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PREVIEW: Experienced Spartans open season at Merrill

Superior High School Spartans, from left, Dylan Lowney, Gunnar Gronski, Oscar Flaherty, Sam Oosten, Michael LaJoie and Corey Sanders pose for a photo between drills during Tuesday afternoon’s practice. The Spartans open the season tonight at Merrill. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 2
Superior High School’s Gunnar Gronski shuffles through a drill during practice on Tuesday afternoon at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com 2 / 2

There is plenty of construction going on around Superior High School.

With the school currently in the middle of some major renovations, Spartan football coach Bob DeMeyer’s rebuilding project shouldn’t be as difficult with at least 15 starters returning, including seven on offense, from last year’s team that was 6-4, including 4-3 and fourth place in the Big Rivers Conference.

“The common denominator with both sides of the ball is that these kids know where the weight room is,” DeMeyer said. “They’re all competitive, they love to compete, they’re great teammates, they make people around them better, and that’s what you want out of any team.”

“I like the progress we’ve made so far. Our goal, like every team in the country, is to get better every day.”

The Spartans open the season at 7 today at Merrill and host Somerset next week before opening conference play Sept. 1 at Eau Claire Memorial.

Leading the way on both sides of the ball is senior Gunnar Gronski, who led the Spartans in rushing last year and was second in tackles at linebacker.

Last year’s Superior Telegram Player of the Year, as well as a Big Rivers Conference first-team all-conference selection, rushed for 844 yards and 11 touchdowns on 123 carries. He also finished with 58 tackles, including 44 solo, on defense.

“He’s a leader in every way,” DeMeyer said. “An outstanding man on and off the field and in the classroom. He’s our go-to guy. When you want something done, he’s going to do it.

“But we have a lot of those kids on our roster. They’re trustworthy and reliable — we stress day in and day out.”

Offense

The offensive unit is anchored by a line that features four returning starters, including Sam Oosten (all-conference second team) and Oscar Flaherty, both three-year starters.

“It’s great to have those two kids side-by side,” DeMeyer said. “They have strong chemistry and have developed into solid players and solid kids over the years.”

Also returning are center Michael LaJoie and tackle D.J. Martin.

“All four are multi-sport athletes,” DeMeyer said. “They love the weightroom, are great leaders, and help the younger kids. Having all four back certainly makes us stronger as a team.”

Others competing for spots on the offensive line are juniors Nathan Peterson, Lars Root and Jackson Krull, and sophomore Luke Persons.

Senior Corey Sanders returns as a slot back. He was third in rushing last year with 311 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 16 passes for 300 yards and two scores.

Also competing for backfield playing time are seniors Drake and Devin Smarzia; and juniors Connor Fonger, Elijah Owens and Cayden Laurvick.

The biggest battle on offense is for starting quarterback between seniors Spencer Udeen and Luke Drougas.

“Spencer’s a veteran in our offense, he’s a trustworthy kid and takes care of the football,” DeMeyer said. “He knows our scheme very well and is another lefty like Gunner Johnson (last year’s starting QB). He’s developed as a thrower, he runs very well, his accuracy has gotten better and he’s very capable of running our offense.

“Luke is also an outstanding athlete, versatile and very explosive.”

Also in the mix at quarterback is sophomore Jarrett Gronski, the younger brother of Gunnar.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, who will also compete for a spot at outside linebacker,” DeMeyer said.

The quarterback will benefit with the return of wide receiver Max Plunket (all-conference first-team defense, honorable mention offense), who led the Spartans last year with 29 catches for 603 yards and six touchdowns.

“He’s a very explosive athlete who puts a lot of time in the weight room,” DeMeyer said. “He’s also a multi-sport athlete (hockey and track), he loves to compete, is a great leader and very coachable.”

Other wide outs include seniors Dom D’Auria and Kobie Kmecik, and junior James Bronson and sophomore Jontae Pederson.

Defense

The Spartans will have to replace their top two tacklers from last season in Blake Graskey (101 tackles, 75 solo) and Zach Tharge ( 64 tackles, 47 solo).

Looking to fill their spikes will be G. Gronski, Sanders (57 tackles, 45 solo), and Plunkett, who had 55 tackles (47 solo) to go along with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Returning starters on the defensive line are senior Dylan Lowney and juniors Chase Summerfield and Gabe Sexton.

“All three are great athletes, worked hard in the off-season,” DeMeyer said.

Also in close competition are Persons, senior Cameron Borgh and Root.

