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Spartan playoff berth on line tonight at Eau Claire North

The game plan for the Superior High School football team is pretty simple — win and you’re in.

The Spartans need a win tonight at Eau Claire North to qualify for WIAA playoffs for the sixth straight year. A loss to the Huskies will all but end Superior’s season.

“We’re looking at this as a playoff game,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “There has certainly been an urgency at practice, and our focus has been amped up. Our team knows what’s on the line and the importance of playing a complete game.”

The Spartans are 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big Rivers Conference. The Huskies have records of 0-8 and 0-6.

“North has athletes, and you can see on film that they are improving and very close to turning the corner,” DeMeyer said. “They’ve made costly mistakes that has kept them from winning games. If they can get those things resolved they will be very dangerous.

“We expect them to come out full of energy, very motivated to pick up the win and knock us out of the playoffs.”

ECN, which is coming off a 35-28 loss at River Falls, has just 1,626 total yards on offense, including 915 rushing, and nine touchdowns.

Superior on the other hand has 3,016 total yards, including 1,279 yards r ushing and 1,737 yards passing.

The Huskies offense is led by quarterback Ryan Venne, the son of former Superiorites Greg and Erin Venne, and the grandson of Superior’s Butch and Nancy Venne and Gary and Janet Haack.

In six games Venne has completed 52-of-102 passes for 621 yards and four touchdowns. He has also thrown three interceptions.

In last week’s loss, Venne was 17-of-31 for 228 yards and a touchdown pass to Steve Luther. He also ran for a touchdown and kicked all four extra points.

Tyler Zainhofsky leads ECN in rushing with 255 yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries.

Joey Nunefeldt has three touchdowns among his six receptions (169 yards). Braeden Neyens also had six catches for 337 yards.

“Our coaches have put in countless hours of film and preparation, and the players appear to have a good grasp on things thus far,” DeMeyer said. “I’m proud of the approach everyone has had in making sure we come out with our best effort.”

Gunnar Gronski, who leads Superior with 716 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, also said the SHS coaches will have them prepared.

“Our coaches have preached for us to play our game Friday night,” Gronski said. “We knew it was going to be a tough week (in practice), but we’re going to play hard at North.”

Quarterback Gunner Johnson has completed 67-of-118 passes for 1,279 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is also second in rushing with 485 yards and three scores.

Corey Sander also has 239 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Zach Tharge has six touchdowns and 152 yards rushing.

Johnson’s main targets are Sam Kline, 21 catches, 355 yards and four TDs; and Max Plunkett, 19 receptions for 430 yards and three TDs.

Blake Graskey leads Superior on defense with 76 tackles, including three for loss and a fumble recovery.

Plunkett has three interceptions, Sanders and Luke Drougas have two apiece and Gronski and Josiah McDonald both have two quarterback sacks.