After a pair of non-conference victories to start the season, the Superior High School football team opens Big Rivers Conference action tonight at Eau Claire Memorial.
The Old Abes are one of two teams in the BRC to feature new head coaches.
Former Menomonie player and Mondovi coach Mike Sinz is now head coach at ECM, while former Northwestern Tigers coach David Crail is now at River Falls.
Menomonie was picked by BRC coaches as the team to beat this season, followed by Rice Lake and Chippewa Falls. Menomonie is also the defending champion with a 7-0 record.
“There’s not a weak team in our league,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “There’s no clear cut strongest team in the league last year. It’s been that way for a while and it gets stronger every year. Every week is a battle and it will be the same this year.
“We just need to figure out a way to win the close ones, if we get ourselves in a position to win games in the fourth quarter, every game is winnable.”
The Spartans tuned up for BRC play with wins over Merrill (20-10) and Somerset (62-50).
Senior quarterback Luke Drougas has been a pleasant surprise for DeMeyer and the Spartans, rushing for a team-high 256 yards and six touchdowns and completing 9-of-13 passes for 196 yards and two scores.
Gunnar Gronski also has 221 yards and two TD rushing, and Max Plunkett has five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Chase Summerfield lead the Spartans with 11 tackles. Drougas and Gronski are next with eight apiece.
“We told the kids after the Somerset game that this was the last tune-up,” DeMeyer said. “We had two very tough non-conference opponents and we got exactly out of those games what we wanted. It gets real this week and our kids know that. We started preparing for Memorial on Saturday.
“Our goal is always to win the conference, but we have to take it one week at a time, win as many games as we can and get as far as we can in the playoffs.”
SPARTAN SPIN: Tonight’s game at Carson Park begins at 7 p.m. and will be carried live on ifan.tv. … Superior defeated ECM 22-21 last season, but lost to the Old Abes 27-14 in Eau Claire in 2015.
Eau Claire Memorial
Up first for Superior is the ECM Old Abes, who went 4-5 overall and 2-5 in the BRC last season, despite outscoring and outgaining their opponents.
The Old Abes return quarterback Keagan Calchera and running backs Jack Brown and Cormac Sampson.
Calchera ran and passed for 1,501 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
In wins over La Crosse Logan (35-6) and La Crosse Central (47-22), Calchera was 20-of-28 passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
Calvin Tanner and Kyle Wilson have been his main targets with 12 catches for 252 yards and four TDs between them. Brown leads the Old Abes on the ground with 329 yards and four touchdowns.
The Mustangs won their first BRC title in five years last season. Their last league title came in 2011. Prior to that they dominated the BRC, winning 17 titles in 22 years.
Menomonie went undefeated in the league and advanced to the WIAA Division 2 semifinals.
Menomonie is off to a 2-0 start defeating Oshkosh North and Holmen by a combined score of 89-14.
Returning is 1,000-yard running back Justin Evans, who has 276 yards rushing and six touchdowns already this season.
First-year starting quarterback Jake Ebert is 3-of-8 passing for 74 yards and a touchdowns.
The Raiders, second in the BRC last season, return quarterbacks Keyser Helterbrand and Max Stubbendick and running back Aaron Squires from a team that finished second last season with records of 8-3 overall, 5-2 BRC.
Hudson is currently 1-1 with a 28-10 win over Kenosha Indian Trail and a 23-21 loss to Stevens Point.
Helterbrand and Stubbendick are a combined 14-of-22 passing for 263 yards. Their main target has been Ben Karls with six catches for 151 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals, under coach Chuck Raykovich, return their entire offensive backfield.
Codie Meinen, Matt Pomietlo and Matt Bruder combined for 2,597 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. The quarterback is second-year starter Logan Hutzler.
The Cardinals are 1-1 this season, losing to Holmen 34-28 and beating Medford 28-13.
Most of their damage has been done on the ground with Meinen running for 361 yards and five touchdowns, and Pomietlo adding 198 yards and two TDs.
Raykovich, who played college football at UW-Superior, has a record of 175-129 in 32 seasons at Chippewa Falls.
Hutzler, along with Owen Huydson, are 5-of-15 passing for 43 yards.
The Warriors return running backs Billy Brown and DeAirus Clearveaux and receiver, and national sprint star, Kenny Bednarek.
