It was a historic year for local football teams.
At Northwestern High School, the Tigers ended their season one victory from the state championship game and had an undefeated regular season. The Northwood-Solon Springs Evergreens made the playoffs for the second consecutive year and finished the season with their best conference record in decades.
In both cases, much of the success can be attributed to senior leadership.
The class of 2010 is well represented in this year's Superior Telegram All-Area Football Team. All but one of the team members are seniors.
Joining Player of the Year Ryan Miesbauer on the all-area team are 10 seniors and one junior. Listed below in alphabetical order are the members of this year's all-area team.
Also nominated were Superior seniors Jake Turkowsi, Mike LaValley and AJ Soland; sophomore Phil Larson from Solon Springs; and senior Steven Perry from Northwestern.
Going up against Spartan defensive lineman Nikola Bogojevic was not a thought most opponents relished this season. Typically, keeping Bogojevic in check was more than a one-man job.
"Because our opponents usually had to double and triple team him, he freed up his teammates to make tackles," Superior coach Bob DeMeyer said. "However, Niko would also chase ball carriers down the line of scrimmage and downfield."
Bogojevic has anchored Superior's defensive line for the past two years. This season as a senior, he earned a place on the Big Rivers Conference All-Conference first team defense. Bogojevic had 40 total tackles for the Spartans this year, three for a loss of yardage.
"What Niko has done as a Spartan student-athlete has been amazing," DeMeyer said. "A kid like Niko doesn't come around very often. He has the drive like no other, never missing a workout in the four years I've known him."
During those four years, Bogojevic has been hard at work in the weight room. His weight lifting has helped him not only in football but in wrestling, which he will continue at the college level next year when competing for the University of Wisconsin.
"He has shattered every weight lifting record at SHS and he continues to get stronger," DeMeyer said. "He was a national Greco-Roman wrestling champion this past summer because of his work ethic. His wrestling success carried over to the football field as he used those skills on the defensive line. As a result he was not only a physically force, mentally he knew he paid the price to handle any challenge in front of him."
With all of the talent on the Northwestern football team, it was easy for opponents to overlook Lee Brown at the start of the season. Then the senior started picking off passes, game after game.
By the time Northwestern began moving through its conference schedule, opponents knew not to throw if Brown was nearby.
"Lee was a dominating safety for us this year," said Dennis Scherz, NHS head coach. "He was a big part of our defensive success. He could bring the wood and made some hits that changed momentum in some of our games."
Brown had six interceptions this season to lead the Tigers. He also played tight end for Northwestern and had two touchdown catches.
Brown was named to the Heart O' North All-Conference first team as a defensive back.
Whether serving as a running back or defensive back, senior Zach Colvin was always on the move for the Spartans this season.
"In my opinion, Zach was the best athlete on the field every night. He has natural physical skills that are unbelievable," DeMeyer said.
Colvin has committed to play for Division I North Dakota State University next season. This season, he was kept busy filling multiple roles for Superior.
"We asked a lot of Zach, expecting him to make plays on offense, defense and special teams," DeMeyer said. "He was electrifying to say the least. He was a threat to score every time he touched the ball, even considering how opposing teams schemed specifically to stop him."
Colvin led the Spartans in all-purpose yards for the season with 781. He was second on the team in both receiving and rushing, with 135 and 258 yards, respectively. As a kickoff returner, Colvin added another 340 yards.
On defense, Colvin was second for the Spartans in total tackles, with 43 solo and 25 assists.
"Zach also made plays at the line of scrimmage from his free safety position and when moved to corner would very often be lined up against the opponent's best receiver," DeMeyer said. "His play earned him a spot on the Big Rivers Conference All-Conference first team as a defensive back."
This season, every player on the Northwestern football team new his role. Kevin Derick's job was to provide speed to the Tiger offense.
"Teams could not match his speed," Scherz said. "He was a difference maker."
The senior running back finished the season with 1,464 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. He averaged more than 10 yards per carry came up with big runs when the Tigers needed them. Derick scored two of the Tigers' three touchdowns against Somerset in Northwestern's Level 3 playoff victory in Maple.
As one of Northwestern's team captains this year, Derick also set a good example for his teammates.
"He spent countless hours in the weight room over the past couple of years," Scherz said. "He was one of our strongest players pound for pound and a great team leader."
Derick was named to the HON All-Conference first team as a running back and also earned all-region honors as a running back this season.
Linemen often seem to be the unsung heroes on the football field. This year, the Northwestern Tigers rushed for more than 4,000 total yards and scored 507 points, something Scherz said wouldn't have happened without the work of the linemen.
