Evergreens football program still growing

In winter and spring, the Northwood Evergreens and Solon Springs Eagles are fierce rivals. In the fall, however, the two schools come together and play on one field as the Northwood-Solon Springs football team.

In winter and spring, the Northwood Evergreens and Solon Springs Eagles are fierce rivals. In the fall, however, the two schools come together and play on one field as the Northwood-Solon Springs football team.

"Football season, all hard feelings have got to go away," said Ryan Quigley, a senior from Solon Springs.

Reese Stariha, a senior from Northwood, relishes the chance to play against some of his former teammates during basketball and baseball season. The football players all get along well, but Stariha said he can't resist giving them a hard time when he meets them in other sports.

"It makes it more fun when we play later," he said.

Quigley and Stariha can put their local rivalry aside when they don their helmets and pads, but it's a transition some other students aren't willing make.


"The kids that are here get along," Quigley said. "There's a few kids back in Solon that say, 'Oh, I don't want to play with them because of basketball,' but the rivalry during football season's not really there."

And in spite of the few holdout students who refuse to play with the "enemy," the Evergreen football program has grow consistently since the co-op team formed five years ago. This year, 43 players have chosen to play, up from 36 last season.

"I had to order a bunch more equipment, so that's a good sign," said Jason Fox, head coach of the Evergreens.

According to Fox, more players joining the team are coming from Solon Springs than had in the past, with about 13 this year. The Evergreens also have many more young players than in the past.

At the JV level, the Evergreens are very deep. Last season's eighth grade team went undefeated, so a lot will be expected from this year's freshmen. Fox doesn't plan to start any freshmen, but he said they will get varsity playing time. He added that for the first time, some freshmen could physically play at the varsity level but won't be asked to.

"They're ready to do it but we're not forced to do it, which is kind of nice," Fox said. "In the past we've had to throw some freshmen and sophomores out there who definitely were not ready. But now we have the luxury of a couple who could easily play at the varsity level (but needn't)."

With seven seniors on the team this year and a good supporting cast of juniors and a few sophomores, the youngest players will be given time to develop on the JV team.

Chad Murray, a junior, will be the Evergreens' go-to guy at fullback and is also expected to be a key player in the defensive line. Quigley, who was all-conference last season will also be looked to for leadership.


"He's one of the better linemen I've had since I've been here, a great leader," Fox said. "He's a great kid and football player."

Stariha, beginning his second year as the starting quarterback, is also a better athlete this year, according to Fox. The senior worked out in the offseason and is noticeably faster. Stariha said he feels more confident and prepared than last year.

"We will definitely try to utilize his athleticism and his speed," Fox said.

The Evergreens will again be a run-based team, and defensively Fox feels they are solid. Cody Hart, a sophomore from Solon Springs, is expected to make an impact as defensive tackle. A few seniors graduated who were crucial to the offensive line, but Fox thinks the team will adjust in time. The line is small this year, and Stariha hope to see the team improve its blocking as the season progresses.

One of the biggest challenges for the Evergreens this season may be maintaining the positive attitude and strong work ethic they have now. In the past, practice attendance has been a problem. Quigley said about a dozen players dropped out by the end of the year last season, and the Evergreens finished with only about 14 players on the team. This season, he hasn't seen any signs players plan to quit, and neither has Stariha

"Everyone's working harder than last year. We kind of gave up on the season last year," Stariha said. "This is a good group of kids out this year."

Also helping is the new focus on devotion. The coaches are becoming more strict and demanding players show up at every practice to work hard. Quigley said a three strikes policy has been implemented, meaning if a player misses three practices he is off the team.

"We've been down in past years, but if we work hard, we'll be competitive," he said. "If kids want to slack off, we aren't going anywhere. But this year we've got a different team, a lot of young guys. We want to win this year; there's not going to be any slacking this year."


As an extra incentive, the players who were in the weight room at least 15 times during the offseason will get their names on the backs of their jerseys. For Stariha, a chance to make the playoffs is all the inspiration he needs. He thinks the Evergreens have a chance this year and would also like to see the team defeat Birchwood-Weyerhaeuser, which beat the Evergreens in overtime last season.

"We have some guys now who not only want the success but are willing to put in the time and effort it's going to take to possibly make a playoff run this year," Fox said. "I know it's early to talk about that -- potential can be a dirty word -- but I think they realize we do have a good chance to have some success this year.

"Our ultimate goal is to be competitive in the conference. That's been our ongoing goal, and we're close right now."

Shell Lake, Flambeau and Bruce will be strong in the Small Lakeland Conference this season.

Northwood-Solon Springs will play in the Gridiron Classic Friday in Menomonie. The Evergreens take on Turtle Lake at 5 p.m.

"It's a chance for kids from small schools like this to go play in a college stadium," Fox said. "We did it two years ago and the kids really liked it."

The Evergreens host their first home game at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 against Siren. Quigley feels fan turnout at home games has been good in the past, and he expects this year to be the same.

"People want to see this team go somewhere because we are the underdogs from past years," he said. "We want to turn this into one of the better programs."


2008 Evergreens Football Roster

Yr. Pos.

4. Reese Stariha 12 QB/DB

9. Cole Brown 11 RB/DB

10. Kyle Brown 11 TE/DB

12. Phillip Larson 9 QB/DE

13. Eric Olson 9 RB/DB

20. Joe Martin 12 RB/DB


22. Josh Malone 9 RB/LB

23. Alex Rowe 12 TE/LB

27. Gary Ecklund 9 OL/DL

30. Jesse Melby 12 RB/DB

32. Chad Murray 11 RB/LB

33. Tanner Tate 11 RB/DB

37. Brad Ross 10 RB/LB

39. Travis Butterfield 9 OL/DL


40. Keanan Franco 10 RB/DB

42. Tyler LaRose 11 TE/DE

49. Mike Meyer 9 RB/LB

50. John Eash 9 OL/DL

52. John Gruna 10 OL/DL

53. Jeremiah Littlehawk 10 OL/DL

56. Mike Marshall 9 OL/DL

57. Cody Hart 10 OL/DL

61. Tylor Baird 9 OL/DL

62. Ryan Quigley 12 OL/LB

63. Zeb Butterfield 11 OL/DL

64. Rory Burton 10 OL/DL

65. Dave Marshall 11 OL/DL

66. Chris Balcsik 12 OL/DL

67. Kyle Farris 10 OL/DL

71. Nick Skaggs 9 OL/DL

72. Ryan Sykes 11 TE/DL

73. Bill Ramel 10 OL/DL

76. Zach Owens 9 OL/DL

77. Anton Gray 12 TE/DB

78. Gerrod Richard 11 QB/DL

82. Trevor Wahner 11 OL/DL

83. Leonardo Alcantar 9 TE/LB

88. Pete Merrill 11 TE/DB

89. Chris Olson 9 TE/DB

Coaches: Jason Fox, Dale Rajala, Jason Schultz.

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