Joining G. Gronski at inside linebacker are seniors Logan Stone, Brandon McClure and Hunter Summers, and juniors Trevor Dalbec and Sam Gidley. Drake Smarzia is also in the mix, but is currently out with a thumb injury.

Oosten will also play at outside linebacker, along with returning senior starters Joe Carter and Tradel Nickelson. Also in the mix is J. Gronski.

Joining Plunkett as starting defensive backs are Drougas and Sanders, who started at linebacker last season.

 “Plunkett is the best secondary player in the conference,” DeMeyer said. “But we also have two others back there that are equally talented in Sanders and Drougas.”

Also in the mix are Laurvick, Devin Smarzia and junior Nathan Anderson.

Special teams

One of the toughest players DeMeyer has to replace may be Sam Kline, who made 5-of-7 field goals attempts, was 37-of-38 on extra points, and caught 26 passes for 437 yards and five touchdowns.

“Sam was a weapon as a kicker, punter and wide receiver, so that’s a big loss,” DeMeyer said. “Sanders is punting right now and is pretty darn good, actually. He’s getting better each day.”

Competing for the kicker spot are D’Aura, Fonger and Peterson.

Season opener

The Superior-Merrill series has been one sided with the Spartans winning all three games since the matchup started in 2014.

Despite Superior winning by scores of 38-14, 50-20 and 31-7, DeMeyer expects a battle tonight at Jay Stadium.

“Merrill is a big, physical team that is returning a lot of players, seven on offense and eight on defense,” DeMeyer said. “They consistently win their league and are very well coached. This will be a very big test for our football team and we’ll find out a lot more about where we’re at.”

The Blue Jays finished 6-4 last season and tied for first in the Great Northern Conference with Antigo and Medford with 5-1 records. They lost their Level 1 playoff game 41-0 to Rice Lake.

SPARTAN SPIN: Several players are on the Wisconsin Sports Network’s (wissports.net) state-wide watch lists, including G. Gronski (Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch Award for running backs); Oosten (Joe Thomas Award for offensive linemen); and Plunkett (Jim Leonhard Award for defensive backs). … All SHS football games will be carried live on ifan.tv.

 

Superior High School

2017 Football Roster

                                     Gr.     HT   WT        Pos.