Tim Follis was one of the linemen who helped make the Tigers successful this season. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior was named to the HON All-Conference first team as an offensive lineman this season.
"Timmy was the reason we were able to run both right and left effectively," Scherz said. "He trained hard in the offseason and was rewarded for his efforts by his first team all conference selection.
Donnie Hissa recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Notre Dame, but this season the 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior proved he can be just as effective on the football field.
"He was a major part of our offense," Scherz said. "He was also an anchor on our defense, which gave up less than 10 points a game."
Hissa was named to the HON All-Conference first team as both a offensive tackle and a defensive tackle. He was also named all-region and all-state as an offensive tackle.
For the Tigers, he also played a key leadership role as one of the team's senior captains.
"Donnie is a great leader and an emotional player," Scherz said. "He is an outstanding student."
"Kellen McCoshen is an all-around outstanding athlete," DeMeyer said. "He played every game at quarterback for us and eventually became a two-way starter as we needed him on the defensive side of the ball."
During the offseason, McCoshen dealt with an injury that prevented him from throwing the football. When the season rolled around though, the senior filled his position as quarterback efficiently.
"Kellen is exactly what we look for in a quarterback to run our offense," DeMeyer said. "Physically he is tough, he runs the option very well, he can make all the throws we ask him to make and he makes good decisions. He's also incredibly smart and understands our scheme very well."
McCoshen finished with 739 yards of total offense for the Spartans, 635 passing and 104 rushing. He also served as Superior's punter, averaging 35.8 yards a kick with a long kick of 54 yards.
On defense, DeMeyer had intended all offseason to play McCoshen at safety, but he hesitated to make that move after McCoshen's injury in the offseason and a subsequent injury to Superior's backup quarterback.
"He was simply too valuable and we did want to take the risk of getting him injured," DeMeyer said. "When we did finally play him there the impact was immediate as he made many outstanding plays the last few games of the season.
"Kellen has the physical tools, the academic status and character qualities necessary to play several sports beyond high school should he choose to do so."
Since he was a freshman, T.J. Polkoski has made a name for himself playing on both sides of the ball.
As a junior this year, Polkoski led Northwestern in tackles and was the go-to guy on offense when the Tigers needed to power the ball into the end zone.
"T. J. is a physically dominant football player," Scherz said. "He is a great runner and an outstanding linebacker."
Polkoski was often the player to make game-changing hits for the Tigers this season, and he was named to both the all-region and HON All-Conference first teams as a linebacker. Polkoski also made the HON All-Conference second team as a running back.
"He is a fiery player that raises the level of play of his teammates," Scherz said.
At the start of the season Northwood-Solon Springs head coach Jason Fox said senior Gerrod Richard would carry a heavy load for the team. His faith in Richard's athletic ability was well-placed.
This year, Richard was named to the Small Lakeland Conference All-Conference first team as a linebacker. He led the Evergreens on defense this season with 95 tackles, but Richard was also Northwood's top offensive player.
At the start of the year, the 6-foot-2 190-pound senior lined up as a fullback and provided the power in Northwood's running game. Over the last few games of the season, however, Richard took over as quarterback.
With Richard throwing the ball, the Evergreens won their final two games of the regular season and breezed into the playoffs with a 5-3 conference record, the best in about 20 years. In those final two games Richard threw for a combined 245 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 255 yards and two more touchdowns.
For the season, Richard had more than 800 yards rushing.
Ethan Taylor has started every game at linebacker for the Spartans in the past two seasons. This year he was named to the BRC All-Conference first team as a linebacker, and Coach DeMeyer said the senior was also in the running for the conference defensive player of the year.
"Several opposing coaches feel he was the best linebacker in the conference and one of the best in the state," DeMeyer said. "Ethan plays football the way it should be played - with heart, energy and aggressiveness. Physically he was the toughest kid on the field every night. He used his instincts and speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and he was a sure tackler."
Taylor led the Spartans in tackles with 93 -- 49 solo and 44 assists. He also chipped in 9.4 yards per game as a running back.
"Ethan's play has garnered the interest of several college programs, and he will continue to improve at that level," DeMeyer said "He will be an asset to the program that lands him because of his character and physical tools."
Like many of the players on the Tigers team this year, Waylon Wermter put in the hours of work in the weight room to prepare for the football season. That extra effort gave the senior an edge.
"He was a dedicated weight lifter and a great example of what Northwestern football is all about," Scherz said. "He made himself a great football player by living in the weight room."
Wermter was named to the HON All-Conference first team as an offensive lineman and was also an all-region selection as an offensive lineman.
"Waylon was a power force on our offensive line," Scherz said. "He was an outstanding trap blocker."