,” Gronski said. “I may have had some success tonight, but I can’t do anything without the blocking from the big guys up front. I can only do my job when they’re doing their job, and they did a great job tonight.”

The Spartans were their own worst enemy on the opening drive of the game.

After Superior moved the ball to Rice Lake’s 30-yard line, a false start, dropped pass and a holding penalty were followed by a 5-yard punt.

Rice Lake followed with an 11-play, 64-yard drive that ended with quarterback Steve Scheurer scoring from a yard out. Luke Fleming kicked the extra point with 2:53 left in the first quarter.

Rice Lake recovered a Spartan fumble on the first play of the second quarter and 33 seconds later took a 14-0 lead on Nolin’s 2-yard touchdown and Fleming’s kick.

Superior cut the lead in half on its next drive when Johnson found Kline alone on the left sidelines on a 46-yard touchdown. Kline also kicked the extra point with 7:51 left in the half.

Rice Lake matched Superior’s touchdown pass with one of its own as Scheurer and Averie Habis connected on a 21-yard TD on a fourth-down play. Fleming’s kick gave the Warriors a 21-7.

Superior moved the ball again on its next drive as Gronski caught a 24-yard pass and ran for another 32 yards putting the ball at the Rice Lake 33. But a loss of 2 yards on a run was followed by two incomplete passes and Superior was forced to punt.

Both teams failed to score on their next possessions and the half ended 21-7 in favor of Rice Lake.

SPARTAN SPIN: Kline was 5-of-5 on extra points for Superior. … Rice Lake was 3-for-3 on fourth down. … Each team lost a fumble. … Blake Graskey and Zach Tharge led Superior with 12 tackles apiece.

 

Rice Lake....................... 7        14         7      14       —       42

Superior......................... 0         7        14     14       —       35

First Quarter

RL—Steve Scheurer 1-yard run (Luke Fleming kick), 2:53.

Second Quarter

RL—Reilly Nolin 2-yard run (Fleming kick), 11:25.

SHS—Sam Kline 46-yard pass from Gunner Johnson (Kline kick), 7:51.

RL—Averie Habas 21-yard pass from Scheurer (Fleming kick), 4:17.

 

Third Quarter

RL—Brandon Sutton 10-yard run (Fleming kick), 7:17.

SHS—Gunnar Gronski 14-yard run (Kline kick), 2:01.

SHS—Johnson 3-yard run (Kline kick), 2:01.

Fourth Quarter

SHS—Max Plunkett 70-yard pass from Johnson (Kline kick), 10:21.

RL—Nolin 4-yard run (Fleming kick), 3:21.

RL—Cody Willger 37-yard interception return (Fleming kick), 2:08.

SHS—Gronski 16-yard run (Kline kick), 0:19.

TEAM STATISTICS

                                               RL                        SHS

Total Yards............................... 368                        506

Passing Yards........................... 52                         276

Rushing.................................. 52-316                    31-230

First Downs............................... 19                         20

Third Down............................... 2-8                        6-11

Fourth-Down............................. 3-3                        1-2

Penalties.................................. 4-42                       8-74

Fum./Lost................................. 1-1                        1-1

Time...................................... 25:58                     22:02

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—RL, Reilly Nolin, 19-122; DeArius Clerveaux, 7-69; Steve Scheurer, 11-48; Billy Brown, 5-40; Dylan Roberts, 6-17; Brandon Sutton, 3-15; John Kohler, 1-5. SHS, Gunner Gronski, 15-157; Gunner Johnson, 12-54; Corey Sanders, 2-12; Zach Tharge, 2-7.

PASSING—RL, Scheurer, 3-4-0-52. SHS, Johnson, 17-27-1-276.

RECEIVING—RL, Averie Habas, 2-29; Kenny Bednarek, 1-23. SHS, Max Plunkett, 5-100; Sanders, 4-37; Sam Kline, 4-87; Gronski, 2-34; Tharge, 2-18.

DEFENSE

Superior—Zach Tharge, 12; Blake Graskey, 12; Chase Elder, 8; Josiah McDonald, 7; Luke Drougas, 6; Tradel Nickelson, 5; Max Plunkett, 5; Gunnar Gronski, 4; Corey Sanders, 4; Nick Ferrando, 2; Devin Samarzia, 1; CJ Fortune, 1; Chase Summerfield, 1; Jack Sannes, 1; Dylan Lowney, 1.

Rice Lake— John Kohler, 6; Kenny Bednarek, 5; Brandon Sutton, 5; Averie Habas, 4; Daniel Ronning, 4; Luke Fleming, 4; Cody Willger, 4.

 

Big Rivers Conference

xy-Menomonie (7-1)..................................... 6-0

y-Chippewa Falls (5-3)................................. 4-2

y-Rice Lake (6-2)......................................... 4-2

y-Hudson (6-2)........................................... 4-2

Superior (5-3)............................................... 3-3

Eau Claire Memorial (4-4).............................. 2-4

River Falls (2-6)........................................... 1-5

Eau Claire North (0-8)................................... 0-6

x-clinched BRC title

y-clinched playoff berth

Friday, Oct. 7

Hudson 23, Chippewa Falls 15

Menomonie 28, Eau Claire Memorial 17

River Falls 35, Eau Claire North 28

Rice Lake 42, Superior 35

Friday, Oct. 14

Superior at Eau Claire North

River Falls at Hudson

Chippewa Falls at Menomonie

Eau Claire Memorial at Rice Lake

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