1  Brady Herbst............ 10    6-1  150    QB/LB

2  Cody Kurki............... 10    5-8  162    RB/LB

3  Elijah Owens........... 11  5-10  150   HB/DB

4  Drake Samarzia....... 12  5-10  160   HB/DB

5  Tradel Nickelson..... 12    6-1  180    HB/LB

6  Jarrett Gronski......... 10  5-11  195    QB/LB

7  Spencer Udeen........ 12    5-9  158   QB/DB

8  Luke Drougas ......... 12    6-0  178   QB/DB

9  Joe Carter................ 12    6-0  180    RB/LB

10 Ryley Laughlin....... 11  5-11  155   HB/DB

11 Jordan Hicks.......... 12    6-4  178  WR/DB

12 Max Plunkett.......... 12    6-2  188  WR/DB

13 Kaleb Ullan............. 12    6-0  175   WR/LB

14 David Fender ......... 11    6-0  175   QB/DB

15 Devin Samarzia...... 12    5-9  165  WR/DB

16 Blake Arnovich....... 10    5-8  130    HB/LB

17 Austin Lahr............. 10  5-10  154    RB/LB

18 Spencer Gudowski. 10    5-9  140   QB/DB

19 Drew Debruyne....... 11  5-10  155    QB/LB

20 Kain Walberg.......... 12    5-7  152   HB/DB

21 Trevor Dalbec ........ 11    5-9  165    RB/LB

22 Landon Lathrop....... 11    5-6  135    RB/LB

23 Caden Stone........... 10    5-7  155    HB/LB

24 Kobie Kmecik......... 12    6-2  155  WR/DB

25 Jaxon D’Auria......... 10    5-9  180    HB/LB

26 Jontae Pederson.... 10    6-3  165  WR/DB

27 Conner Fonger........ 11    5-9  175      RB/K

28 Corey Sanders........ 12    6-0  190   HB/DB

29 Nate Peterson......... 11    6-0  249    OL/DL

30 Devin Lowney......... 10  5-10  125  WR/DB

31 Cayden Laurvick.... 11    5-9  145   HB/DB

32 Brennan Morrissey. 10    5-7  145   HB/DB

33 Carson Korkalo....... 10    5-8  140  WR/DB

35 Will Schorr.............. 10    6-1  180  WR/DB

36 Sean McCoshen..... 10    6-0  150   HB/DB

37 Hunter Summers..... 12    6-0  175    HB/LB

39 Trevor Nicoski........ 10    5-5  130   HB/DB

40 Willy Flynn............. 12    6-0  165    HB/LB

41 Caelan Wick........... 11    6-0  180    HB/LB

42 Luke Soderstrom.... 11    6-2  170   WR/LB

43 Gunnar Gronski....... 12    6-0  195    RB/LB

44 Logan Stone........... 12    5-7  165    RB/LB

45 Nathan Anderson.... 11    6-1  155  WR/DB

46 Brandon McClure.... 12    5-7  150    RB/LB

47 Carter Fonger............ 9    5-9  173    RB/LB

48 Austin Johnson...... 10  5-10  175    RB/LB

50 Hudson Ojeda......... 10  5-11  170    OL/DL

52 Adam Young........... 10  5-10  181    OL/LB

53 Derek Fender.......... 11    6-0  180    OL/LB

54 Michael LaJoie....... 12    6-0  270    OL/DL

55 Lars Root................ 11    6-0  200    OL/DL

56 DJ Martin................ 11    6-1  229    OL/DL

57 Chase Summerfield 11    6-1  205    OL/DL

59 Gabe Sexton .......... 11    6-3  215    OL/DL

60 Nathan Young......... 10  5-11  215    OL/LB

62 Nathan Peterson .... 11    6-0  249    OL/DL

64 Seth Smetak........... 10    6-0  170    OL/DL

65 Wyatt Reed............. 10  5-11  200    OL/DL

66 Sam Gidley............. 11    5-9  185    OL/LB

68 Quinn Dahl.............. 10    5-9  210    OL/DL

69 Carter Shoudy......... 12    6-0  185    OL/DL

70 Sam Oosten ........... 12    6-2  210    OL/DL

71 Luke Persons......... 10    6-1  255    OL/DL

72 Jackson Krull......... 11  5-10  195    OL/DL

73 Brock Bergstrom..... 10    6-0  200    OL/DL

74 Tyler Moen.............. 10    6-2  210    OL/DL

75 Oscar Flaherty........ 12    5-9  225    OL/DL

76 Nick Ward............... 11    6-0  256    OL/DL

77 Keagon Mohr.......... 11    6-0  270    OL/DL

78 Dylan Lowney......... 12    6-0  256    OL/DL

80 Kallahan Kappes.... 10    6-3  175  WR/DB

81 Dominic D’Auria..... 12    6-1  170     WR/K

82 Cameron Borgh....... 12    6-4  195    TE/LB

83 Ian Matheson.......... 10    6-1  160   WR/LB

84 Carter Brown........... 10    6-0  150  WR/DB

85 Jackson Crary........ 10  5-10  161   HB/DB

86 Tyson Degerstrom.. 10  5-11  165    HB/LB

87 James Bronson...... 11    6-1  170  WR/DB

89 Chris Hoivik............ 10  5-11  152  WR/DB

91 Alex Buczynski...... 10    5-8  182    OL/DL

92 Mason Tollefson..... 11    6-0  165   DL/WR

95 Dylan Thorson........ 11    6-2  215    OL/DL

96 Tristian Savoye...... 12    5-7  157  WR/DB

97 Jonah Johnson....... 12    6-1  140  WR/DB

98 Brahden Long......... 11  5-10  232    OL/LB

99 Donavynne Brown.. 10  5-10  254    OL/DL

Varsity Coaching Staff: Bob DeMeyer (head coach), Trevor Sorensen, Aaron Anderson, Scotty Collins, Aaron Fezzey, Chad Johnson, Rick Kennelly, Keegan O’Neill, Rich Reder, Rob Scott, Larry Thomas.

Managers: Cassisy Chaffey, Rianna Fortin, Katie Olson, Ari Persons, Olivia Olson, Allison Malec.

Ball boys: Sam Meller, Isiah Kastern.

JV Coaches: Jesse Samarziya, Jesse Falter, Walter Gaulke, Matt Johnson, Joey McDonald.

Freshmen Coaches: Don Polkinghorne, Mark Moselle, Jon Reker, Nick Olson, Aaron Wakefield-Zubiate.

Athletic Trainer: Mike Gogolin

Equipment Manager: Tom Lozon

Audiovisual Technician: Caleb Sexton

Statisticians: Jamie Wick, Scott Smetak

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