Rice Lake opened the season with a 36-0 win over Medford.
The Warriors’ home football opener last Friday vs. New Richmond was cancelled due to an illness sweeping through the New Richmond team. The team had a catered meal on Thursday night, and food poisoning is suspected, according to reports received by Rice Lake High School athletic director Tim Lipke.
Crail is building his new team around quarterback Logan Graetz, who passed for 1,216 yards last season.
The Wildcats opened with losses of 17-14 to New Richmond and 13-7 to Ellsworth.
Graetz and Ryan Flanigan have completed 20-of-45 pass attempts for 221 yards.
Graetz is also second in rushing with 89 yards on 20 carries. Seth Kohel leads River Falls in rushing with 191 yards and one touchdown.
Payton Flood, Nate Rismann and Joe Stoffel all have five receptions for a combined 170 yards.
Eau Claire North
The Huskies are looking to improve on last year’s 0-9 record.
That will be tough to do without starting quarterback Ryan Venne, who suffered a shoulder injury and is out for the season.
Venne is the son of former Superiorites Greg and Erin Venne and the grandson of Superior’s Butch and Nancy Venne and Gary and Janet Haack.
The Huskies are also without Brock Schweiters, last year’s leading rusher who is suffering from the effects of a concussion and will not play.
ECN is 0-2 with losses to La Crosse Central (45-7) and La Crosse Logan (20-7).
Quarterback Tyler Greenlund is 16-of-49 passing for 255 yards. Tyler Ellis leads in rushing with 115 yards on 35 attempts.
Big Rivers Conference
2016 Final Standings
Menomonie (11-2).................................. 7-0
Hudson (8-3).......................................... 5-2
Rice Lake (10-3).................................... 5-2
Superior (6-4)............................................ 4-3
Chippewa Falls (5-5).............................. 4-3
Eau Claire Mem. (4-5)............................ 2-5
River Falls (2-7)..................................... 1-6
Eau Claire North (0-9)............................ 0-7
Friday, Aug 18
Hudson 28, Kenosha Indian Trail 10
Superior 20, Merrill 10
Menomonie 40, Oshkosh North 0
River Falls at New Richmond
La Crosse 45, Eau Claire North 7
Eau Claire Mem. 35, La Crosse Logan 6
Rice Lake 36, Medford 0
Holmen 34, Chippewa Falls 28
Thursday, Aug 24
Eau Claire Mem. 47, La Crosse Central 22
Friday, Aug. 25
Superior 62, Somerset 50
Ellsworth 13, River Falls 78
New Richmond at Rice Lake (cancelled)
La Crosse Logan 20, Eau Claire North 7
Menomonie 49, Holmen 14
Stevens Point 23, Hudson 21
Chippewa Falls 28, Medford 13
Friday, Sept. 1
(All games 7 p.m., unless noted)
Superior at Eau Claire Memorial
Chippewa Falls at Rice Lake
Eau Claire North at Hudson
River Falls at Menomonie
Friday, Sept. 8
Rice Lake at River Falls
Superior at Hudson
Eau Claire Memorial at Chippewa Falls
Menomonie at Eau Claire North
Friday, Sept. 15
Chippewa Falls at Superior
Eau Claire North at Rice Lake
River Falls at Eau Claire Memorial
Hudson at Menomonie
Friday, Sept. 22
Chippewa Falls at River Falls
Rice Lake at Hudson
Menomonie at Superior
Eau Claire Memorial at Eau Claire North
Friday, Sept. 29
Superior at River Falls
Eau Claire North at Chippewa Falls
Hudson at Eau Claire Memorial
Menomonie at Rice Lake
Friday, Oct. 6
Superior at Rice Lake
Eau Claire Memorial at Menomonie
Chippewa Falls at Hudson
River Falls at Eau Claire North
Friday, Oct. 13
Rice Lake at Eau Claire Memorial
Hudson at River Falls
Eau Claire North at Superior
Menomonie at Chippewa Falls
Big Rivers Conference
1991—Eau Claire North
1992—Chippewa Falls and Menomonie
1995—Eau Claire Memorial, Menomonie and River Falls
1998— Eau Claire Memorial, Menomonie
2000—Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and Rice Lake
2011—Eau Claire Memorial, Menomonie
2015—Chippewa Falls, Rice Lake
2016 — Menomonie